A closeted Tab Hunter thought his career was over when his former agent betrayed him
Tab Hunter is now 84 and came out publicly as a gay man nearly a decade ago on his own terms.
But it almost happened 50 years earlier – against his will – when he was taking off as a movie star and was very deep in the closet.
‘It all came about because Henry Willson, who “discovered” me and many other “pretty boy” actors, was upset when I left him to be represented by another agent,’ Hunter writes in the current issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
Around the same time that Hunter left Willson, the agent learned that the scandal magazine Confidential was planning to out Rock Hudson who was still one of Willson’s clients.
‘He cut a deal with them to keep Rock out of their pages feeding them dirt on me instead,’ Hunter writes.
Willson made the magazine aware of the fact that five years earlier, a then unknown Hunter had been arrested for disorderly conduct when police raided a party at which he and a number of other gay people were in attendance.
Confidential then ran the story on its cover and described it as “a pajama party” and insinuated that Hunter had been at some sort of gay orgy.
‘When the Confidential article came out … I thought my career was over,’ Hunter recalls.
But it wasn’t.
‘Thankfully, at just about the same time, Photoplay, which had a much bigger circulation, came out with an issue featuring me and Natalie Wood on the cover, identifying us as the year’s most popular new stars,’ he writes. ‘That probably saved me. After all, in Hollywood, everybody talks, but nothing matters more than the bottom line.’
Hunter went on to have a career high in 1958 as the lead in film version of the hit musical Damn Yankees. This came a year after Hunter topped the pop music charts with the smash hit single Young Love.
He remained closeted to the public but privately, enjoyed a robust romantic life. He had long-term relationships with actor Anthony Perkins and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson before settling down with his partner of over 30 years, Allan Glaser.
A 2015 documentary about his life,Tab Hunter Confidential, was directed by Jeffrey Schwarz and produced by Glaser.