It’s hard for us to imagine what it’s like to have to hide things about ourselves from the entire world.
Sadly, that’s what this iconic star had to do for most of his life…
Tab Hunter, known for his blond, clean-cut good looks, starred in many movies and became a huge Hollywood heartthrob in the 1950s and 1960s. He was the rave of the ’50s bobbysoxers, and his biggest flick was Damn Yankees – some people also might recognize him from The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.
He was born in 1931 in Manhattan, New York City. When he turned 15, he lied about his age to be able to enlist in the United States Coast Guard. While working with the Coast Guard, Tab earned the nickname Hollywood because of his love of movies. When his colleagues went to the bar after work, Tab stayed home and watched films.
When Tab turned 17, he was introduced to the legendary agent Henry Willson – the mastermind behind developing the beefcake craze of the 1950s. Willson had previously found male superstars like Robert Wagner and Rock Hudson.
“Acting skill was secondary to chiseled features and a fine physique,” Hunter said while discussing Willson’s standards in his book Tab Hunter Confidential.
With his ”Malibu beach boy looks,” Tab Hunter was the perfect match for Hollywood and the dazzling handsome actor became one of the most popular teen idols of the 1950s.
”I was sort of a product of. I was thrown into it, and kind of wondered where does one serve one’s apprenticeship. I was one of those people who had to learn while doing. I learned on the job,” he said.
But Tab’s newfound stardom came with offscreen difficulties. It was almost impossible to navigate his life as a homosexual actor in the 1950s – the USA was a very conservative country back then.
Tab Hunter was an experienced actor who was loved by adoring fans for his handsome looks and talent. Considered a Hollywood heartthrob in his era, he attracted endless female fans.
Unfortunately, like many gay actors at the time, he was forced to hide his true self and sexuality to prevent a scandal from shaking his career. He was forced to pursue a variety of relationships in the shadows to hide them from the public before he eventually came out and found his future husband.
Tab Hunter opened up about working as a closeted gay man in Hollywood in the 1940s once he was older and felt he could do so comfortably.
Hunter explained to The Hollywood Reporter at one point that it was best to “get it from the horse’s mouth.”
The late actor married his longtime love Allan Glaser later in life.
Glaser was a film producer, and he and Hunter had a happy and successful marriage. Before, he was in a relationship with Glaser. However, Hunter was in a secret relationship with fellow star Anthony Perkins.
The controversial love affair between the Hollywood heartthrobs had been whispered about for decades – and finally, Tab decided to tell the truth.
”We just chatted and got on and soon we were starting to see each other But it was difficult; we couldn’t just go out for dinner together or go see a movie because we were both getting so popular back then. I didn’t talk about my personal life to anyone back then at all. The way I saw it it was nobody’s damn business,” he
One of the leading reasons that he decided to come out in public was that his husband, Allan Glaser, had informed him that someone was planning to write a book about Hunter’s life. The actor decided that he would rather be the one to inform the public of his secret romances.
The film star explained in his interview that he had known he preferred men as early as his teen years. Because of the time period, however, he never would have admitted or been okay with being called “gay.”
His life changed during his career, when fellow actor Dick Clayton encouraged the star to set up a meeting with Henry Wilson, an agent known as being a “gay svengali,” linked to other gay actors like Rock Hudson.
Wilson helped Hunter to amass a few roles before he eventually landed in 1955’s “Battle Cry,” the movie that skyrocketed the young star to fame. He became the bad boy of Hollywood whose face appeared on magazine covers around the country.
This popularity earned him a rare contract of seven years with Warner Bros. It was at the company that he was introduced to his “Burning Hills” costar, Natalie Wood.
Warner Bros. placed the two young stars together, and they appeared in public to have a romantic relationship. They were sent to award shows and various ceremonies together. At the same time, Hunter was reportedly close with star Debbie Reynolds and was receiving endless amounts of fan mail from female admirers.
His appearances and rumored relationships, of course, were all publicity stunts. Hunter was even scandalously arrested at a pajama party during the height of his career, and the party guests were mostly comprised of gay men.
While Hunter was pretending to date Wood, he was actually engaging in an affair with Anthony Perkins, an actor most known for his starring role in “Psycho.” Speaking on the relationship, Hunter said:
“Tony and I had a very, very good relationship. We double-dated a lot.”
He had other secret relationships over the years, and there were no rumors or scandals that seemed to affect his career. There were rumors eventually that is was Wilson, Hunter’s former agent, who leaked the news of the star’s sexuality to the press.
Hunter eventually married Glaser, and the couple lived in a small cottage in a town on the outskirts of Santa Barbara.
They lived away from the spotlight in the 1960’s after Hunter’s popularity had begun to decline. They were happy in their choice to live simply and away from Hollywood. While speaking to the New York Times in 2005, Hunter explained that success is not the only part of life.
Sadly, Hunter eventually passed away at his shared idyllic home with Glaser. It was confirmed that the then 86-year-old star died of a heart attack after a blood clot entered his lungs.
What do you think about Tab Hunter’s complicated career?
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