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Tab Hunter Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (13) | Personal Quotes (10) | Salary (3)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 11 July 1931New York City, New York, USA
Birth NameArthur Andrew Kelm
Nickname the Sigh Guy
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Dreamy Tab Hunter stands out in film history as one of the hottest teen idols of the 1950s era. With blond, tanned, surfer-boy good looks, he was artificially groomed and nicknamed "The Sigh Guy" by the Hollywood studio system, yet managed to continue his career long after his "golden boy" prime.

Hunter was born Arthur Kelm on July 11, 1931 in New York City, to Gertrude (Gelien) and Charles Kelm. His mother was a German (Catholic) immigrant, and his father was Jewish. Following his parents' divorce, Hunter grew up in California with his mother, older brother Walter, and maternal grandparents, Ida (Sonnenfleth) and John Henry Gelien. His mother changed her sons' surnames to her maiden name, Gelien. Leaving school and joining the Coast Guard at age 15 (he lied about his age), he was eventually discharged when the age deception was revealed. Returning home, his life-long passion for horseback riding led to a job with a riding academy.

Hunter's fetching handsomeness and trim, athletic physique eventually steered the Californian toward the idea of acting. An introduction to famed agent Henry Willson had Tab signing on the dotted line and what emerged, along with a major career, was the stage moniker of "Tab Hunter." Willson was also responsible with pointing hopeful Roy Fitzgerald towards stardom under the pseudonym Rock Hudson. With no previous experience Tab made his first, albeit minor, film debut in the racially trenchant drama The Lawless (1950) starring Gail Russell and Macdonald Carey. His only line in the movie was eventually cut upon release. It didn't seem to make a difference for he co-starred in his very next film, the British-made Island of Desire (1952) co-starring a somewhat older (by ten years) Linda Darnell, which was set during WWII on a deserted, tropical South Seas isle. His shirt remained off for a good portion of the film, which certainly did not go unnoticed by his ever-growing legion of female (and male) fans.

Signed by Warner Bros., stardom was clinched a few years later with another WWII epic Battle Cry (1955), based on the Leon Uris novel, in which he again played a boyish soldier sharing torrid scenes with an older woman (this time Dorothy Malone, playing a love-starved Navy wife). Thoroughly primed as one of Hollywood's top beefcake commodities, the tabloid magazines had a field day initiating an aggressive campaign to "out" Hunter as gay, which would have ruined him. To combat the destructive tactics, Tab was seen escorting a number of Hollywood's lovelies at premieres and parties. In the meantime he was seldom out of his military fatigues on film, keeping his fans satisfied in such popular dramas as The Sea Chase (1955), The Burning Hills (1956) and The Girl He Left Behind (1956)--the last two opposite the equally popular Natalie Wood. At around this time, Hunter managed to parlay his boy-next-door film celebrity into a singing career. He topped the charts for over a month with the single "Young Love" in 1957 and produced other "top 40" singles as well.

Like other fortunate celebrity-based singers such as Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen, his musical reign was brief. Out of it, however, came the most notable success of his film career top-billing as baseball fan Joe Hardy in the classic Faustian musical Damn Yankees! (1958) opposite Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston, who recreated their devil-making Broadway roles. Musically Tab may have been overshadowed but he brought with him major star power and the film became a crowd pleaser. He continued on with the William A. Wellman-directed Lafayette Escadrille (1958) as, yet again, a wholesome soldier, this time in World War I. More spicy love scenes came with That Kind of Woman (1959), an adult comedy-drama which focused on soldier Hunter and va-va-voom mistress Sophia Loren demonstrating some sexual chemistry on a train.

Seldom a favorite with the film critics, the 1960s brought about a career change for Tab. He begged out of his restrictive contract with Warners and ultimately paid the price. With no studio to protect him, he was at the mercy of several trumped-up lawsuits. Worse yet, handsome Troy Donahue had replaced him as the new beefcake on the block. With no film offers coming his way, he starred in his own series The Tab Hunter Show (1960), a rather featherweight sitcom that centered around his swinging bachelor pad. The series last only one season. On the positive side he clocked in with over 200 TV programs over the long stretch and was nominated for an Emmy award for his outstanding performance opposite Geraldine Page in a Playhouse 90 episode. Following the sparkling film comedy The Pleasure of His Company (1961) opposite Debbie Reynolds, the quality of his films fell off drastically as he found himself top-lining such innocuous fare as Operation Bikini (1963), Ride the Wild Surf (1964) (1965), City in the Sea (1965) [aka War-Gods of the Deep], and Birds Do It (1966) both here and overseas. As for stage, a brief chance to star on Broadway happened in 1964 alongside the highly volatile Tallulah Bankhead in Tennessee Williams's "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore." It lasted five performances. He then started to travel the dinner theater circuit. Enduring a severe lull, Tab bounced back in the 1980s and 1990s -- more mature, less wholesome, but ever the looker. He gamely spoofed his old clean-cut image by appearing in delightfully tasteless John Waters' films as a romantic dangling carrot to heavyset transvestite "actress" Divine. Polyester (1981) was the first mainstream hit for Waters and Tab went on to team up with Allan Glaser to co-produce and co-star a Waters-like western spoof Lust in the Dust (1985).

He is still working as a film producer at age 70+ in Southern California. Tab also "came out" with a tell-all memoir on his Hollywood years in October of 2005.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Trivia (13)

Born at 3:00am EDT
His bare chest was chosen to adorn the cover of Donald Reuter's book: "Shirtless! The Hollywood Male Physique."
He co-executive produced and hosted the cable television series Hollywood on Horses (1989).
Following the likes of Richard Chamberlain, Tab released his tell-all 2005 memoir revealing his homosexuality. The book entitled "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star" outlines a late 1950s relationship with actor Anthony Perkins that lasted several years. Other briefer flings mentioned included dancer Rudolf Nureyev, actor Scott Marlowe and ice-skater Ronnie Robertson. The book was actually written in 2003 but held in release for two years.
Was once arrested following an L.A. raid on a "pajama party" in Walnut Park in 1950. Tab was eventually fined $50 for a reduced "disorderly conduct" charge after originally being charged with "idle, lewd or dissolute conduct."
The name "Tab Hunter" came from agent Henry Willson who wanted to "tab" the actor wannabe with a catchy new name. "Hunter" came from his skills as a horseman who rode hunters and jumpers.
Had a lifelong love for horses.
On December 23, 1980, he suffered a heart attack at age 49 while skiing in Taos, New Mexico. In March 1991, he suffered a stroke. He recovered from both.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6320 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Hunter and his companion Allan Glaser met in 1983. The couple co-produced the films Lust in the Dust (1985) and Dark Horse (1992).
Was Warner Bros. Records' first signee.
He was born Arthur Kelm in New York City. His mother, Gertrude (Gelien), was a German (Catholic) immigrant. His father, Charles Kelm, was Jewish. Tab was raised in California by his mother and maternal grandparents, Ida (Sonnenfleth) and John Henry Gelien.
He was the younger of two boys. His brother, Walter John Gelien (born August 18, 1930), was killed in Vietnam on October 28, 1965, leaving seven children.

Personal Quotes (10)

[in a 1971 interview] The star thing is over. I've knocked around quite a bit in the past few years and now I'm just another actor looking for work. Acting is what I know and what I do best . . . I'm trying to find a new niche . . . something to help erase that bland image the studios gave me in the Fifties. I'm looking for roles that will establish me as a more mature actor.
[about his love for Montecito, California] It's like the French Riveria without the French. I thank God every day I'm able to be there.
[on Gary Cooper] Coop was a lovely guy. His sense of humor was kind of within. He'd do something he knew was funny. He laughed inwardly. It was a delight! He's say things, then chuckle within himself. He was wonderful, low-key, like Fred Astaire, an absolute gentleman. These are quality, quality people. They have their own atmosphere about them. Coop's was very laid-back and easy.
I still don't look at it as if I've come out. Coming out, what does that mean? What I'm concerned about is people as human beings. Are you a decent human being? What are you contributing? That's important.
I think marriage is just between two people and their maker, period. Doesn't concern any of us, whether it be a woman and a woman, a man and a man, or a man and a woman, I don't care.
I had a very grounded family. My mother was very structured. She used to say, "There is yes and there is no and there is no in between." Tell that to people today. And I had a brother that I looked up to that was terrific. When negative things happen, you just have to believe that somewhere under the pile of crap is a pony. You just gotta be positive, 'cause there's too much negativity around.
What you are as a human being inside is what's important. My mother told me, "Don't get concerned with the externals." Everyone today is concerned with how they look, how they're presented. Strip it away.
When things stop happening, it is a shock. But you have to go with the flow of things. You have to understand, "This is happening. It can't be forever. This is the now. It's the way it is. Life is not the way you want it to be -- it's the way it is." "I want this," "I want that," "I want this," "I want that" -- there's too much of that.
It's all very important, but the real important thing is, I think, not labeling a person. The first line in my book is, "I hate labels." It's who we are as human beings. What kind of human being are you? Are you a contributor?
When you're as young as I was and you're thrown into all of that and everyone's going [makes kissing sounds], it's really going to take your head and send you on a journey. You're not going to hate it, but you're just going to try to have the wherewithal to find your balance, hopefully. How could you not love being at home up in Lake Arrowhead with Kay Starr singing her hit song "Side by Side" and Judy Garland on the floor, and the two of them doing a duet? You'd be an idiot not to go for it and love it.

Salary (3)

Gun Belt (1953) $750 per week
The Steel Lady (1953) $750 per week
Meet Me in St. Louis (1959) $20,000

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