TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL: Ultimate Survivor – How He Lived To Tell It All in New Movie
‘He never took himself too seriously,’ said co-star Lanie Kazan,
which may account for , in part, why he’s still around. Says
Debbie Reynolds, it was his true blue, honest quality.
For a guy who never felt it was necessary to make a big splash ‘coming out,’ he managed
to carve out a life for himself – a happy one at that , to this day. After reading about other gay actors of
the 50s and 60s who may have even tried harder than Hunter and still didn’t attain great satisfaction
in life – Rock Hudson and Tony Perkins come to mind -it’s nice to see that Hunter did. Credit him
greatly for this accomplishment in the most difficult of times.
When his career dried up in the mid-60s because he didn’t change – or the world
could no longer accept the clean cut kid of the Fifties in a Peter Fonda/Easy Rider-type
movie i n the late 60s- Hunter was content to live a quiet life with his horses until John
Waters brought him back in the campy movie ‘Polyester’ in 1981 that became a cult
‘Lust in the Dust’ was another campy movie that Hunter and his new partner- who he
remains with after 30 years – were able to put together without the aid of a major
backer or movie studio. Besides acting, Hunter had a successful recording career with
with nearly 50 singles and one monster hit, ‘Young Love'(see and here below) that
stayed on the charts at No. 1 for six weeks
Hunter is the subject of a new movie documentary ‘The Tab Hunter Confidential, ‘ based on the
book of the same name, now in theaters this
week; not sure about next week. But you should see it even on video if you miss it in the theater.
Even for those who still question the gay lifestyle, this movie may finally awaken you -you can’t help
but like Hunter. He’s a natural through and through.
The movie consists of Hunter as narrator, recounting his life story from the early 50s
when he accidentally got into the movies , expounding on one vignette after another,
accompanied by current ‘testimonials’ from some of the few actors and actresses still
alive who he worked with.
One thing that struck this viewer was
how natural and down to earth he was and is. Hunter has an amazing likability factor.
There was and is no hint of scandal surrounding Hunter; goes to show they can still
make great movies without intrigue or scandal, at least in our opinion.
While other gay actors like Hudson and Perkins , who were with ‘pretend’ women in
their lives-with Perkins it wasn’t so pretend as he had several kids- the easy-going
Hunter wasn’t rattled by the persecution of gays and had the inclination and ability to
be able to to pick and choose his movie roles and the people
he wanted to be with.
There were periods when he wasn’t with anybody and he would find pleasure with his horse friends.
Today he remains tied to his stable of horse(s) and gets up early everyday to tend to his horse(s),
according to his long time companion.
How a guy could go from a successful movie and music career in the ‘repressive’
Fifties while being gay to losing it all, career-wise, in the late Sixties during a time when
there was supposedly more freedom, to make a dramatic comeback in the 1980s at an
advanced age for a movie star and still seem youthful and full of life today at 85 is pretty
amazing. I think it shows that a good sense of self
and good friendship(s) and interests can go a long way. Much of the years he wasn’t
making movies he was looking after his elderly mother, with whom he had a good
relationship even though she could be tough on him.
Hunter is now retired from acting for good but doesn’t miss the limelight
at all, according to his friend, who also says that Hunter has no interest in watching his old movies
anymore; in fact, when they come on TV he says Hunter will turn the channel.. Hunter and friend
live relatively modestly in Santa Barbara well out of the spotlight.
It was nice that the contented, mild-mannered Hunter, would make this , perhaps, one
last movie, a documentary, so we can see the famous actor who’s been through a lot-
someone you would never
expect to be so nice and humble – to be just that and
have not only survived but have led a pretty much happy existence throughout, a rarity
for Hollywood then and now. Some people change with the times but Tab Hunter never
seemed to try to change his personality to adapt to current trends. He either fit in or he
didn’t and he usually did- if he wanted to.
Most people today wouldn’t know Tab Hunter from Art Gelien (his real name). But,
younger generations might learn a lot from seeing what the old Hollywood studios could turn out and
some of the actors that turned out. Hunter may not have won any academy awards but he was
convincing in a lot of good movies like Damned Yankees and Battle Cry with some great co-
stars – and he has some very interesting and
funny stories to tell along the way, Catch ‘the Tab Hunter Confidential’ if you can. There were only
a total of three people in the theater on this opening Friday night, which might not bode well for the
film, but, as Tab Hunter might say, it’s more important to put out a good film than to worry about
how many tickets it sells. (Of course, the Steve Jobs big box office movie , no longer in theaters,
which we were going to see hasn’t done that well, either; glad we saw this one instead.
In the ‘Confidential’ movie -and previous (2005) book of the same name -Hunter reveals what is was like to be a 1950s-era star—to be created, packaged, and sold to the American public, shaped and controlled by the studio system that ran Hollywood until the 1970s. Hunter also discloses:
- His co-stars, actresses Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Sophia Loren, Debbie Reynolds, Tallulah Bankhead, and Divine, and the actors Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Fred Astaire, Robert Mitchum, and Van Heflin.
- His films, from the box office hits Damn Yankees and Battle Cry to the cult classics Polyester and Lust in the Dust
- His on- and off-screen relationships
- His music career, including the #1 hit song “Young Love,” which topped the Billboard chart for six weeks
- The demands that were placed on him, including sexual favors, and what it felt like to suddenly see his face—and often, his half-naked torso—on the covers of dozens of magazines
- His comeback as a cult sensation, thanks to John Waters
But, those were the bullet points that were used to sell the book (and movie); just to see
the down-to-earth guy, as he is today, weave the story of his life in such an entertaining
and fun way, recounting story after story from old (and newer) Hollywood, is a true
delight. Few other living actors today would have the credentials (or ability) to match this
effort. As a sidelight, it’s also fun to see some colorful people associated with Hollywood
we haven’t lately, such as Hollywood entertainment reporters Rona Barrett and Rex Reed,
along the few still-living actors Hunter appeared with such as Kazan and Reynolds.