One of Hollywood’s most famous publicity men, Dale Olson, died today at the age of 78, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Olson, who was renown for his representation of Rock Hudson during the star’s demise from AIDS, had been fighting his own long battle with a different disease — cancer — before succumbing this morning.
He was born in Fargo, N.D., and got his start at Boxoffice Magazine in 1956. He later worked at Daily Variety and helped found the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. In 1967, when Olson was the publicity director for the Mirisch Corporation, his first film in Academy Award competition — "In the Heat of the Night" — won five Oscars. That successful campaign led to many more, including such titles as "Rocky," "Superman" and "Rambo."
In his time, Olson’s client list was a who’s who of Hollywood royalty, including Clint Eastwood, Laurence Olivier, Walter Matthau, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, James Whitmore, Robert Duvall, Rod Steiger, Dyan Cannon, Shirley MacLaine, Gene Kelly, Steve McQueen, Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, Peter Ustinov, Robert Blake, Diane Ladd, Jean Stapleton, James Earl Jones, Diana Rigg and Sally Kirkland.
But it was his work for Rock Hudson in the mid-’80s that garnered headlines. In 1984, the star claimed to have liver cancer, but the following year, while in Paris for treatment, Hudson revealed that he was afflicted with AIDS. Hudson was the first major celebrity victim of the disease.
Olson was by Hudson’s side through the entire ordeal, and after Hudson’s death on Oct. 2, 1985, Olson devoted much of his time to raising awareness of the disease and actively fundraising as an Actors Fund Trustee.
Olson is survived by publicist Eugene Harbin, who was his spouse for 30 years. A memorial service is being planned in the upcoming weeks.