Tab Hunter turns 83 today – a documentary about the “Damn Yankees” star is in the works
As my friend Kenneth and I were leaving the opening night party for Outfest last night, one of the last people we bumped into was director Jeffrey Schwarz who directed the wonderful documentaries Vito and I am Divine.
Jeffrey told us he hopes to be back at Outfest a year from now with the current documentary he’s working on about Tab Hunter.
That, I wanna see.
Anyway, it just so happens that today is Tab Hunter’s 83rd birthday!
Back in 2010, I did a brief interview with Tab at the TCM classic Film Festival and I wondered if life had changed for him much since the publication of his autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star a few years back. In the book, he not only shared details of his Hollywood hey-day, he also publicly confirmed that he is gay.
“I wrote is because I didn’t want some schmuck writing about me after I was dead and gone,” he said. “I figured get it from the horse’s mouth and not from horse’s ass after I’m no longer here so that’s exactly why I wrote it.”
Tab was closeted during his career as were other stars of his generation (Rock Hudson, Richard Chamberlain etc) and I wondered what he thought of some of these younger actors who are coming out such as Neil Patrick Harris, John Barrowman, Luke Macfarlane etc).
He said: “That’s up to the individual. I never talk about those things. The only thing that’s important is the work and growing as a human being from A to Z. Your growth mentally, physically and spiritually. Those are the three most important things on this journey of life.”
His advice to younger actors, gay or straight: “Put your nose to the grindstone. Ego’s a killer, remember that.”
Tab says life is good these days: “I live in Santa Barbara and I write and I work in my garden. I’ve got my dogs and my horse and I’ve got some nice friends. I’m doing all right for an old man.”
What about acting again?
Tab: “That was my past life.”
And what a past life! His birth name was Arthur Andrew Kelm and he was given the name Tab Hunter by agent Henry Wilson when he got a contract at Warner Bros.
He got a role in the film Island of Desire then became a star in the movie Battle Cry as a young man who has an affair with an older woman then ends up marrying the girl next door.
He then became a recording star with the number one hit Young Love which led to the starring role in Damn Yankees. A few years later, he turned to television with The Tab Hunter Show which lasted one year on NBC then moved to Europe to star in a series of spaghetti Westerns.
After fading from view in the 70s, Tab made a comeback in the early 80s in a series of movies including Grease 2 and most significantly, the films Polyester and Lust in the Dust.
During Hollywood’s studio era, Hunter once said in an interview that life “was difficult for me, because I was living two lives at that time. A private life of my own, which I never discussed, never talked about to anyone. And then my Hollywood life, which was just trying to learn my craft and succeed…” The star emphasizes that the word ‘gay’ “wasn’t even around in those days, and if anyone ever confronted me with it, I’d just kinda freak out. I was in total denial. I was just not comfortable in that Hollywood scene, other than the work process.”