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Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star Hardcover – October 14, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (October 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124669
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124660
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #512,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

With very little hedging, great good humor, and no pretentiousness, Tab Hunter Confidential delivers the straight story on how a young, gorgeous kid named Art Gelien, child of an absent father and a repressed, platitude-spouting mother, suddenly became a teen hearthrob, known as "The Sigh Guy." Tab Hunter was, in the 1950s, one of the reigning hunks, every teenage girl's dreamboat. He dated Debbie Reynolds and other starlets, did countless interviews about the kind of girl he would marry and, through it all, kept his private life very private. Tab Hunter was gay before gay meant anything other than joyful exuberance.

Henry Willson, famous and infamous agent and creator of stars, named Tab Hunter. He also tagged Rock Hudson, Rory Calhoun, and other young sex symbols. Not all of them were gay, but they came to be known as Harry Willson's boys. (Another book about this time and subject is The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson by Robert Hofler.) Tab Hunter was completely manufactured. He even speaks of himself in the third person in the book.

Before he was 26, Hunter had hit the trifecta: he was a movie star, had a hit single in "Young Love," and was on the first live production of Playhouse 90 on television. His future success looked assured, but such was not the case. It was either feast of famine for the next few years. He was never a solid A-list leading man, but had his share of famous co-stars and leading ladies nevertheless.

While he was struggling with his true identity and trying to stay afloat financially, his mother had a complete breakdown and he was forced to hospitalize her in less than ideal conditions. This also had to be a secret from the fans. His friendships, both intimate and platonic, kept him going, as well as his deep faith in Catholicism. Yes, Catholicism. Tab Hunter has his own unique pact with God.

The book is filled with many pictures of Tab and his friends and with anecdotes about the stars: Tallulah Bankhead on her last legs, fuzzy and outrageous; Linda Darnell's kindness; John Wayne's macho strutting; Fred Astaire's humility; Van Heflin's professionalism, and on and on. This is sheer heaven for any movie fan. His relationship with Tony Perkins is noted, as is his liaison with Olympic figure skater Ronnie Robertson. (Tab, in addition to being an actor, singer and horseman was also an accomplished figure skater.) When the good parts disappeared after he left Warner Brothers, he went on tour with the Everly Brothers. Much later, now fully "out" he joined Divine in two John Waters movies: Polyester and Lust in the Dust, both cult classics. After suffering a stroke and a heart attack, he is now enjoying life in Santa Barbara with his longtime companion, Allan Glaser. As Tab succinctly puts it regarding his story: "Better to get it from the horse's mouth, I decided, and not from some horse's ass." --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

The 1950s heartthrob has penned a brave, surprising and sad memoir about depression (his mother's), repression (his homosexuality) and redemption (a career revival and meeting his partner of 20-plus years). Hunter (b. 1931) was a good-looking 19-year-old with no acting experience when he was molded into a movie star, later stumbling into a hit record (1957's Young Love) and a two-year affair with Anthony Perkins. Although his acting improved over a decade of mediocre films, by the early 1960s he was scrambling for parts in movies starring Soupy Sales and going overseas to film spaghetti westerns. His career was reborn when he co-starred with Divine in John Water's Polyester (1981) and again in Lust in the Dust (1985), which introduced Hunter to a new generation and turned him into a gay icon. Hunter, who is virtually alone among actors of his era and stature to write about living a closeted gay life in Hollywood's spotlight, is honest about his shortcomings and missteps. He's made an admirable choice to chart his life through friendships and hardships (emotional and financial), rather than just his career trajectory. This is an illuminating, emotionally charged and important piece of Hollywood's hidden history. Photos.
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Customer Reviews

Basically Tab is saying, "I was always out. It was Tony who was in the closet."
Kevin Killian
The sad thing is I never bought the book for myself, but did give it as a birthday present to a good friend who loved these guys as much as I did.
D. O'Neill
I found this book very honest and informative of the times - a nice ride down memory lane.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Nelson Aspen on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Pop star, matinee idol and alternate darling/demon of the 50's & 60's tabloids, Tab Hunter has had an amazing life in the public eye. Now he recollects memorable moments and reveals his behind-the-scenes experiences in this thoughtfully written autobiography.

Less of a "tell all" and more of a "tell ABOUT," Tab recounts encounters with an amazing array of friends, lovers and co-stars. Film buffs will especially enjoy reading anecdotes about Tallulah Bankhead, Natalie Wood, Sophia Loren, Debbie Reynolds, Gwen Verdon and Anthony Perkins--with whom Tab had a secret, intimate relationship.

Tab never sells out. Though now open about his sexuality, he remains a staunch Catholic with some pretty conservatives views about marriage, sexuality, politics and fame. It makes for exceptionally compelling reading in this day and age of celebrity-driven headlines.

Great collection of photos, too, that show Tab was (and is) more than mere beefcake!
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127 of 149 people found the following review helpful By D. O'Neill on October 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was picking up my drink order at Starbucks the other night, my book in hand, when the Barista asked my what I was reading. I showed her the book and told her it was about Tab Hunter. Her face fell a bit, unsure what to say. I then asked her if she had even heard of him, and she admitted she had not. I quickly explained to her that he was the one of the first pretty-boy screen idols of the 1950's, a sort of Ashton Kutchner (a sad comparison, I know) of his day. I showed her the pictures in the book of the handsome "Sigh Guy" and she suddenly understood what the book was all about.

While I've seen very little of Hunter's work, I've always been fascinated by him. But he was also part of the old Hollywood that I love so much. And he was just so damn good looking.

The genetic perfect, you love them and hate them. Art Gelien won the genetic lottery and like so many "movie stars" of today, became a hit -even if they had no talent (hello, Ashton). Still, Tab Hunter turned out not be just another pretty face. Even he knew that his rise to fame came because he had perfect cheekbones and looked very, very, very good shirtless. But unlike today's pretty-boys, Hunter knew he could be better and was determined to show the world that there was something below the surface. Even if the studios didn't fully understand who they had in their pocketbooks.

Tab Hunter Confidential is perhaps the best autobiography of Hollywood superstar I've read. With honesty and a great sense of humor, Hunter takes us on a glorious ride through old Hollywood, when the studio ways were ending. Where movies began to be pitched towards teenagers instead of adults, where character pieces and epic story telling were pushed aside for empty, marshmallow war dramas and beach films.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Freudian Slips VINE VOICE on March 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
To me, the most telling line in the book is on page 351 when Hunter describes actress Evelyn Keye's support of psychoanalysis. He writes, "by contrast, I've never spent one minute of my life in any kind of analysis." And that, in my opinion, is what makes this otherwise well-written book disappointing. I respect Hunter's decision not to "out" people, or provide detailed descriptions of sexual encounters, but I found myself wanting to know how he really felt, not the bland descriptions of his feelings. Hunter presents a fascinating glimpse into the gay Hollywood atmosphere of the 50s & 60s, but I found his endless recounting of various B movies and stage productions boring. Part of the problem is that the book is surprisingly myopic-- but for a few references to the times (JFK's assassination, for example) you would have no idea that the decade of the 60s occurred or the vast changes in the film industry- other than the decline of the studio system which is well documented. I would have liked to know what he thought about "Easy Rider" for example and the groundbreaking films of the 70s-- instead that's when he focuses on mediocre TV shows.

I would also have welcomed his insights into how the gay culture evolved over those years and how Hollywood responded-- again, we're left with one or two lines about AIDS-- and nothing about how times were changing for gay people from the 50s to the present.

All-in-all, a well-written, but too carefully crafted book which documents the events of a life, but not the heart & soul of it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By blondeguy10 on November 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have to agree with most of the reviews here on AMAZON, this has to be one of the most honest and revealing biographies of a Hollywood star ever. I didnt know too much about fabulous Tab until reading about him in the book on Henry Wilson. Well he was certainly gorgeous.. surely one of the most beautiful men around during the late 50's and 60's...but...he was more than just looks, and underneath that nordic God exterior is a man of depth and intelligence. Tab writes about his rise in Hollywood, the highs and the lows, as well as his struggle with his sexual identity and is quite revealing about some of his relationships. Its straight forward, not pretentious at all and very readable.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kevin G. Ricks on January 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I knew almost nothing about Tab Hunter, except the name, and hearthrob status, before reading this autobiography. Now I feel as though I virtually know, and LIKE the man. That is the highest praise I could imagine giving for such a work. The book is highly readable and comes across as conversational and intimate. It is neither sordid nor prurient, and those looking for same will find instead an insider's look at the fame treadmill and the honest, warts and all story behind a Hollywood male heartthrob. This book, much more so than THE MAN WHO MADE ROCK HUDSON, made me want to rent or buy the films of the former Arthur Gelien and reread the book while watching, to add to the experience. This is a wonderful item to have while the author is still living, and still vital. Hats off to Mr. Gelien!
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