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Gaslight: October in Media History: Rock Hudson, Apollo 7 and The Guggenheim - The LAMP

Gaslight: October in Media History: Rock Hudson, Apollo 7 and The Guggenheim

By October 5, 2009 News No Comments

Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson

October 2, 1985: Rock Hudson Dies of AIDS

Fans were shocked when Hollywood heartthrob Rock Hudson announced in July of 1985 that he had AIDS. After initially telling the public that his clearly declining health was due to liver cancer, Hudson became the first major celebrity to admit that he was afflicted with the disease. What followed was a media whirlwind of interviews with Hollywood A-listers, ceaseless updates on his health and pieces trying to explain AIDS to the public. At times it was harmful and cruel–in particular, some news outlets reported that he may have transmitted the disease to Linda Evans during love scenes on Dynasty, leading some to believe it could be passed through saliva or touching someone’s skin.  But the media attention also helped to raise awareness, and Hudson’s openness spurred the idea that AIDS could happen to anyone and people did not need to be ashamed. Concern over effective treatment, research funding and education fueled the recognition that the AIDS epidemic was a real threat and a widening epidemic. The number of articles about AIDS is estimated to have tripled in the wake of his announcement and eventual death on October 2. Elizabeth Taylor, his co-star in Giant, became the founding national chairperson of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and later established the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Money materialized–a Hollywood AIDS benefit held weeks before he died raised $1 million for the cause, and shortly after his death, Congress moved to appropriate more funding for AIDS research. Morgan Fairchild famously said, “Rock Hudson’s death gave AIDS a face.” USA Today wrote in an editorial that, “With Hudson’s death, many of us are realizing that AIDS is not a ‘gay plague’ but everybody’s problem.” Without Rock Hudson’s celebrity status, AIDS might not have been given the early media attention it needed and deserved to incite others to take action and change perceptions.

Mission Control watches the telecast

Mission Control watches the telecast

October 14, 1968: First live telecast from space on Apollo 7

A major advancement in television was made when the first human astronauts to pilot an Apollo flight were also the first American television crew in space. Using a black-and-white camera, astronauts Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham gave Americans a view of what life was like in space. They toured the spacecraft, showed views through the windows, and generally helped the public get a better understanding of the work being done with taxpayer dollars in space. Seven broadcasts were made during the mission.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York

The Guggenheim Museum in New York

October 21, 1959: The Guggenheim opens in New York

This day marks the 50th anniversary of one of America’s most recognized works of architecture: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the building itself is as much of a cultural icon as the many pieces of art that have been displayed inside it. The Guggenheim design represented a major break from more traditional museums like the Metropolitan, which was all the more fitting for the city’s latest home for contemporary art. It has featured prominently in films, New Yorker cartoons and remains an icon in its own right as a piece of art and house for media of every variety.