Tab Hunter Talks About Being Closeted in Hollywood, And The Bisexuals He Knew

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It was great to celebrate Tab Hunter’s 84th birthday with him. We cut a big chocolate cake and sang “Happy Birthday” with 100 other people at a screening at the Outfest Film Festival in West Hollywood where he was debuting the film, “Tab Hunter Confidential.”

Even though he’s been very open about himself lately with a tell-all book and a movie, he’s still very – confidential. That’s due, in part, because he’s very religious; Hunter goes to a Catholic mass every Sunday. He’s been keeping a huge secret from the time he was an American darling in Hollywood, and hiding the fact that he was gay. And, he’s been very private about his three-decades relationship with a producer.

No, he’s never identified as bisexual, although he says he came close to falling in love with a few women. First, with French actress Etchika Choureau, his co-star in “Lafayette Escadrille,” and with Joan Perry, the widow of Harry Cohn. He considered marriage to each, briefly, but remained platonic friends with both. He really loved Natalie Wood, but he described her as “like my kid sister.” She helped hide his secret as they became a Hollywood couple in the eyes of the world, but then came the headlines: “Natalie Wood, Tab Wouldn’t” and the potential scandal of his homosexuality began.

Tab said he couldn’t do what Rock Hudson did, and marry a woman as a cover for his sexuality. But he did know bisexuals, and his great romance during his Hollywood hey-day was none other than closeted bisexual Anthony Perkins, of “Pyscho” fame.

The movie features many co-stars and friends such as director John Waters, actors Robert Wagner, George Takei, Portia DeRossi, Debbie Reynolds and more. Director Jeffrey Schwarz said, when introducing the film, “If you’re not in love with Tab Hunter, you will be after 90 minutes.” And how true that is.

Tab was a tall, blond, blue-eyed dreamboat with a pearly white smile and naïve innocence that everyone seemed to love. He was top in the box office starring in “Battle Cry,” and he topped Elvis Presley in 1954 in the music charts singing “Young Love.” Of course, his other hit, “I’ve Got a Secret,” now has a whole other ironic meaning.

In the film, Jimmy Durante calls him the “All American boy” and John Waters says, “He was a good looking California boy and every single girl or boy would want to make out with him.”

The movie covers a lot about Tab’s liason with Anthony Perkins and how they had a great relationship, until Perkins appeared to steal a role from him. Perkins later got married and fathered two children, and then died of AIDS in 1992. Hunter said, “I’m not sure that Anthony was happy.”

Tab seemed to question Tony’s true bisexuality, saying, “You have to be true to yourself, and he chose to have a wife and kids.”

When they met in 1956, Tony was shooting “The Girl He Left Behind” and Tab was making “The Lonely Man.” Perkins almost caused them both to be outed. In Hollywood, actors could live a gay life away from Hollywood, have gay parties, live with an “assistant,” and even have same-sex roommates as long as it didn’t go on too long. But Perkins visited many times on the set and that got tongues wagging about their closeness. It was ultimately the scandal sheet “Hollywood Confidential” that outed Tab Hunter.

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“Tony was a very fine young actor, and I respected him tremendously,” Hunter said. “Everybody hopefully makes the right choices in life, and he made the choice to marry this wonderful woman and they had two lovely children. And I respect him tremendously for having done that, because I’m sure it was a very difficult decision for him. But it’s something that he wanted to do.”

Tab knew many bisexuals in Hollywood. His first relationship while he was dating Natalie Wood was handsome wanna-be actor Scott Marlowe, who was also dating Wood. Tab saw James Dean a lot with Ursula Andrews and with Pier Angeli, whom Dean wanted to marry, and said, “People want to hang labels on people—Oh, he’s like this or he’s like that— I don’t buy into that…As far as I know, Jimmy, no.”

 

Hunter also had flings at different times with bisexual men, actor Helmut Berger and dancer Rudolf Nureyev. He was also very close friends with Tallulah Bankhead, who talked to him a great deal about her affection for men and women.  “It’s very difficult to talk about some of these things, and it seems so long ago,” Hunter said.TabHunteren_Shot_2015-07-12_at_8.04.00_AM

Tab’s partner of 33 years, Allan Glaser, collected all the Hunger film memorabilia on ebay, mostly to save for the documentary. Hunter said he hasn’t even seen many of his own movies, confessing, “I don’t like to see me on film.” None of the memorabilia are in the house, but in a trailer behind their house.

It took a long time to find love, finally, in his life, but Tab Hunter seemed to have found it, and he admits to kissing a few bisexuals along the way.

“Tab Hunter Confidential” is being released in theaters in New York on October 16 and in Los Angeles on October 30,2015.

 

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About Author

Mike Szymanski

Mike Szymanski has written about bisexual issues since 1989 and has one of the longest-running regular bisexual columns as the National Bisexuality Examiner. He came out as bisexual in a cover story of Genre magazine, which resulted in more than 50 television appearances, including Ricki Lake, Phil Donahue Show and 20/20. Szymanski won the Lambda Literary Award in 2007 for co-authoring an informative humor book “The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe: Quips, Tips and Lists for Those Who Go Both Ways.”

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