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Tab Hunter

in Damn Yankees (1958)
Born Arthur Andrew Kelm
July 11, 1931 (1931-07-11) (age 78)
New York City, New York, USA
Occupation Actor, Writer and Singer
Years active 1952 - 1992
Domestic partner(s) Allan Glaser (1982 - Present)[1]
Official website

Tab Hunter (born Arthur Andrew Kelm on July 11, 1931) is an American actor, singer, former teen idol and author who has starred in over forty major motion pictures.

Contents

Background

Hunter was born in New York City to German immigrants. His father, Charles Kelm, was Jewish and his mother, Gertrude Gelien, a Roman Catholic who later converted to Judaism. Hunter was raised as a Roman Catholic. His father was an abusive man, and within a few years of his birth, his parents divorced and his mother moved with her two sons to California. She reassumed her maiden surname, Gelien, and changed her sons' name to that as well. As a teenager, Hunter was a figure skater, competing in both singles and pairs, and an ardent horseback rider.

In later years, Hunter's mother was institutionalized and underwent shock treatments, and he supported her financially until her death. His older brother Walter, whom he idolized, became a medic and was killed in Vietnam.

Career

Arthur Gelien was signed to a contract at Warner Bros. and christened "Tab Hunter" by his first agent, Henry Willson.[2] His good looks got him pegged as a screen idol. He landed a role in the film Island of Desire opposite Linda Darnell. However, it was his co-starring role as young Marine Danny in 1955's World War II drama Battle Cry, in which he has an affair with an older woman but ends up marrying the girl next door, that cemented his position as one of Hollywood's top young romantic leads. He went on to star in over 40 major Holywood films

In September 1955, the tabloid magazine Confidential reported Hunter's 1950 arrest for disorderly conduct. The innuendo-laced article, and a second one focusing on Rory Calhoun's prison record, were the result of a deal Henry Willson had brokered with the scandal rag in exchange for not revealing his more prominent client Rock Hudson's sexual orientation to the public. Not only was there no negative impact on Hunter's career, but a few months later he was named Most Promising New Personality in a nationwide poll sponsored by the Council of Motion Picture Organizations.[3]

Hunter had a 1957 hit record with a cover of the song "Young Love", which was #1 on the charts for six weeks. He also had the hit "Ninety-Nine Ways", which peaked at #11 in the charts. His success prompted Jack Warner to enforce the actor's contract with the studio by banning Dot Records, the label for which Hunter had recorded the single, from releasing a follow-up album he had recorded for them. He established Warner Bros. Records specifically for Hunter, although his singing career foundered after a few more recordings.

Hunter's best role during this period was in the 1958 musical movie Damn Yankees, in which he played Joe Hardy of Washington D.C's American League baseball club. The movie had originally been a Broadway show, and Hunter was the only one in the film version who hadn't appeared in the original cast. The show was based on the 1954 best-selling book The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop.

Hunter's failure to win the role of Tony in the film adaptation of West Side Story prompted him to agree to star in a weekly television sitcom. On July 9, 1960, prior to the program's debut, he was arrested by Glendale, California police for allegedly regularly and relentlessly beating his dog Fritz. His 11-day trial started in mid-October, a month after The Tab Hunter Show debuted on Sunday evenings on NBC. It was proved that the neighbor who initiated the charges had done so for spite when Hunter declined her repeated invitations to dinner, and he was acquitted by the jury.[4] The Tab Hunter Show had low ratings and was hence cancelled after one season. Hunter's co-star Richard Erdman starred in 1962-1963 in another NBC series, a drama about a big-city newspaper entitled Saints and Sinners. Hunter guest starred on Erdman's short-lived drama.

For a short time in the latter 1960s, Hunter settled in the south of France, where he acted in spaghetti westerns. His career was revived in the 1980s, when he starred opposite transvestite actor Divine in John Waters' Polyester (1981) and Paul Bartel's Lust in the Dust (1985). He is particularly remembered by later audiences as Mr. Stewart, the substitute teacher in Grease 2, who sang "Reproduction." Hunter had a major role in the 1988 horror film Cameron's Closet. He also wrote and starred in Dark Horse (1992).

Personal life

In Hunter's 2005 autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, he acknowledged his homosexuality, confirming rumors that had circulated since the height of his fame. According to William L. Hamilton of The New York Times, detailed reports about his alleged romances with very close friends Debbie Reynolds and Natalie Wood were strictly the fodder of studio publicity departments. As Wood and Hunter embarked on a well-publicized and groundless romance, promoting his apparent heterosexuality while promoting their movies, insiders developed their own headline for the item: 'Natalie Wood and Tab Wouldn't'.[5] Hunter did become close enough with Etchika Choureau, his co-star in Lafayette Escadrille, and Joan Cohn, widow of Harry Cohn, to contemplate marriage, but thought he never could maintain a marriage and remained merely platonic friends with both women.

During Hollywood's studio era, Hunter says, life "was difficult for me, because I was living two lives at that time. A private life of my own, which I never discussed, never talked about to anyone. And then my Hollywood life, which was just trying to learn my craft and succeed..." The star emphasizes that the word 'gay' "wasn't even around in those days, and 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."[6] "There was a lot written about my sexuality, and the press was pretty darn cruel," the actor says, but what "moviegoers wanted to hold in their hearts were the boy-next-door marines, cowboys and swoon-bait sweethearts he portrayed."[5]

Hunter had long-term relationships with bisexual actor Anthony Perkins and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson before settling down with his partner of 25 years, Allan Glaser. The two live in Montecito, California.[7]

Hunter has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6320 Hollywood Blvd.

Filmography

References

  1. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/fashion/sundaystyles/18tab.html
  2. ^ The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson by Robert Hofler, published by Carroll & Graf, 2005, ISBN 0-7867-1607-X
  3. ^ Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller, published by Algonquin Books, 2005, pp. 116-118 ISBN 1565124669
  4. ^ Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, pp. 227-235
  5. ^ a b See William L. Hamilton, "Did Success Spoil Tab Hunter?" The New York Times, September 18, 2005.
  6. ^ See Tim Parks, "The many lives of Tab Hunter" Gay and Lesbian Times, December 15, 2005.
  7. ^ ""The Celluloid Closet", October 9, 2005". washingtonpost.com. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/06/AR2005100601518_pf.html. Retrieved January 7, 2009.  

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