He's an actor, a singer and an author. He starred in over forty films. As a singer, his recording of "Young Love" went to number one on the Billboard charts in 1957 and stayed there for six weeks. As an author he wrote his autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making Of A Movie Star, which became a best seller in 2005.
Tab Hunter talked with us about his life in and out of the spotlight.
Q - From what I gather, a documentary is being made or has been made about your life, based on your autobiography?
A - It hasn't been made yet. We're going back to New York to meet some of the money people on it, and we'll go from there.
Q - It's going to be called Tab Hunter Confidential?
A - Well, that's what they're calling it now. Who knows? They could change it. So, it's probably going to be called the same as the book is.
Q - That would be something for an HBO or Showtime?
A - Yeah, something like that.
Q - Since it hasn't been made, you would have no idea of any targeted release date, would you?
A - No. I've no idea on that. I never get excited about those things because this business is five steps forward, three steps back. Things seem to be moving along quite well and I'm very excited about that.
Q - In films, things seem to move so slow.
A - Hurry up and wait is exactly what it's all about.
Q - I was surprised to find out that Jack Warner started Warner Brothers Records to launch your singing career. I never knew that.
A - Well see, I was under contract to Warner Brothers for everything. While I was there I met Randy Wood over at Dot (Records) Randy said 'I've got a tune I want you to record." I recorded something for Dot not realizing that Warner Brothers owned me for everything. Jack Warner hit the roof. He just hated the fact that I recorded for Dot. So, he refused to let me record anymore and oh, my God, then he started Warner Brothers Records.
Q - Had he ever heard you sing?
A - No. Mainly my singing was confined to the shower or in church choir. Dot was my very first recording, "Young Love".
Q - Your version of "Young Love" actually knocked Elvis off the top spot on the charts?
A - That's right. It knocked him out of the number one slot, yeah.
Q - How did that feel to you when it happened?
A - Shocked! I heard the song. I auditioned for Randy Wood 'cause he wanted to hear me sing. He said "I want you to do this tune." I went in on Wednesday. We recorded it before the weekend and by Monday morning I heard it on the car radio. I practically hit a palm tree on Sunset Blvd. I was so shocked. (laughs)
Q - And you long did it take to get to number one?
A - It really wasn't that long. It just jumped on the charts very quickly. I don't remember how long. It wasn't long. We recorded it on December 15th, 1956 and it charted by January 5th, 1957 and then it hit number one in February of that year.
Q - That's fast!
A - Yeah, it really was and it was there for quite some time. That was really a shock.
Q - Did Elvis ever make contact with you when that happened?
A - No. I do know he wasn't too terribly happy because we used his back-up group.
Q - The Jordanaires?
A - Exactly.
Q - Did you ever tour behind that record?
A - Actually, I did. I toured Australia with The Everly Brothers and Sal Mineo. Then I just started doing a lot of other records with Dot (Records) and that's when Jack Warner went "Whoa..." We had 100,000 advance on the album and Warner refused to let me release the album and put me on suspension.
Q - What kind of venues were you playing in Australia?
A - We played in huge auditoriums.
Q - And that bill was filling them, wasn't it?
A - Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Q - Did you ever go on American Bandstand?
A - Well, I went on American Bandstand quite a few times with Dick Clark. By that time I was doing some of the Warner Brothers stuff.
Q - How did Confidential magazine get information on stars in the 1950s?
A - I have no idea. It was like one of those smut magazines like the Enquirer today. They (Confidential) lasted awhile and then they got a lot of lawsuits. I guess they just folded after that. The guy who was the head of it I guess was killed.
Q - Killed?
A - Yeah. I think he was shot. Someone shot him.
Q - Studios in the '50s were very powerful and kept a very tight reign on their stars. Did you like that?
A - Studios were wonderful. They were like a family, for gosh sake.
Q - Nothing negative ever got out about anybody.
A - When you're under contract to a studio, you're part of their family and they're there to protect you.
Q - After a hard day on the set, were there bars or restaurants you could go to, to relax? A place where there weren't a lot of paparazzi?
A - Well, there weren't a lot of paparazzi, no. Not like today. Today it's appalling. I feel sorry for these poor kids today.
Q - But for you, did you get followed by paparazzi?
A - No, 'cause I'd go out with my friends Venetia or Natalie or a couple of my horse friends. We'd go out and have a little early dinner, but if I was working, I wouldn't go out at all. I never did. And of course I was not a great one for going out on the nightclub scene because I got up very early in the morning to go to my horses. Horses were a major part of my life. There I was dealing with the real stuff as opposed to the Hollywood crap.
Q - Your early years were pretty tough weren't they? Your father was rather abusive towards you?
A - He was abusive towards my mother and myself. I was 2. My brother was 3. So, I never really knew my father.
Q - Having that background wouldn't have played any part in your decision to go into show business?
A - No. No way.
Q - Had you ever entertained doing anything other than show business?
A - Well, the horse training is what I would've done if I hadn't been an actor. If I hadn't become an actor, I definitely would've trained horses. For years I showed them and I judged them and I used to give riding clinics and all that.
Q - What did your brother choose as a career?
A - My brother was in the service. He was killed in Vietnam. I was very difficult.
Q - Frank Sinatra once said "The only thing you owe the public is a good performance."
A - I think he's absolutely right.
Q - Did you by chance know Frank Sinatra?
A - Well, I've seen him perform and I've met him maybe once or twice briefly. But I totally agree with that (statement of his).
Q - That being said, why did you feel it necessary to put in your autobiography that you were gay?
A - Well, I heard that somebody was going to be doing a book on me. I figured, look, get it from the horse's mouth, not from some horse's ass after I'm dead and gone. People love to put a spin on other people's lives when they never even know them. I figured I'll just beat 'em to the jump on this one. I've got nothing to hide. This is my life. Fine. That what it was.
Q - Let's say you hadn't written your autobiography and revealed you were gay, and someone else wrote a book and asked you about your personal life, could you have gotten away with the answer "I was too busy working to be interested in romance"?
A - That was very Hollywood of the '50s. Never confront the questions that were asked of you. I never really liked people involved or wanting to know about my private life because it was none of their damn business. I'm a very private person and have been my whole life.
Q - See, this is why earlier I asked about the paparazzi in your day.
A - There were people who were fans. They weren't like the paparazzi to today, which I find appalling.
Q - Were the fans you refer to like "groupies" when they'd want to hang out with you?
A - Yeah, yeah. There were quite a few like that, yes. But the important thing is the work. I had to learn while doing. I was a product of Hollywood, which is very difficult. Every free minute I had, I was out with my friends at the stable. That's where I was discovered and that of course has been a major part of my life.
Q - What do you occupy your time with these days? Your horse?
A - Mainly my horse. I have a mare that I breed, so I'm at the barn. I spend a great deal of time at the barn with her. I also do a lot of work in the garden and I do a little bit of writing. Things like that.
Q - When you were coming up, actors didn't get these multi-million dollar salaries that they do today. 20 million dollars a film.
A - Can you believe some of those salaries?
Q - Charlie Sheen, 2 million dollars a week for Two And A Half Men.
A - Oh, gosh. I just can't conceive of that kind of money. I really can't.
Q - Did you make enough money to save enough money?
A - Well, I basically was under contract for a number of years. But I started out at a very minimal salary and it escalated every year. They picked up my option when I was at Warner Brothers. I bought out my contract and I was freelancing for awhile. Then from there I went to Europe and did a lot of films in Europe and then working the theatre and did all of that. It's called survival. People say why does some person do this film or why does a person do that film? It's called you've got bills and you've got to survive. If you're not gonna do it, someone else will. You're very fortunate if you've got very good product that comes along. Boy, you darn well better be thankful for every good role that you get, because they're few and far between.
Q - Was there ever a good role that you said "I'm not interested in this"?
A - No. (laughs) That's a rather quick answer. Out of my fears, I was very fearful of a 'live' television show and I turned it down. The director called me and talked me into doing it and I'm glad I did. It was one of the best things I've ever done. But that was out of fear. We all have our fears and we've got to confront them.
Q - So, when did you say to yourself "I'm going to stop all the acting and recording. I've had enough of it"?
A - It really wasn't like that. It wasn't that I had enough of it. I did love it. I was one of the pioneers of dinner theatre. I did that for years. After awhile you run your course in Hollywood and I didn't want to do a little guest shot on a television show here and try to make a living here. So, I found other things to do that were more current and better for me.