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Tab Hunter Confidential:
The Making of a Movie Star

by Tab Hunter

ISBN 1565124669 / 9781565124660 / 1-56512-466-9
Publisher Algonquin Books
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

With very little hedging, great good humor, and no pretentiousness, Tab Hunter Confidential delivers the straight story on how a young, gorgeous kid named Art Gelien, child of an absent father and a repressed, platitude-spouting mother, suddenly became a teen hearthrob, known as "The Sigh Guy." Tab Hunter was, in the 1950s, one of the reigning hunks, every teenage girl's dreamboat. He dated Debbie Reynolds and other starlets, did countless interviews about the kind of girl he would marry and, through it all, kept his private life very private. Tab Hunter was gay before gay meant anything other than joyful exuberance.

Henry Willson, famous and infamous agent and creator of stars, named Tab Hunter. He also tagged Rock Hudson, Rory Calhoun, and other young sex symbols. Not all of them were gay, but they came to be known as Harry Willson's boys. (Another book about this time and subject is The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson by Robert Hofler.) Tab Hunter was completely manufactured. He even speaks of himself in the third person in the book.

Before he was 26, Hunter had hit the trifecta: he was a movie star, had a hit single in "Young Love," and was on the first live production of Playhouse 90 on television. His future success looked assured, but such was not the case. It was either feast of famine for the next few years. He was never a solid A-list leading man, but had his share of famous co-stars and leading ladies nevertheless.

While he was struggling with his true identity and trying to stay afloat financially, his mother had a complete breakdown and he was forced to hospitalize her in less than ideal conditions. This also had to be a secret from the fans. His friendships, both intimate and platonic, kept him going, as well as his deep faith in Catholicism. Yes, Catholicism. Tab Hunter has his own unique pact with God.

The book is filled with many pictures of Tab and his friends and with anecdotes about the stars: Tallulah Bankhead on her last legs, fuzzy and outrageous; Linda Darnell's kindness; John Wayne's macho strutting; Fred Astaire's humility; Van Heflin's professionalism, and on and on. This is sheer heaven for any movie fan. His relationship with Tony Perkins is noted, as is his liaison with Olympic figure skater Ronnie Robertson. (Tab, in addition to being an actor, singer and horseman was also an accomplished figure skater.) When the good parts disappeared after he left Warner Brothers, he went on tour with the Everly Brothers. Much later, now fully "out" he joined Divine in two John Waters movies: Polyester and Lust in the Dust, both cult classics. After suffering a stroke and a heart attack, he is now enjoying life in Santa Barbara with his longtime companion, Allan Glaser. As Tab succinctly puts it regarding his story: "Better to get it from the horse's mouth, I decided, and not from some horse's ass." --Valerie Ryan [via]