Dale Olson, a veteran entertainment journalist and public relations executive, perhaps best known as the spokesman for Rock Hudson while the actor battled AIDS, has died at 78 of liver cancer, reports Los Angeles Times.
Born in Fargo, N.D., Olson moved to Los Angeles in 1951 and eventually joined the Mattachine Society and served as its first national secretary.
During his lengthy public relations career he represented clients such as Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier, and Shirley MacLaine and headed numerous successful Academy Awards campaigns which resulted in best picture wins for films such as Terms of Endearment, American Beauty, and Gladiator. Still, Olson became familiar to many in 1985 as the spokesman for Hudson during the actor's final months.
As the Times notes, "Olson found himself in the middle of a media storm when reporters began raising questions about Hudson's health after the actor appeared shockingly gaunt at a public appearance with his former leading lady, Doris Day." Although Hudson was initially hesitatant to publicly acknowledge he had been diagnosed with AIDS, Olson eventually convinced him use the opportunity to help educate the public about the disease.
"I spoke to him and said, 'You have a terminal disease. This is going to affect a lot of people. And you can be the person who can make people aware of it.'"
MacLaine released a statement today, saying, "He was not only an ace publicist, but also a true friend to me, and to so many in need in our industry. A great, loyal and generous man. Thank you, Dale."
Olson is survived by his husband Eugene Harbin, whom he married in 2008. The two men were partners for more than three decades.