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 life--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.
Christian's lawyers, meanwhile, have presented him as a bright, serious kid--maybe a little naive and star-struck--who gave his heart gladly and freely to a big movie star, only to have his youthful trust shattered by the jaded and cynical Hudson. To hear them tell it, Christian is, in the local jargon, the totally excellent dude, the one-in-a-million-guy-trusting, loving, unassuming, modest.
Christian won an early round. The press watched as he spotted Little Richard outside superior court and asked the manic singer for his autograph. Getting it, Christian gleefully turned to the assembled reporters and said, "Always the fan." The reporters had a human-interest angle, and Christian helped nail down his credentials as a naif.
But you're a skeptic. You can't base your impressions on one solitary media event. You need to see for yourself. Is Christian a hunk? Is he soon to be a rich hunk? Is he, you ask, the man for you? You have an inquiring mind. You want to know.
When you enter the courtroom, you realize that the golden age of Hollywood is indeed dead. The courtroom is shabby, not even up to L.A.Law standards. The jurors look neither hip nor interested, and the few courtroom observers appear to be mostly federal clerical workers taking a break with their favorite supermarket tabloids ("NEW TRAGEDY FOR ANN JILLIAN," "DOCTORS WARN: OPRAH IS FLIRTING WITH DEATH").
There are, of course, lots of expensive Beverly Hills lawyers at the trial, but don't hold your breath waiting for taut courtroom drama. At one point, an attorney for Mark Miller, who had been Hudson's secretary, takes a document from Christian's lawyer to show it to Christian, leading Christian's lawyer to shriek, "Counsel, you grab something from me gently or don't grab at all. Don't grab anything from me again." The judge will later admonish Miller and his lawyer for snickering during Christian's testimony.
This lack of drama is constructive, though, because it gives you time to daydream about Christian, who is testifying on this particular day. He is 35 but, luckily for him, photographs younger. He is dressed in a dark-blue suit and apparently would have us believe that he is just an up-and-coming yuppie, perhaps on a short stroll outside of his office at the Bank of America.
He seems sincere, soft-spoken, smart, and shy. He is not the boy bimbo you expected, and you wonder why someone who is so bright was having high-risk sex as recently as 1985. He is shorter, thinner, and slighter than you expected. Although he is pale by Southern California standards, he sounds like a beach boy, talking in the soft,
drawn-out vowels of a native Californian.
But now to the nuts and bolts of this expedition: What would life with Christian be like? Here are a few important considerations.
Christian seems to like his sex acts to have assonant names: His lawyer told the jury that Christian and Hudson engaged in "alternating unprotected anal intercourse" between 3 and 5 times a week. Buying even more vowels, Christian tells the jury, when asked, that sex with Hudson was "A-OK."
Christian is bisexual and seems to like older people. When Hudson and Christian met in 1982, Hudson was 56, and Christian, who was then 29, was living with a woman who was even older than the movie star.
Christian told the jury that he had sex with ten or 15 male partners before meeting Hudson but has not had sex at all, of any type, since he found out that Hudson had AIDS in 1985. While one would think that this self-imposed celibacy would pique Christian's interest in sex, potential dates should be advised that Christian is not easy: He told the jury that he and Hudson dated platonically "about 80" times before they finally had sex.
Well, lots of guys around town say they know Christian. Almost all the would-be actors in Hollywood profess they met him at a gym, where he either was saintly or promiscuous, depending on which would-be actor you talk to. In fact, the number of would-be actors who claim to know Christian from this legendary gym is nearly as high as the number of would-be actors who claim to have rejected Hudson's grubby, drunken sexual advances at an equally legendary Hollywood party. The point? Hollywood's only export is fantasy: Don't listen to what you hear on the street; listen to me.
An effort in court to straighten out this gym legend failed. Tony Rocco, a gym buddy of Hudson's, not Christian's, denied on the stand that Hudson's attorneys offered him money to swear in a deposition, falsely, that Christian was promiscuous. But Kevin Lee Short, who was Rocco's gym buddy, swore in court that Rocco was lying: "They offered him money, and now he could get a car." The implication was that Christian did indeed sleep around a lot.
This one's a toss-up. Maybe you should let that gym membership lapse.
TASTE IN DECOR
Christian testified that he submitted to having his first sexual encounter with Hudson at a cheap motel in North Hollywood, a less-than-glamorous working-class suburb in the San Fernando Valley. Later on, he said, he spent time in "dozens and dozens" of other cheap motels with names like "something Oasis," having sex with Hudson. (Amazingly, a quick check of the North Hollywood yellow pages reveals that, of all the motels listed in North Hollywood, not a single one has a name that contains the word oasis.) The unspoken implication was that Christian really cared for Hudson and was willing to be with him just about anyplace, no matter how seedy it was.
Once he was under Hudson's wing, Christian quickly developed his own sense of personal style and became much more difficult to please in matters of interior
design. On the day that you are in the courtroom, he is sitting before the jury, describing the so-called red bedroom in Hudson's house (where Christian was banished when he and Hudson were fighting) as "garishly decorated."
The lesson? People change after a little time in Beverly Hills. Stay away.
To be blunt, Hudson's domestic help didn't like Christian much. In Hudson's deathbed autobiography, James Wright, Hudson's butler, reported that Christian would "comedown to the kitchen, make his stupid bloody energy drink, and leave his garbage all over the place." This report of sloppiness has yet to be addressed at the trial.
The moral? Stick to highly processed, easily disposable foods and beverages, and eat out whenever possible.
REVIVING THE EX
You've been around long enough to know how this goes. You date someone, the relationship gets serious, and one night at dinner, your beloved tells the story of how he met his ex. It's a touching story, more touching, of course, than the story of how you met your ex. It is, in fact, so saccharine and innocent that it makes you want to throw up, and your jealousy destroys all your enthusiasm for the relationship.
Let's get the story of Christian and his ex out of the way so there will be no surprises if you and he become an item. Here's the story, told under oath: Christian was working as a bartender at a fund-raiser for novelist Gore Vidal, who was running for the U.S. Senate. (You probably should have realized that this trial would have a lot of potential for namedropping.) Christian heard a voice from behind him say, "Where the hell's the booze?" It was, of course, the always drinking Hudson.
After dating 80 times or so, the two staned having sex when, according to Christian, Hudson "told me he was beginning to develop very strong feelings for me and that he was falling in love with me. He told me had only been in love one other time, when he was [in high school]."
There now. That story wasn't so cute, was it? In the future, don't be so quick to assume that everyone's tales of old romances are sweeter than yours.
Christian describes himself as a musicologist. You would like a lawyer to ask him what that is and what job prospects there are for musicologists. Are jobs in this field lucrative? Of course, if the jury awards Christian the money, it won't really matter.
But things might not be so bad even if Christian doesn't get the money. Christian tells the jury on several different occasions that he did not--contrary to the gossip around town-- file his lawsuit to make a name for himself in Hollywood and become an actor or screenwriter. In fact, he tells the jury that filing the lawsuit has made him a pariah.
You do not believe this. Hollywood, more than any other place on earth, will forgive anything so long as it makes a person noteworthy. Movie director John Landis can get away with inviting members of the jury that acquitted him of charges in the deaths of actors on his movie set to the glittering premiere of his next film. Christina Ferrare can ride a wave of publicity that starts at the trial of her car-maker ex-husband, John DeLorean, who was accused and acquitted of selling cocaine, and eventually become the city's leading bubbleheaded morning-talk-show goddess. And Tracy Lords, who, as a teenager, lied about her age so she could act-well, OK, be--in adult films, is now a fixture in the Los Angeles Herald. Examiner, on the society pages, no less. In a similar fashion, no matter whether he wants or deserves to be grouped with those people, Christian is now noteworthy.
So, the night after you attend his trial, you don't lose too much sleep over Marc Christian's future. Even if he is not the man for you, you suspect that you will be hearing from him again. When it comes to being news, Christian has the knack.