Tab Hunter Confidential ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
Arthur Gelien (pronounced “ge-Leen”) was born in 1931. He grew up in a fatherless home with a struggling mother and an older brother. He was always fond of horses and for a while, in his teens, was a figure skater. When he was twenty, thanks to his blond, photogenic, all-American good looks and his pleasing personality (but no acting experience), he was on the verge of becoming a movie star. A Hollywood agent changed Arthur’s name to Tab Hunter. The same Hollywood agent, Henry Willson, also gave to the world such notable monikers as Rock Hudson, Rory Calhoun, Guy Madison and Troy Donahue. If you ever needed a made-up name, Henry Willson was the man to go to.
Tab landed roles in a few movies, but they were secondary roles that required little or no acting ability. Despite the less-than-satisfactory quality of his movie roles, he made “good copy.” Movie magazines and gossip rags loved to write about him, and he increased their circulation. Teenage girls loved him and he became a bonafide—and profitable—teen idol. Soon he was more famous for being famous than for his movies. (He made a record, although he had never sung before, of a song called “Young Love,” which became a number-one hit.) He was frequently paired with Natalie Wood or other Hollywood starlets, with whom he was photographed at movie premieres and glamorous Hollywood functions.
Most (or all) of the stuff written about Tab Hunter was as phony as his name. He was never romantically interested in Natalie Wood or any other actress because he was (is) gay. He was involved sexually with Anthony Perkins, figure skating champion Robbie Robertson, actor Scott Marlowe, Austrian actor Helmut Berger, ballet star Rudolf Nureyev, and others. The idea was to keep his sexuality hidden so that his millions of adoring female followers believed he was “available” (unmarried) and they might have a chance with him. If they had known he was gay, his viability as a male sex symbol would have been undermined.
Tab worked with big stars like Linda Darnell, Vincent Price, John Wayne, Lana Turner, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth and Gary Cooper, but he never achieved top-star status himself. He was typecast as the pretty boy and the parts he was offered were mostly one-dimensional crap. He landed a seven-year studio contract, but he bought his way out of the contract before it expired because nobody would take him seriously as an actor. At the age of thirty, his movie career was essentially finished. He made some television appearances and had his own TV series, The Tab Hunter Show, which failed miserably. He appeared on Broadway with Tallulah Bankhead in a revival of a Tennessee Williams play, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, but the play folded after only three performances. He then spent some time in Europe making “spaghetti” westerns and low-budget potboilers for feather-brained audiences. Today he is a Hollywood afterthought, a briefly popular fifties actor who had no substance or staying power.
If you like behind-the-scenes showbiz stories, you’ll love Tab Hunter Confidential. Tab wrote it himself, of course, with the help of a “ghost writer” named Eddie Muller. When you look at people in the movies, you don’t know what they’ve had to go through to get up there on the big screen. Tab Hunter Confidential will give you some idea of what goes on behind the scenes in the life of a movie star. It’s a fun book and it’s easy reading. Take a break from reading the weighty stuff and take a walk on the wild side with Arthur Gelien/Tab Hunter. You’ll be glad you did. You have nothing to feel guilty about.
Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp