Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making Of A Movie Star
- Publish Date: 2005-10-14
- Binding: Hardcover
- Author: Tab Hunter
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The young boy's name was Tab Huntera made-up name, of course, a Hollywood nameand it was his time. Stardom didn't come overnight, although it seemed that way. In fact, the fame came first, when his face adorned hundreds of magazine covers; the movies, the studio contract, the name in lightsall that came later. For Tab Hunter was a true product of Hollywood, a movie star created from a stable boy, a shy kid made even more so by the way his schoolmatesboth girls and boysreacted to his beauty, by a mother who provided for him in every way except emotionally, and by a secret that both tormented him and propelled him forward.
In Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Hunter speaks out for the first time about what it was like to be a movie star at the end of the big studio era, to be treated like a commodity, to be told what to do, how to behave, whom to be seen with, what to wear. He speaks also about what it was like to be gay, at first confused by his own fears and misgivings, then as an actor trapped by an image of boy-next-door innocence. And when he dared to be difficult, to complain to the studio about the string of mostly mediocre movies that were assigned to him, he learned that just like any manufactured product, he was disposabledisposable and replaceable.
Hunter's career as a bona fide movie star lasted a decade. But he persevered as an actor, working continuously at a profession he had come to love, seekingand earningthe respect of his peers, and of the Hollywood community.
And so, Tab Hunter Confidential is at heart a story of survivalof the giddy highs of stardom, and the soul-destroying lows when phone calls begin to go unreturned; of the need to be loved, and the fear of being consumed; of the hope of an innocent boy, and the rueful summation of a man who did it all, and who lived to tell it all.
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