A recent telephone conversation with '50s-era actor/singer Tab Hunter in conjunction with his recent (Unreal TV reviewed) documentary "Tab Hunter Confidential" positively (and aptly) proves the Chinese adage regarding being careful what you wish for.
Hunter is as friendly and endearing as many of his roles convey, and that sincerity and warmth makes one want to respect his wish to treat him as an ordinary bloke. Such a desire requires tremendous restraint regarding wanting to portray him as the golden boy whom we all know and love from his films before meeting the awesome real man who detests labels.
The clear and understandable position of Hunter on the subject is "People always want to label people; I hate labels." In this case, this sentiment extends beyond the non-issue 60-year discussion of the sexual orientation of Hunter to early promotional nicknames that include "The Sigh Guy."
This respect also is behind our conversation focusing on the interesting life of a man whose own blessings and curses included natural movie star looks and charm combined with incredible shyness and being born gay at a time that knowledge of that orientation ruins the lives of most people who fall on that end of the Kinsey scale. This is in contrast with discussing those who dun him wrong.
A respect for folks who enduere the world-at-large identifying them as fictional characters and feeling free to accost them every time that they step out of the door always prompts asking if they prefer being addressed by their birth (rather than studio-given) name. The awesome response "The only people who call me Art know me as Art" this time got things off to a great start.
Hunter showed his further exceptional nature in politely expressing a desire to not discuss the highly public circumstances regarding the death of his former co-star Natalie Wood. He went on to express gratitude for Wood's widower Robert Wagner participating in the "Confidential" film and described that pair as a "fabulous couple" then stated that he felt "fortunate to work with exceptional people" throughout his career.
Hunter was equally sincere in discussing his shy nature and (well-compensated) discomfort in being thrust into the limelight based on (with sincere apologies for the label) being dreamy, The extension of this was his discussing being far outside his "comfort zone" regarding discussing such intimate aspects of his life.
The reason for his coming-out is discussed below and does not involve a desire for either fame or fortune. Like fellow (more apologies for the label) Hollywood royalty Greta Garbo, Hunter largely just wanted to be left alone.
A shared love of horses prompted asking Hunter about his filly Harlow, who appears in the "Confidential" film. Hunter responded she's fabulous" and shared that she's a new mother. Hunter added that he named this foal Skylark because he heard Hoagie Carmichael singing the song "Skylark" on the car radio when Hunter was was driving to meet the new arrival.
A question regarding whether the appearance of Hunter's mare Swizzlestick in three of his early films earned the horse a SAG card lead to learning that she was better on screen than performing as a show jumper. The sad reason behind the latter was that she had an ovarian cyst.
The horse talk continued with asking Hunter if he had wanted to guest-star on the talking horse sitcom "Mister Ed." He replied that he did not but that he called a mare whose mouth went a mile a minute while eating her mid-day treat "Mrs. Ed."
The subject of horses also provide the first of several opportunities for Hunter to share a philosophy that can be considered horse sense. He noted that he thinks of working with a horse as "educating," rather than "training," him or her. He added that "shoveling shit" and doing other horse-related chores "was where I got a touch of reality in the unreal world" in which he found himself regarding his acting career.
The conversation turning to the mid-50s article in Confidential magazine that gave the documentary and the autobiography their name started with asking Hunter if he thought that the magazine would have written a completely false story about him if it had not learned of his arrest essentially for the "crime" of associating with homosexuals at a "limp-wristed pajama party." Hunter responded that he did not know.
Hunter then shared a little of the enormous amount of wisdom that his mother had imparted to him. That advice noted the importance of "accepting things as they are, not as I want them to be." Related wisdom was "don't pay attention to that, remember the masses are useless" in the context of tabloid journalism.
Reason for Coming Out When He Did
Asking Hunter about deciding the timing of deciding in the mid-2000s to write "Confidential" prompted more wonderful wisdom. He shared that Ellen DeGeneres told him during appearing on "Ellen" that someone else was planning to write a book outing him. The awesome Hunter response (which presumably he did not share on the air) was that he preferred that the public got the story "from the horse's mouth, not some horse's ass."
Hunter further stated that "what you are as a person (rather than as a label) is the most important thing.
The private nature of Hunter appeared again when asked for the secret of maintaining a more-than-30 year business and life partnership with "Confidential" producer Allan Glaser. He did not share information regarding their personal relationship and stated "I leave the film work to Allan," whom Hunter described as "a damn good filmmaker."
Hunter amended his answer in stating that he and Glaser worked together on the HILARIOUS 1985 Hunter film "Lust in the Dust." A very proud Hunter further volunteering that Glaser single-handed raised the money for "Dust" provided a clue regarding the love that remains strong much longer than most straight marriages.
Pure speculation that the dislike of Hunter both for labels and the despicable treatment (including a horrendously maliciously false report of animal lover Hunter beating his dog in the late '50s or early '60s) of him by the press is the reason for Hunter not marrying Glaser.
The response of Hunter to the question "what's next" prompted the Huntersque response "I don't know."
Hunter next shared his interest in making a film about the "beautiful love story" regarding blind Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan. The Wikipedia entry on O'Carolan supports the conclusion of Hunter.
Great Knight Hunter
Hunter concluded our conversation only after the publicist who coordinated the interview validly pointed out that we had run quite a bit over time.
The concluding portion of this conversation with this (final apologies for one last label) chivalrous horseman involved Hunter thanking your humble reviewer to speaking with an actor he has adored since seeing him in the 1981 John Waters film "Polyester" and who considers the Hunter musical "Damn Yankees" one of his favorite films.
The natural response to the thanks of Hunter was that he had no reason to thank me and that I had every reason to be grateful to him. This reply (almost certainly with his trademark smile) was that "We should all be thankful.