Real People Stories

A Bold Last Act

UPDATED 04/04/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/04/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

THE STREETS OF HEAVEN ARE TOO crowded with angels.... They number a thousand for every red ribbon worn tonight," said a tearful Tom Hanks last week, accepting the Oscar for his performance as a lawyer dying of AIDS in Philadelphia. Several hours before the ceremony, one more name was added to those ranks—though Dack Rambo hardly regarded himself as angelic. The 53-year-old actor died of complications of AIDS at his ranch near his hometown, Earlimart, Calif., with his mother, Beatrice, and sister, Beverly, at his side.

The intensely handsome Rambo, best known as J.R. Ewing's cousin Jack on CBS's Dallas and Congressman Grant Harrison on NBC's day-time soap Another World, remains perhaps the most familiar Hollywood face to go public with his HIV-positive status. "It feels like freedom," Rambo said of his September 1991 announcement. Thus unfettered, he was remarkably frank in interviews recounting dozens of unsafe sexual encounters, with both men and women, plus previous addictions to alcohol and tranquilizers.

Dack and his identical twin brother, Dirk—who died in a 1967 car crash—began their careers shortly after high school. Despite success, Dack became uncomfortable with what he described as showbiz homophobia. Fearing his Another World castmates would turn chilly once they learned of his HIV status, he quit the soap—and his career.

In the last years of his life, Rambo underwent chemotherapy for an AIDS-related cancer and also turned to holistic treatment. Last summer he claimed he'd halted the virus through prayer. "There is no disease that cannot be healed," he said then. "I will believe that until the day I drop."

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