by Doug Menuez on May 14, 2019
Doris Day, legendary actor and singer is dead at 97, here with Rock Hudson in 1985, Monterey, California. This turned out to be Rock Hudson’s last portrait before dying of AIDS in Paris shortly afterward. I was there for Time to shoot the press conference Rock was giving and where he shocked the world by announcing he had AIDS. Rock’s announcement helped shift public perception of AIDS as a disease anyone could get
When I arrived at the golf course clubhouse there were already at least 100 very aggressive photographers and TV crews from all over the world packed into a small room anxiously waiting for Rock. It seemed insane to try to compete so I decided to try to get an exclusive portrait — a million to one shot in this situation. I found the bar away from the mob and there I found Doris Day’s only son Terry Melcher having drinks with Merv Griffin, the most popular US talk show host at that time. I ordered a drink and introduced myself as a photographer from Time, lamenting the mad mob scene in the other room. We got to talking and Terry volunteered to set me up with an exclusive with Rock after the conference. Amazing, but then I realized I would risk missing any pictures at all and would definitely never work for Time or any magazine again if I failed at this world event.
I decided wtf and rolled the dice and Terry showed me out to the back of the clubhouse where no other press could see me, set up my lights and a blanket I had in my car and sat down to wait. It was a terrible, long wait as I imagined how I was possibly going to make a living. I could hear the shouting and uproar as Rock arrived inside. After what seemed like hours suddenly the back door burst open as Terry led Rock and his mother Doris Day down the steps toward me. I could not believe my eyes as America’s most famous screen couple for decades were suddenly sitting for me. Rock was shockingly thin and clearly ill. After I made their portrait, Rock was unable to stand by himself. I went over and ended up lifting him up in my arms like a child, he was so light. We shook hands and that was it.
All images above ©2019 Doug Menuez. All rights reserved.
Documentary photographer and director Doug Menuez once stood at the North Pole, crossed the Sahara, had tea with Stalin's daughter and held a chunk of Einstein's brain. Quitting his blues band in 1981, he began his career freelancing for Time, LIFE, Newsweek, Fortune, USA Today, the New York Times Magazine and many other publications. He covered the AIDS crisis, homelessness in America, politics, five Super Bowls and the Olympics. His portrait assignments included Presidents Bush, Sr. and Clinton, Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Lenny Kravitz, Mother Teresa, Jane Goodall and Hugh Jackman. His award-winning advertising campaigns and corporate projects for global brands include Chevrolet, FedEx, Nikon, GE, Chevron, HP, Coca Cola, Emirates Airlines, Charles Schwab and Microsoft.