Secrets and sighs: Tab Hunter’s story revealed at Out on Film


Piercing blue eyes, a radiant smile and a penchant for appearing shirtless put Tab Hunter on the walls of teenage girls all over the country in the 1950s. They called him “the sigh guy.”

His boy-next-door charm won over their parents, too. But the movie star was hiding a big secret. He was gay.

Hunter’s life and career is chronicled in the new documentary “Tab Hunter Confidential,” one of about 100 films that will screen in Atlanta at this year’s Out on Film, one of the country’s oldest film festivals focusing on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

In “Tab Hunter Confidential,” Hunter, a youthful 84, comes off as a sensible, grounded man living an idyllic life surrounded by horses in Santa Barbara, Calif. He seems almost bemused by his past life as a teen idol, but seriousness and sincerity take over when he speaks of his mother’s struggle with mental illness and the loss of his brother in Vietnam.

Over the course of the documentary, which has its roots in Hunter’s 2005 memoir of the same title, Hunter mentions, more than once, that he’s a very private person. So, what made him participate in such an intimate portrait?

His longtime companion, Allan Glaser, who produced the new documentary, had heard that someone was doing a book about Hunter’s life. Glaser thought Hunter should write it.

“Why would I want to do a book?” Hunter recalled thinking. But, he said in a phone interview from his California home, “the more I thought about it, I know people put spins on people’s lives and they never even knew them. Get it from the horse’s mouth and not from some horse’s (rear end) after I’m dead and gone.”

A few years later, Glaser pitched the idea of a documentary. It could be very uplifting for a lot of people who have the same thoughts and fears you had growing up, Glaser told Hunter.

Hunter’s relationship with the late Anthony Perkins, the man who will forever be known as Norman Bates to generations of movie fans, is one of the most revelatory segments of the film. It strips the facade from the carefully constructed images that ruled during the heyday of Hollywood’s contract-player system.

It was one of the most difficult things to talk about, Hunter said, along with the loss of his mother and brother. His acting career was marked by setbacks and the occasional treachery, too, but it hasn’t made him bitter.

“I had a lot of down and very tough times; hopefully we’re going to learn something from it. If anything, what not to do next,” he said. “You can sit back and think of all the terrible things that happened, the suffering and being the victim. … I think we have to find that, somewhere under the pile of crap, there’s a pony.”

Hunter seems to have achieved the thing we wish for our own loved ones later in life. He radiates a sense of peace and happiness, a man content with his past and looking forward to the future, including his beloved mare Harlow and the new life she’s brought to his Santa Barbara home.

“She had this lovely foal that’s almost six months old now and I call her Skylark, named after the Hoagy Carmichael song, and she is gorgeous,” Hunter said. “I’m a very proud papa.”



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