by MK Scott -
SGN Contributing Writer
It was May 2015 when Tab Hunter made a surprise appearance at the Opening Night of the Seattle International Film Festival. If all too brief, Hunter also made at splash at the screening of his documentary, directed by Jeffrey Schwartz (Vito, I am Divine), during the next evening. Now after a summer on Netflix, you have an opportunity to own this treasure and see why Tab Hunter, now 85, is still beloved. I recently had a chance to chat with Tab, by phone.
MK SCOTT: Hi Tab! In 2013 I actually interviewed Jeffrey Schwartz when he was in town promoting I Am Divine and I know he had interviewed you for that and that's when he told us that 'Oh my next big film is going to be all about Tab Hunter.' And so it's like, as soon as it came out, it's like, we were excited.
TAB HUNTER: Yea, well, I was very pleased that Allan [Allan Glaser, Tab Hunter's partner of almost 34 years] was able to hire Jeffrey because Allan liked his work and they work very well together so it just turned out really well, you know, I was very, very pleased.
MK: So, what do you like about working with Jeffrey?
TH: Well, mainly I just, you know, Jeffrey (Schwartz) is a really good editor and that's what I appreciate most. You know, Allan set up all the interviews with all the different people and Jeffrey was there to see that it all went okay and I was just, they work very well together, I just opened my mouth and talked.
MK: And so now, about just a little over a year later, Tab Hunter Confidential is now finally on DVD and ... also being on Netflix over the summer.
TH: Yea, Netflix and DVD and now I think they are doing something with also Turner Classic Movies later on.
MK: Oh, fabulous! Okay and I know that your 2005 book was of the same name and, in fact, I had actually gotten your book in 2005 and right around the same time I also happened to have gotten The Man Who Made Rock Hudson [by Robert Holfer] which was the book about Henry Wilson.
TH: Yea, well, that's a piece of garbage from what I understand. I don't like people - you know, people have a tendency to want to write whatever the hell they want when somebody's dead and gone, and I don't respect that.
MK: You came out publicly in your book. The question is, for many of us, what took you so long?
TH: Well, I just didn't want to talk about my life. I mean, I feel, you know, what the hell? This is a journey, we are all on a journey, and that's the important thing. What kind of a journey are you on? And you better have a direction, and you better have a purpose, and you better be thankful, and just not be negative, but be positive. And I figured, look, this is my trip and when I'm dead and gone, I don't want some schmuck writing anything about me, you know, and putting a spin on my life that never knew me. You know, get it from the horse's mouth, not from some horse's ass after I'm dead and gone.
MK: When did you personally know that 'Oh, oh, okay, I'm Gay'?
TH: Well, I never confronted it. The word was never used when I was a kid, and so, therefore, every time something would, would surface, I would just run the other direction. I'm, I'm basically a pretty quiet person. I was taught by a very old fashion German mother, you know, nothing for show and just go down the road doing the best you possibly can. So I don't, I'm not one of those in-your-face type of individuals, and I never really have been. What I did, I just write, and talk about the journey, my journey.
MK: Now in the film you talk more about your relationship with Tony Perkins. Tell us more about Tony.
TH: Well, Tony was an actor who I met when he was doing Friendly Persuasion  and I saw Tony for a few years. And then I didn't see Tony again for many years until we wanted him for our film, Lust In The Dust, and I went back to see Tony and presented him with a script, but he, he unfortunately didn't want to do the film and I saw Berry [Tony Perkin's wife, Berry Berenson] and met his children and that was all very, very nice, and I was really shocked when I heard later he had passed away.
MK: I heard you also had an aspiration to be a figure skater.
TH: Well, I used to skate as a hobby, I mean, skating was one of my favorite things, you know, I competed. But when you're competing in skating, you know, me, I did singles, but also pair skating. I had two very, very good, you know, partners in pair skating, Joyce Lockwood and I forget the other girl's name right now, Hope, oh Hope Anderson. But I didn't like it because the, because I didn't like the judging system, because it's just your own accomplishment. And I prefer, I went back to my horses, because when you work with a horse you work with an animal that has a life of its own, and the competition there lead me on to becoming a judge and giving riding clinics all over the country and buying and selling horses, and, that to me was much more important.
MK: Speaking of skating, tell us more about Ronnie.
TH: Well, Ronnie [Robertson] was one of the finest skaters I've known. I mean, you know, he was in top, top Olympic competition and one of the best male skaters around. You know, comparable to Evan Lysacek and Dick Button and, you know, people like that, I mean, really first class.
MK: Now you posed for lots of beefcake shots, back in the '50s and '60s, so what was that experience like?
TH: Well, I think what you do, those are all those fan magazines presenting you to the public. And when you're under contract to a studio, you do as the studio asks you to do, or you lose your job, and they get someone else who can do what they ask. So your job as a young actor, well, I mean, wow, how can you say 'no' when they're paying you a weekly salary, and they're giving you all this exposure in the magazines and so forth? So that is your job, and either do it to the best of your ability or get the hell out and let someone else do it that does a better job than you.
MK: Okay, then let's go back to Henry Wilson. Okay, I think you just said that, you know, a lot of the stuff that was in the book, about Henry Wilson, in regards to The Man Who Made Rock Hudson book, so a lot of that was garbage?
TH: Well, well people love to exploit all the worst. They never want to bring out the best. Henry was a very, very good agent. He was, he had an awfully good reputation, but people did speak about him behind his back because those things weren't talked about in those days. but Henry had some fine actors and actresses. He discovered Lana Turner, he had Natalie Wood, he had a number, as well as Guy Madison, Rory Calhoun, Rock Hudson, you know, Troy Donahue, myself, you know, a lot of different people. But when my friend Dick Clayton became an agent, who was the one who discovered me when I was in a stable shoveling the rear stuff as a kid, when he became an agent, I left Henry and signed with Dick Clayton, who was part of my family. But Dick Clayton was an agent who represented Jimmy Dean, Jane Fonda, Burt Reynolds, you know, the biggest, the biggest. But Henry, Henry was a very good agent, but he was very exploitative, you know. I mean, he was very good at getting publicity and all that for his clients.
MK: Now, in regards to that, one time, where in order to be able to get some positive publicity for Rock, you and Rory (Calhoun) were like the scapegoats in regards to your 1950 arrest and Rory's prison term.
TH: Well, that happened because when I left Henry Wilson to sign with Dick Clayton, that really bothered Henry, but also they were going to be putting a story out on Rock for Confidential magazine and, he threw me out there, under the bus, to save Rock, and it was his way, I guess, to get back at me for, you know, leaving him as my agent.
MK: Oh really? So it was to get back at you for leaving?
TH: Well, it certainly happened at that time, so I just assumed that was probably it. But, you know, aside from that, Henry was good, but Dick Clayton was family, and I was much, much better to have Dick Clayton be representing me.
MK: Now, now, did you ever resent Henry for doing that?
TH: No, no I didn't resent ... you accept things the way they are in life, not the way you want them to be and that's the problem. So you have to accept, you have to take the good with the bad, and if people, you know, if people don't get your message, that's their problem, not yours. You have to cope with the good and the bad, you know, people can't cope with a lot of this, well, get a life.
MK: Now, did you and, did you and Rock ever encounter each other? You know, did you guys ever hang out?
TH: Well, we didn't really hang out, but he's a neighbor, he only lived a couple doors up the hill from me.
MK: Oh, really?! Now, what was that time like in Homophobic Hollywood?
TH: Well, I never discussed it. I wouldn't, even, even if anyone confronted me with any of that, I would just shut it all off and just turn my back on it, because I don't, I just, never talked about things like that, because it was nobody's damn business. Today, the problem is everybody wants to, you know, 'I know this and this, and this, and this' and everything's so in your face, and I find it rather appalling. It's just not me as a person. I'm just very old-fashioned and go down the road doing the best I possibly can and like Geraldine Page once said to me years ago, 'Remember this Tab, when people don't like you, that's their bad taste.' And I thought, wow, that's great! I'm going to apply that to my life and furthermore, I pass that on to every person I meet: if people don't like you, that's their problem, not yours. As long as you're going down the road doing the best you can.
MK: Tell us about Divine. Working with her.
TH: Oh, Divine was one of my favorite leading ladies, are you kidding? No, Divine was just great! You know, I put him right up there with Geraldine Page, Sophia Loren, Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth. Divine was great. He was a hell of a lot of fun to work with! I loved him; he was great. Divine was very serious and I like, I really appreciated that. He was wonderful. I having worked with Divine in John's film, Polyester, that made us decide that we wanted him, for the film Lust In The Dust.
MK: And on Lust In The Dust you met Allan Glaser ....
TH: No, you know, actually before that. Allan was at 20th Century Fox and he left, and single-handedly raised all the money for Lust, and we produced it.
MK: Absolutely. And you guys've been together for 30 years now. What's the secret to your long relationship?
TH: Well, I've known Allen for well over 30 years and he's just a very decent human being and very, very intelligent and creative. I mean, for his idea for me to do the book, which I didn't want to do, and he said, 'Well look, someone else is going to be doing a book; I think you should do this.' And I thought, oh what the hell, I did that. He was the one who thought of the idea of doing the documentary, I think the acclaim that it has gotten has been phenomenal and no, he's just an incredible human being. Of course, we are as different as night and day. You know, I spend my day out at the barn shoveling the real stuff; he likes to deal with all the Hollywood stuff.
MK: Now would you, if the opportunity presented itself, would you ever go back into the movies again?
TH: I don't think so. I don't see any reason why. Who would want an old man like me for gosh sakes, I've been there, done that. There's no point in it. You know, I probably wouldn't be able to memorize the dialogue. You know, it's all about, it's all about what, what you know, your comfort zone. I think I've been very fortunate and I thank God everyday, but I'm, I'm very happy seeing my horses everyday.
MK: And how many horses do you have on your ranch?
TH: Well, I have a mare that's about a mile from here and then I have, well, I just came back from my baby, my yearling, and she's over in the San Fernandez Valley, so I went over to see her this morning and just got back.
MK: My burning question, which is the one that I personally would love to know about, okay? You did Grease 2... you had one song and you were singing a song called 'Reproduction.' What did you think when you said okay, I'm going to go sing a song called 'Reproduction?'
TH: It was a wonderful song and it was a fun song to do. Unfortunately, the film didn't turn out as good as we had hoped it would, but it seems to have rung with a lot of people and it gets a lot of play and it was just a fun movie to be a part of! You know, Michelle Pfeiffer's first film! She was, I mean, not too shabby, I mean, not too hard on the eyes at all. She was fantastic! It was a really good group of people; I loved that. You know, Dody Goodman is there, Connie Stevens, who I've known for a long time, Eve Arden, I mean how can you not enjoy doing something like that? Unfortunately, it just didn't turn out as good a film as we all felt that it should have been.
MK: It was also probably nice to work with Judy Garland's daughter, Lorna [Luft].
TH: Oh, I love Lorna. In fact, I just recently saw her in her nightclub act in Palms Springs. She was fabulous. Always a pleasure to see Lorna!
MK: Wonderful. All right, well, it was a joy talking with you, and we're looking forward to seeing how the film does on DVD. We can't wait to see you whenever you show up on anything else.
TH: Well, thank you very much! I was very excited when it debuted and came out as number one. I went like, whoa! I was very, very excited! But I wanted to thank you all so much, and you know, we also have it on our website, too - we do it there, too. I'm just thrilled with the response and want to thank you all!
MK: Thank you! We appreciate you and we, the Gay fans, and everybody, everybody just absolutely adores you so.
TH: Well, thank you so much!
TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL is available now at Amazon and other DVD outlets.
Tab Hunter Photos
This article was originally published in the Seattle Gay News, September 23, 2016.
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