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Classic Hollywood teen idol Tab Hunter comes way out in autobiography


Tab Hunter then and now. Photo: Stephanie Diani for The New York Times

Interesting profile in the NYT about Tab Hunter, a star from the good old days of 50s Hollywood soapers, a time when fully realized gay characters weren’t on screen — but a whole lot of closeted gay actors were. (NYT):

Next month “Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star,” an autobiography written with Eddie Muller, in which Mr. Hunter chronicles his life in public as America’s golden boy and his life in private as a gay man, will be published by Algonquin Books. As Mr. Hunter stepped out with starlets like Ms. [Natalie] Wood in movies, magazines and Hollywood night spots, he pursued relationships with actors like Anthony Perkins, who eventually stopped seeing him, married and later died of AIDS.

Mr. Hunter, like many celebrities who become international obsessions, is fairly simple in person. At 74, he says he prefers horses to people. He can swear with the best of them. He has lived quietly in a small cottage in this small town outside Santa Barbara for 12 years with his partner of 23 years, Allan Glaser, a producer. Oprah Winfrey has a place down the hill, 42 acres that she paid $55 million for, but that’s entertainment. Nicely kept 230SL’s buzz among the old-growth olive-grove roads like hornets. No one pretends that Montecito is Middle America.

There’s more to life than success, Mr. Hunter said last week, sitting in his garden with Mr. Glaser, talking about being Tab Hunter. One of their two whippets, Olivia, chewed on an acorn by his chair. Mr. Hunter has an actor’s habit of holding one’s eye with consequence as he answers questions, as if it were a camera.

“Rock? No,” he said, asked if he had had sex with Rock Hudson, one of Hollywood’s other A-list homosexuals in the 1950’s. “Not my type.” Mr. Hudson and Mr. Hunter shared an agent, Henry Willson, who was known as the gay Svengali for the beefcake stars he created.

…Mr. Hunter said that Hollywood in the 1950’s had its version of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which was “Don’t complain, don’t explain.” Or, let the studio take care of you, and let the public draw its conclusions.

“There was a lot written about my sexuality, and the press was pretty darn cruel, but people believe what they want to believe,” he said. What moviegoers wanted to hold in their hearts were the boy-next-door marines, cowboys and swoon-bait sweethearts he portrayed.

The article includes comments from John Waters, who was responsible for “rediscovering” Hunter resurgence, casting him with Divine in Polyester. Waters, in talking about today’s gay Hollywood, is of the firm belief that none of the top box office stars are gay, including Tom Cruise, lololol.

Thanks to House Blender Holly for the pointer.

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