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Rock Hudson Ex-Lover Files Libel Suit

April 05, 1990|CAROL McGRAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rock Hudson's former lover filed a $23-million libel suit Wednesday, claiming that he is falsely portrayed in a new book on the late actor as "a criminal, a thief, an unclean person, a blackmailer, a psychotic, an extortionist, a forger, a perjurer, a liar, a whore, an arsonist and a squatter."

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Marc Christian, who last year won $5.5 million from Hudson's estate for emotional distress he suffered because Hudson failed to disclose he was suffering from AIDS.

Christian is suing the publishers of "Rock Hudson: Friend of Mine," by Tom Clark and Dick Kleiner, a 288-page biography that hit the bookstores last week. Clark was a longtime companion of Hudson who was written out of the actor's will. Kleiner is a writer who lives in Riverside County.

"The guy can write what he wants," Christian said Wednesday, referring to Clark, "but calling me those things is going too far."

Clark and Kleiner could not be reached for comment.

Martha Clarke, a publicist for Pharos Books in New York, said the publisher would have no comment on the suit.

"The book speaks for itself," she said.

The $18.95 book is "selling very well for a biography," she added. The book jacket calls it "an intimate portrait of Rock Hudson . . . and the friendship he shared with Tom Clark. It reveals stories that no one else knows."

Christian, 36, said a friend gave him galley proofs of the book before it was published and that he tried unsuccessfully to get the publishers to delete certain passages that he claims refer to him in a bad light.

Famed palimony attorney Marvin Mitchelson, who represents Christian, said the book alleges that Christian once firebombed an apartment that belonged to a friend of Hudson, forged love letters from Hudson that were used in his damage suit against the estate and knew that Hudson had AIDS.

In an interview Wednesday, Christian said the book claims Hudson was "not homosexual" and may have contracted AIDS through blood transfusions during bypass surgery.

A spokeswoman for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, however, denied that Hudson had been infected by AIDS because of surgery in 1982. She said that when Hudson died, the hospital tested the two blood donors and neither had the AIDS virus.

Mitchelson said that Clark had once been named a beneficiary of Hudson's estate but that his name was stricken from the will.

"Clark left Rock's life after a falling out before I moved in, and didn't see him again until shortly before he died," Christian said. "He knew nothing about my relationship with Rock."

Christian, a musicologist, was initially awarded $21 million last April by a jury which determined that he suffered extreme emotional distress because Hudson hid the fact that he had AIDS. A judge later ruled that the jurors allowed their "passion" against Rock Hudson's "outrageous and reprehensible" conduct to color their thinking, and reduced the amount to $5.5 million.

Christian testified in sometimes lurid detail how he unwittingly continued to have high-risk sex with the star for eight months after Hudson was diagnosed as having AIDS. The two men had met at a political fund-raising party in 1983 and lived together in Beverly Hills before Hudson's death in 1985 at age 58.

During the five-week trial, Christian testified that he learned from a television broadcast that the the actor was dying of complications of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Christian testified that he himself showed no signs of having contracted AIDS, but that medical tests show that he has the antibodies for herpes, which Hudson also had contracted. He claimed he did not have herpes before his relationship with Hudson.

Christian had placed blame for the concealment on the actor's secretary, Mark Miller, whom he described as a close friend of Clark and who was one of the defendants in last year's trial.

Attorneys for the estate attempted to portray Christian during the trial as a money-grabbing opportunist who used his relationship with Hudson to further his ambition for an acting career.

"He was exposed to AIDS, it wasn't greed," Mitchelson said. "And, as far as this lawsuit goes, they libeled him badly. He doesn't want people taking shots at him and so he is standing up and being counted."

Since the trial, Christian has received a $500,000 insurance settlement from one of the defendants, but said he lives in a modest Los Angeles apartment, working on public radio documentaries. He said he has performed volunteer work with AIDS patients at a San Fernando Valley hospice and has joined the activist gay group ACT UP.

"I just feel the disease is overwhelming us and we have to do what we can because the government doesn't care, doesn't pay attention," he said.

He said he has no romantic relationships at present, and does not plan to have any until after his court battles are over. "There's just too much work and worry right now," he said.

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