"I HATE LABELS."
That's the first sentence you will read in Tab Hunter's autobiography(co-written with Eddie
Muller) and it's basically the theme of the book. Don't get me wrong,Tab is not Mr. Negativity.
Rather,he's a person who has been judged on outer appearances so much in his life that he
refuses to be labeled or to pigeonhole others. His story is not just another rehash of former
fame with kiss & tell tidbits thrown in for flavor-this is something else altogether.
Tab Hunter started off in life as Art Gelien,a fatherless boy who loved movies and horses.His
mother,Gertrude,struggled to make a better life for Art and her older son Walt,which lead them
to California where after Art left the Coast Guard(he lied about his age and enlisted at 15)and
held quite a few different jobs,wound up becoming Tab Hunter,the Next Big Thing.
Even before he became an actor,Tab was constantly admired for his looks-one teacher even accused him in front of Gertrude of perming his hair to which she replied"My son does not,but
you should do something about those dark roots of yours"(now,that's a mom!). Tab also had
constant struggles with his sexuality for which he had no one to confide in at that time(he
went to a priest for guidance to only have hellfire and damnation screamed at him) and altho
Hollywood in the fifties had a "don't ask,don't tell" policy,rumors would leak out about Tab's
He also had to deal with his mother's mental breakdowns and a so-called "friend" who manipulated her and him because of them and not being taken seriously as an actor. Tab
also made a hit album that Warner Bros blocked from major release(they didn't have a music
department back then and didn't know how to get ahold of the profits from that any other way).
Tab's career came to a head and he worked as a producer until John Waters teamed him up
with Divine in Polyester. I've never seen it but did watch Lust in the Dust(a non JW but with
Divine film) years ago on late night HBO and that was how I was introduced to Tab Hunter.
Many folks nowadays only know him from movies like that and people from an earlier generation know him from"Battle Cry" and "The Burning Hills"(a movie he made with Natalie
Wood,who was a good friend and studio sent "beard") but Tab Hunter was like the male version
of Marilyn Monroe-considered to be only a pretty boy with delusions of real talent. Sad to say
but Hollywood is still the same in many ways today and Tab was fortunate enough not to
become just another celebrity casuality. The other strong theme you get from this book is
sincerity;Tab is upfront about his mistakes,never glosses over the bad times in his life and
doesn't waste energy ripping others apart. He has no delusions about who and what he is and
refuses to be made into someone else's ideal at this point in his life.
Tab Hunter Confidential is a good,intelligent memoir about a Hollywood star who was much
more than that and it's forthrightness is one of the book's charms. The subtitle of it is "The Making of a Movie Star" but it should be "The Making of a Real Man".
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