Entertainment » Books

Tab Hunter Confidential : The Making of a Movie Star

by Peter Cassels
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 1, 2005
Tab Hunter Confidential : The Making of a Movie Star

For a while, he was the Brad Pitt of his day, a product of the Hollywood studio system during its heyday in the 1950s. Arthur Gelien, aka Tab Hunter, was a chick magnet who received star billing in ?Battle Cry? and ?Damn Yankees.? And, even though he said he couldn?t carry a note, had a hit record, ?Young Love,? that briefly knocked Elvis Presley from Number One on the Billboard charts. Like Rock Hudson, another top male movie star of the Eisenhower era, Tab Hunter also was gay.

Now he has written a so-called ?tell-all? autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: the Making of a Movie Star, in which he details the irony of having women swoon over him and being seen in the company of Natalie Wood and Debbie Reynolds, both of whom were close friends as well as arranged studio dates, while he was having affairs with Tony Perkins and other men.

Co-written with Eddie Muller, an authority on film noir, the book traces Hunter?s life from being raised by his divorced German immigrant mother through his discovery while shoveling horse manure in a Southern California stable (horses have remained a lifelong love) and being signed by gay agent Henry Willson, who also invented Rock Hudson, among other gorgeous male movie stars.

He also discusses his 1950 arrest following a police raid on a gay "pajama party,? and the repercussions of a Confidential magazine story on it five years later. It was not the career-breaker everyone expected. Rather, it was the decline of the studio system and that he was no longer in vogue that turned Hunter into a waning star consigned to spaghetti westerns and dinner theater until he received a phone call from John Waters. In that call, the gay underground director recalled his fondness for the song ?Young Love? and asked if he?d appear in ?Polyester,? Waters? break-through film, as transvestite actor Divine?s love interest.

?Polyester? revived Hunter?s career and made it possible for him to produce another cult hit co-starring Divine, ?Lust in the Dust.?

Today Hunter, a younger-looking 74, lives quietly on his ranch in Montecito, Calif., with his longtime partner, film producer Allan Glaser.

The book is an easy read that you?ll enjoy if you are a movie fan, but don?t expect anything salacious, such as many details of his liaisons or what other Hollywood stars, aside from Perkins, also are gay.

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 374 pages, $24.95

Peter Cassels is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Excellence in Journalism award. His e-mail address is pcassels@edgepublications.com.


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