Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Tab Hunter Confidential

The book "Tab Hunter Confidential" was a fascinating read some years ago, as Tab took us through his career as that Fifties heart-throb with a secret - he was gay. It is now a film, with a wealth of clips and interviewees from that Fifties Golden Age. 
Tab, now in his mid-80s, is still fit, busy with his horses, and comes across as a man of integrity. He does not dish any dirt needlessly, and unlike some (Rock) he did not do the usual marriage of convenience for a year or two to put off the newshounds. He was genuinely friends with those girls he dated: Natalie, Debbie, Venetia Stevenson, Terry Moore etc. The survivors are all here, plus Robert Wagner, Clint Eastwood, Mother Dolores Hart, Rex Reed and more.

The clips show what a big deal he was then - I liked him in ISLAND OF DESIRE, BATTLE CRY, the two with Natalie - her dark looks complementing his blonde - and with Sophia Loren in Lumet's under-rated THAT KIND OF WOMAN in 1959. Pity he never got that main role that defined him (unlike his pal Tony Perkins), perhaps his best role now is in DAMN YANKEES in 1958, with that Fosse choreography. 
Tab also had a go at singing and had some top ten hits and albums, but he got tired of all that and bought out his Warner Bros contract, so Jack Warner replaced him with the manufactured Troy Donahue - another of gay agent Henry Willson's boys (as was Tab, plus Guy Madison, Rory Calhoun and of course Rock) while Elvis, Ricky Nelson and Fabian were also hitting the movies. It was though the cusp of the 1960s with a new breed of new guys emerging like the young Warren Beatty and Robert Redford who were able to parlay their looks into enduring careers. Other '50s hunks like Jeff Hunter and Robert Wagner had similar career problems. 
Tab was soon old hat, despite a surfing movie and some European cheapies. But he kept going, with smaller roles and guest appearances, as in THE LOVED ONE in 1965. He was also into figure-skating and horse-jumping, and did a lot of dinner theatre. He was also in that short-lived first production of Tennessee Williams' THE MILK TRAIN DOES NOT STOP HERE ANYMORE with Tallulah Bankhead - one of those productions that has passed into legend (it later became the Burtons' BOOM!).  Then of course he was re-discovered by John Waters for POLYESTER and LUST IN THE DUST with bombshell Divine. 
Lots of fascinating stories here, including his relationship with Tony Perkins (a very ambitious actor, who managed to get Tab's television role in FEAR STRIKES OUT to film for himself) and how Tab had to look after his mother and brother, who did not survive Vietnam. 
Tab now seems a contented man, well-liked and respected as the later generation of gays find his story fascinating and how he handled it during that closeted time. Tab is a Hollywood blonde who has endured; like the books by Michael York and John Fraser, Tab's shows how actors keep going once the initial limelight fades ... 

1 comment:

  1. An excellent analysis both of Tab, the man and Tab, the movie. I loved it (and loved the book, too) and have been a fan since I was a camp little queen of about 7!! If all 80+ year olds lookd as good....