The county courthouse in downtown Los Angeles is connected by a tunnel to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where the Academy Awards were presented for many years. An Eisenhower-era concrete-and steel cracker box, the courthouse is where Marc Christian's $l1-million claim against the estate of his former lover, the late actor Rock Hudson, is being heard. The proximity of the two buildings may be appropriate, since many of the denizens of Hollywood believe that Christian, in his time on the stand, is doing the acting job of his lifeā€”one that could yield him what the local entertainment-industry trade newspapers call a "megabuck payoff."

If Christian's story were a film, it would be as melodramatic as Hudson's own All That Heaven Allows. After Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984, Christian claims, Hudson found time to do a lot of things, including collapsing in a hotel lobby in Paris, making a ghoulish guest appearance on Doris Day's series on the Christian Broadcasting Network, sunbathing in the nude, getting very drunk, and making bad jokes about AIDS with his zany friends.

What Hudson didn't find time to do, Christian contends, is tell Christian that he had AIDS, quit having unprotected anal sex with him, stop at a drugstore prophylactic
counter, or, apparently, worry that his behavior might endanger Christian. In short, he acted like the spoiled playboy he portrayed in the first half of Magnificent Obsession. Hudson, Christian says, caused him emotional distress, and Hudson's estate should compensate him for it.

This is hot stuff in Hollywood. You've been hearing about it for weeks. News reports have promised that testimony would focus on how many times a day Rock had sex and what his favorite positions were. The jurors would be treated to the most closely guarded secrets of Hudson's personal life and the most intimate details of his final illness. The case would, in short, produce the biggest, coolest, and sleaziest Hollywood trial since the postmortem competency hearing that resulted from the probate of Groucho Marx's will several years ago. It is a case that was made for the gossip columns.

Thinking about the trial, you remember the Michael Murphy character in Manhattan,
who says that gossip is the new pornography. Of course, Manhattan is a New York film; in Hollywood, where Miss Rona is an investigative news reporter, people like to see their celebrities up close and personal.

You've seen quick shots of Christian on television newscasts, of course, but those short takes create more questions than they answer. There is the Christian portrayed by Hudson's lawyers - the greed-head starfucker party boy, the plastic Hollywood slut whose meter is always running. Hudson's lawyers maintain that the actor saw through Christian's act so fast that he stopped having sex with him long before the AIDS diagnosis. They say they'll show that Christian was a blackmailing little hustler who wanted drugs and money. They note that Christian is not the surname the plaintiff was born with.

Tags: People