She also shares the extraordinary story of how Elizabeth Taylor comforted the Hollywood superstar shortly before he passed away
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
BEVERLY HILLS, CA (ANS -- October 18, 2015) -- Susan Stafford, the original hostess of Wheel of Fortune, has revealed how she was present when a Catholic priest led Rock Hudson in the “sinner’s prayer” to receive Jesus Christ into his life, just hours before his death on October 2, 1985 of complications from AIDS.
Stafford, who preceded Vanna White as the first hostess on the popular American game show, “Wheel of Fortune,” (from January 6, 1975 until she left on October 22, 1982), revealed the inside story of Rock Hudson’s final hours in an interview with me for my new “Inside Hollywood” TV show at the recent 17th Annual Media Fellowship International Praise Brunch at the Sofitel Hotel in Beverly Hills, on Saturday, October 17, 2015.
“Yes, it is true that Rock Hudson accepted Jesus Christ on his deathbed,” she told me. “I was staying with Rock Hudson at his home at the time, and Pat and Shirley Boone and also ‘Love Boat’ captain, Gavin MacLeod and his wife, Patti, came to pray with him.”Stafford, a born-again Christian, said that also there at that time was Fr. Terrance A. Sweeney, a five-time Emmy Award winning producer, an ex-Jesuit priest who was ordained to the priesthood on June 15, 1973.
“Rock was a Roman Catholic and so we called in Fr. Sweeney and he prayed the ‘sinner's prayer,’ with him and then I prayed as did one of his nurses called Toni,” she said. “I later did Rock's funeral.”
Stafford also told me the extraordinary story of how Elizabeth Taylor came to Rock Hudson’s home and when she came into his room, she pulled aside his bed covers, got into bed with him, and comforted him by bringing his head close to her chest.”
Susan says it was a wonderful gesture by Taylor, who had starred in the 1956 film, Giant, along with Rock Hudson and James Dean, as at the time, people did not know how AIDS was passed on, and she may have been risking her own life by doing this, but she loved Rock Hudson so much that she just wanted to express that love to him in his last moments on earth.
In a previous interview, I asked Susan how the famous actor, known for his urbane charm, dashing good looks, and virile masculinity that epitomized Hollywood’s classic matinee idol image, but had been a closet homosexual for many years, had accepted the situation that he was dying from AIDS.
Susan said, “He was a real gentleman and accepted it with a great sense of humor despite being in a lot of pain.”
Stafford, who now has a PhD, has also authored a book called, “Stop the Wheel, I want to get off!” on some of her rather amazing life experiences. She has worked with famous Hollywood celebrities, with leprosy patients in Third World countries with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, AIDS patients (including, as I previously mentioned, Rock Hudson), working as a Chaplain Intern with Dr. John Stehlin in Houston with cancer patients, receiving a PhD in Psychology, and counseling with survivors and families at Columbine High School in Colorado, following the tragic shootings.
She has been called a “Goodwill Ambassador to the World” and that seems to be a fitting title. Describing her life as full is an understatement.
In that previous interview with Susan, I had asked her to comment on Christians who criticize people who have HIV/AIDS and say that they “deserve to have the illness because of their lifestyle.”
“It's easy to say this because I believe, with every portion of my heart, that you are talking to a sinner,” she said. “Some [of us] sin more than others, but we're all sinners one way or the other. I do not think that a homosexual is less or more of a sinner than I am and I don’t dare to judge that. Shame on the Christians that do it because love is the answer. If we don't love each other and instead just keep on judging everybody, we're not going to have any friends left.”
The MFI 17th Annual Praise Brunch was again organized by MFI president, Pastor Bob Rieth and his wife Marion, and it began with an invocation by the Rev. John Boal, Pastor of Development at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.
It was hosted by Rick Eldridge, Producer, Director, and CEO of Reelworks Studio and the annual event attracted a wide variety of people working in the movie and entertainment business, many of whom were committed Christians.
Susan Stafford was able to introduce Chris Mitchell, the CBN Middle East Bureau Chief, who for many years, has been based in Jerusalem, and has had a front seat to history in the Middle East, especially reporting on the terrifying growth of Islamic terror groups in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria. Mitchell was then presented with the Andrew Award for his courageous work by Pastor Bob Rieth. In return, Chris Mitchell presented all of those at the event with a copy of his fascinating new book called “DESTINATION JERUSALEM: ISIS, Convert or Die, Christian Persecution and Preparing for the Days Ahead.”
Music was provided by a gospel group called Soldiers for the Second Coming founded and led by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., who were once in the 5th Dimension, an American popular music vocal group, whose repertoire includes pop, R&B, soul, jazz, light opera and Broadway -- the mélange was coined as “Champagne Soul.”
Dr. Alvin McKinney, a virtuoso Alto Saxophonist, song writer/composer, arranger, and producer, also known as “The Prime Minister of Joyful Jazz,” had much of the those there, dancing as he performed, among the audience, his exciting Gospel music renditions.
One of the most moving moments in the program was when veteran broadcaster, Mark Larson, presented a video montage on the life of state, film and television actor, Dean Jones, who was a member of MFI, and recently passed away.
Old and New Testament readings were read by former NBA star, Al Woods, a huge figure who had played with the Hawks, Clippers, Sonics and the Mavericks, and then the keynote speaker was David A.R. White, an actor, writer, director and producer of “God’s Not Dead,” “Do you Believe?” and “Revelation Road.”
In his captivating presentation, White shared about his life, as a Christian in Hollywood, and brought much laugher when he said that he was raised in a Mennonite home, and added that the Mennonites were so strict that they “make the Mormons seem like a group of Hells Angeles.”
For over twenty-five years, Media Fellowship International has been impacting the media and the message from the inside out. MFI is a Christian ministry that works with people in the media and arts community in a confidential and non-judgmental manner. It is a safe support group where people can receive encouragement and Godly counsel and have fellowship with other Christians in the industry. Its slogan is: “Shining His Light in the Industry.”
For more information, please go to: http://www.mediafellowship.org/
Photo captions: 1) Susan Stafford at the MFI event (Photo Dan Wooding). 2) A gaunt Rock Hudson pictured shortly before his death. 3) Rock Hudson on the silver screen with Elizabeth Taylor. 4) Bob Rieth presents Chris Mitchell with the Andrew Award. (Photo: Dan Wooding) 5) Billy Davis Jr. leading the Soldiers for the Second Coming. (Photo: Dan Wooding) 6) David White speaking (Photo: Dan Wooding). 7) A playful Susan Stafford with Dan Wooding after an interview.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books and has a radio show and two television programs all based out of Orange County, California.
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