Arthur Andrew Kelm Gelien was an equestrian & figure skater before his agent, Henry Wilson turned him into Tab Hunter (the same agent that came up with the name Rock Hudson). Tab Hunter has appeared in over 40 films & has worked on stage & TV. My favortite Tab Hunter role is as Joe Hardy in the1958 film version of Damn Yankees. He was the only one in the film version who had not been in the original Broadway cast.
In the year of my birth-1954, Hunter, then 23, blond & blue eyed, the perfect product of a popular perceptibility, as free from cynicism & care as a sky can be cloudless & clear, was the #1 male star at the box office with the film- Battle Cry. By 1957 he was also #1 on the pop music charts with Young Love, topping Elvis Presley.
By 1959 his ride was ending. Troy Donahue was invented & he became the next Tab Hunter, & Hunter at 28 was more or less done. Hunter began a 46 year descent into actors’ hell: spaghetti westerns (Hunter describes them as - "short on the meat sauce"), TV guest shots, dinner theater, infomercials, & the film Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood.
Then, in the 1980s, after the long trip through the depths of drek & a heart attack, Hunter was rediscovered by Post Apocalyptic Bohemian- John Waters. In Polyester (1981), Waters used Hunter, who had starred opposite John Wayne as well as Natalie Wood, Sophia Loren & a bevy of beauties, to play opposite Divine as Francine Fishpaw. His work in Polyester reinvented Hunter as an ironic illustration of his own Hollywood iconography.
Hunter said Hollywood in the 1950s had its version of "Don't ask, don't tell": "Don't complain, don't explain." Let the studio take care of the actors, & let the public draw its conclusions.
Hunter: "Hollywood will just take you, chew you up, spit you out, dump you on the side & go on to the next, & it's kind of tragic." In 2005, Hunter released a terrific & very readable memoir- Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of A Movie Star where he finally publicly came out of the closet. Hunter: "Life was difficult for me, because I was living 2 different lives at that time. A private life of my own, which I never discussed, never talked about to anyone. Then my Hollywood life, which was just trying to learn my craft & succeed..." the word 'gay' wasn't even around in those days, & 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. There was a lot written about my sexuality, & the press was pretty darn cruel."
Hunter enjoyed long term relationships with actor Anthony Perkins & champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson before settling down with his partner of 30 years, Allan Glaser, a producer. The couple live in Montecito, California.
He was one of my first crushes. I think Tab Hunter was & is a blond bombshell. I don't hate that he is a Republican… but I do hate his Republicanism.