It happened this past week ... the loss of a Hollywood heartthrob-turned-cult movie star. For we learned of the.
Hunter was a teenager by the name of Art Gelien, with no acting experience whatsoever, when an agent recruited him and invented his screen name – a transformation:
Spencer: "Do you remember when you sort of, in your mind, ceased being Art Gelien and became Tab Hunter?
Hunter: "Probably when I got a check that said: 'Pay to the order of Tab Hunter.' I thought, 'Wow! $250!'"
"Island of Desire" was his 1952 screen debut, the first of many movies to feature his boy-next-door good looks and his hunky physique. No shirt? No problem!
Teenage girls were his biggest fans, and movie magazines touted Hunter's purported love affairs with Hollywood starlets.
That wholesome image was briefly threatened by a Confidential Magazine story in 1955 that insinuated Hunter was gay:
"I was living a lie, absolutely," Hunter told "Sunday Morning." "I was another person. I mean, my sexuality was my sexuality. And it was not what people, you know, perceived. You know, people believe what they want to believe. But it was very difficult for me."
The story did him no immediate harm - and in 1956 he recorded a hit song, "Young Love":
And he starred opposite Gwen Verdon in the 1958 film musical "Damn Yankees":
But after he left Warner Brothers in 1959, things started going south: "You don't have that [publicity] machine behind you," he said. "You know, today's headlines, tomorrow's fish wrap."
A failed TV show, a few "B" movies, and years of dinner theater followed – a cycle broken in 1981 when underground film director John Waters cast Hunter opposite the transvestite actor Divine in the movie "Polyester":
"I think the important thing was that it introduced me to an audience who didn't know what a Tab Hunter was, or who a Tab Hunter was," he said.
Tab Hunter told his own candid life story in an autobiography in 2005, making his life, quite literally, an open book.
And he lived out his final years in California with his long-time partner Allan Glaser.
Tab Hunter was 86.
We also learned of the death, on Friday, of Nancy Sinatra, first wife of singer Frank Sinatra, and the mother of his three children, including singers Frank Jr. and Nancy Jr.
Frank Sinatra and Nancy Barbato were married in Jersey City back in 1939, when he was a young unknown. After hitting the big time, his sensational affair with actress Ava Gardner led to the couple's divorce in 1951.
Even so, they remained friends right up to Frank's death in 1998. He'd even stop by for a plate of pasta.
In 2007, the two Nancys, Senior and Junior, attended the unveiling of a postage stamp in Frank's honor.
Nancy Sinatra Sr. was 101 years old.
For more info:
- "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star" (Workman), available via Amazon
Story produced by Cai Thomas.