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Slowly, all too slowly in the opinion of some who work in the field, the show-business community has begun to help its own. Until a year ago many people in the arts, gay as well as straight, seemed to ignore what was happening around them. But when TV Producer Victoria Hamburg helped organize an AIDS Medical Foundation benefit in Manhattan, she quickly got help from Papp and the Shubert Organization, which lent a theater; Mike Nichols, who offered to direct; Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels, who volunteered to produce; and Phil Donahue, who came on as emcee. Performers filled the stage: Joan Rivers, Gregory Hines, Penny Marshall, Steve Martin, Randy Newman and the Weather Girls. The event, which took place May 19, raised more than $500,000.
Hudson's admission that he has AIDS may reverberate further than he could have predicted. "It's a shame that it takes something like that to make people pay attention," says Hamburg, "but it's terrific it's happening. We need to make people understand that AIDS doesn't have to be an incurable disease, that dollars for research can help us." Hudson, say others, has put a face on the illness and brought it home to many who could not have dealt with it two weeks ago.
Ruminating over his life and career several years ago, long before he had AIDS, Hudson sounded a little world weary. "I spent so much time trying to figure out what life was all about," he said. "I still don't know. But now I don't give a damn." Perhaps he does nonetheless. His announcement last week may have been the best and most dramatic gesture in his long career. --By Gerald Clarke. Reported by Elaine Dutka/New York and Barbara Kraft/Los Angeles