Understanding the experience of keeping certain aspects of ourselves hidden from the public can be challenging. This struggle was, unfortunately, a significant part of the life of a renowned actor. Tab Hunter, known for his attractive blond looks, spent much of his life concealing his true identity.
Born in Manhattan, New York City, in 1931, Tab Hunter developed a passion for movies at a young age. At 15, he even lied about his age to join the US Coast Guard.
During his service in the Coast Guard, his coworkers gave him the nickname “Tab” due to his habit of staying home and watching movies while they went out for a drink.
At 17, Tab crossed paths with the famous agent Henry Willson, known for his role in creating the beefcake trend of the 1950s. Previous discoveries by Willson included male superstars Rock Hudson and Robert Wagner.
In his book “Tab Hunter Confidential,” Hunter revealed that Willson prioritized physical appearance over acting talent, stating that “acting skill was secondary to chiseled features and a fine physique.”
With his irresistible “Malibu beach boy looks,” Tab Hunter became the epitome of a Hollywood heartthrob and gained immense popularity as an adolescent idol.
He humbly admitted that he had to learn on the job, considering himself someone who had served an apprenticeship pushed upon him. However, his sudden fame came with its own set of challenges.
Being a homosexual actor in the conservative era of the 1950s presented nearly insurmountable obstacles. Despite being adored for his talent and good looks, Tab Hunter, like many other gay actors of the time, had to hide his true identity and sexuality to protect his career.
He had to engage in secret relationships to keep them hidden from the public eye until he finally came out and met his lifelong partner.
Reflecting on his experience of being a closeted gay man in Hollywood during the 1940s, Tab Hunter mentioned that hearing the truth directly from him was crucial rather than relying on rumors and speculation.
In later years, he found love and companionship with Allan Glaser, whom he eventually married. The couple, both involved in the film industry, enjoyed a successful and fulfilling marriage.
While Allan Glaser had encouraged Tab to share his life story through a book, one of the main reasons for Hunter’s decision to come out was his desire to control the narrative of his relationships.
In an interview, he revealed that he had realized his preference for men during his teenage years but could never fully accept or embrace the label “gay,” given the social climate of the time.
Tab Hunter’s career took a significant turn when he met agent Henry Willson, often referred to as a “gay svengali” due to his association with other gay performers, including Rock Hudson.
Willson helped Hunter secure various acting roles, leading to his breakthrough in the 1955 film “Battle Cry.” Hunter became a sensation, gracing magazine covers nationwide and solidifying his status as Hollywood’s heartthrob.
Due to his popularity, Warner Bros. extended Tab Hunter a lucrative seven-year contract. During this time, he met Natalie Wood, his co-star in “The Burning Hills.” Publicly, the studio portrayed them as a romantic pair, attending numerous events and award shows together.
Hunter’s close friendship with Debbie Reynolds also fueled speculation about his relationships with women, and his mailbox was inundated with letters from adoring female fans.
However, the reality behind these appearances and alleged partnerships were far different. Hunter was engaged in a secret affair with actor Anthony Perkins, best known for his iconic role in “Psycho,” while pretending to date Natalie Wood.
Reflecting on his connection with Perkins, Hunter acknowledged their compatibility and mentioned they often went on double dates.
Over the years, Hunter had several discreet relationships, keeping them away from the prying eyes of the public and media. However, rumors persisted, and there were suspicions that Hunter’s former agent, Henry Willson, may have played a role in exposing his homosexuality to the media.
After his marriage to Allan Glaser, Tab Hunter chose to live a quiet life away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. They settled in a modest cottage outside Santa Barbara, finding contentment in leading a simple life.
In a 2005 interview with the New York Times, Hunter emphasized that success is not the sole aspect of life, highlighting the importance of personal fulfillment.
Sadly, Tab Hunter’s journey ended in the beautiful house he shared with Allan Glaser. He passed away at age 86 due to a blood clot in his lungs that caused a heart attack.
Tab Hunter’s professional life was undeniably challenging, navigating a conservative and judgmental era while trying to protect his career and personal relationships.
His story serves as a reminder of the struggles faced by individuals in the entertainment industry and beyond who have had to hide their authentic selves for fear of societal backlash.
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