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Amanda Blake’s Death Was AIDS-Related, Doctor Says

November 7, 1989 GMT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Amanda Blake, who played Miss Kitty in the long-running ″Gunsmoke″ television series, died of AIDS-related complications, not cancer as previously reported, her doctor said Monday.

Blake did have throat cancer, but ″that wasn’t the reason that she died,″ said Dr. Lou Nishimura, a Sacramento internist.

After Blake died Aug. 16 at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, a statement composed by the hospital and the actress’ friends reported her death as the result of her long battle with cancer.

Blake, 60, had AIDS symptoms for about a year, said Nishimura. He said he didn’t know how she contracted the fatal disease.

Blake’s fifth husband, Mark Spaeth, an Austin, Texas, city councilman and developer, died of pneumonia in 1985 at age 45. They married in April 1984, and divorced a short time later.

Blake’s death certificate listed the immediate cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest due to liver failure and CMV hepatitis. CMV or cytomegalo virus hepatitis is AIDS-related, said Nishimura, who treated Blake during the year before her death and signed her death certificate.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome and cancer were listed on the certificate as contributing to her death.

Nishimura was interviewed following a report Friday on Sacramento television station KRBK quoting friends of Blake who said AIDS had played a role in her death.

AIDS is caused by a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. It is spread most often through sexual contact, needles or syringes shared by drug abusers, infected blood or blood products, and from pregnant women to their offspring.

Once a two-pack-a-day smoker, Blake had undergone surgery for oral cancer in 1977 and afterward made appearances throughout the country on behalf of the American Cancer Society.

Jerri Ewen, a Mercy General spokeswoman, said she reported cancer as the cause of death at the request of Blake’s close friends. ″When somebody dies, you go by what the wishes of the family are. In this case, the friends were the family,″ Ewen said.

Ewen said she never saw the death certificate.

Death certificates are public documents under California law and are recorded with the county where a person dies.

Ewen said the hospital reported the death to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

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Blake reigned as Miss Kitty, queen of Dodge City’s Long Branch Saloon, for 19 years in the TV series ″Gunsmoke.″ Set in the lawless cattle town of Dodge City, Kan., in the late 1800s, ″Gunsmoke″ was one of television’s original ″adult westerns″ in the mid-1950s.

Blake left ″Gunsmoke″ in 1974. The show last one more season on CBS, then was canceled.

After ″Gunsmoke,″ she worked only sporadically, usually in guest appearances for TV game shows, movies of the week and such series as ″Edge of Night,″ ″Hart to Hart,″ and ″Love Boat.″

Miss Blake, a resident of Sacramento, was a longtime activist for animal protection.