Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Tab Hunter

Aired October 10, 2005 - 21:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Tab Hunter as Red, the young rookie who turned the tables on her.

SOPHIA LOREN: He doesn't look old enough to drink.

TAB HUNTER: I'm old enough to do anything.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, exclusive Tab Hunter, Hollywood's original teen heartthrob sharing his secret life in his first interview on his new tell-all from co-stars like Natalie Wood to the affair he says he had with Anthony Perkins, from allegedly being molested as a boy to Hollywood at 16 and stardom at 20. Tab Hunter for the hour with your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.

He is now hard to believe 74 years young. It's an honor to welcome Tab Hunter to LARRY KING LIVE, the former teen idol, nicknamed the Sigh Guy, actor, producer, author of a fascinating new autobiography, "Tab Hunter Confidential, the Making of a Movie Star."

This was a made in Hollywood creation. There you see the cover of the book, long and hard to be his own man. Did he struggle? Big studio star in the '50s, packaged and promoted as the boy next door, co-stars including Natalie Wood, Lana Turner, Sophia Loren, Debbie Reynolds, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire.

Tab Hunter, we all remember -- was "Battle Cry" your first big hit?

TAB HUNTER: Well, actually the first film was "Island of Desire" with Linda Darnell (ph), you remember Linda?

KING: Sure do.

HUNTER: Oh, wow, the Virgin Mary from the "Song of Bernadette" and I got to kiss her.

KING: Well, "Battle Cry" was a big hit wasn't it?

HUNTER: That was the -- actually, "Island of Desire" put me in with all the fans and got me started but then I didn't work for another two years. And then, Merv Griffin gave me the book, "Battle Cry" and said "You'd be perfect for this role." KING: Merv Griffin?

HUNTER: Yes. Merv was an actor in those days and he was going with Marilyn Erskin (ph) and he gave me the book. My agent sent me out to Warner Brothers. I did nine tests for the role and got the role.

KING: That was a Marine enlistment film wasn't it?

HUNTER: Oh, it sure as heck was. A lot of guys came up to me afterwards and said, "It was because of you I joined the Marines."

KING: And it had that great song.

HUNTER: Yes, (humming) right, right, right.

KING: I'm going to marry Sue, honey, honey.

HUNTER: Exactly.

KING: I was born to marry Sue, babe.

HUNTER: That's it.

KING: I remember it.

HUNTER: I think the reason a lot of guys probably joined the Marine Corps is they probably thought they were all going to meet Dorothy Malone.

KING: Why did you write this?

HUNTER: Why did I...

KING: I mean things are settled. You've got a comfortable house in Santa Barbara. Life is pretty good. You get some parts. Why?

HUNTER: Well, you know, I heard that someone was going to be doing an unauthorized biography on me. I thought, I don't think so, and I thought I've seen what they've done with a lot of people that are no longer here. And I thought to myself you know being a horse lover, I thought look, get it from the horse's mouth, not from some horse's ass after I'm dead and gone. It was just that simple.

KING: So, you sort of beat the gun, get it now.

HUNTER: Well, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to get over anything. I'm going to tell it the way it was and if, you know, that's what it's all about. I just don't want somebody else putting their spin on something.

KING: Where did you grow up?

HUNTER: A lot of places. I was born in New York. I grew up in San Francisco, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

KING: Wanted to be an actor early?

HUNTER: No, but I was so wrapped up in movies. I loved them. I loved them. I loved them. My nickname when I was 15 years old in the Coast Guard they called me Hollywood because I went to the movies all the time. It was such great escapism. That's why I ran away from home.

KING: You were in the Coast Guard at 15?

HUNTER: Fifteen, yes.

KING: How did you pull that off?

HUNTER: It's called a lie. I lied about my age and then I went back to Broadway. I went back to New York to Groton, Connecticut. I was doing -- I was working at the -- I was at the Coast Guard Training Station there and my friend Dick Clayton (ph) who was my agent later was on Broadway doing a play and he introduced me to Broadway and I thought, oh wow, look at this unbelievable.

KING: And you liked it right away?

HUNTER: Yes, I loved it because I was such a frightened kid. I was scared of my own shadow, you know. I was very, very timid.

KING: And being someone else gave you a chance to come out in a sense?

HUNTER: It's true. It's true. You know because as an actor you just dive right into the role and that's what it's all about. And, of course, the great thing, Larry, was the wonderful people that I met and worked with.

The sad thing is where does one serve one's apprenticeship when you're first starting out, being a product of Hollywood that's very difficult.

KING: And boy did they make you a product right?

HUNTER: Yes, they really did. They ground you out like sausage in a meat grinding factor, you know. It was very difficult. I mean I loved all the stuff because I was a wide-eyed kid but it's not easy.

KING: All right, your real was Male Kelm?

HUNTER: Well, actually, yes, you're the first person that knows that. It was on my birth certificate it said Male Kelm. My father's name was Kelm, Charles Kelm.

KING: And you were a male.

HUNTER: As opposed to a female, absolutely. The plumbing is male right.

KING: So, they made you Male Kelm.

HUNTER: Male Kelm.

KING: Male Kelm.

HUNTER: And my mother when -- my father was very abusive to my mother. She took my brother and myself to California and used her maiden name and I grew up at Art Gelien.

KING: Who changed it to Tab Hunter?

HUNTER: Well that's -- Dick Clayton took me to meet an agent by the name of Henry Wilson and Henry said we've got to tab you something. So, I rode horses, hunters and jumpers, so it became Tab Hunter as opposed to Tab Jumper.

KING: When did you know you were different from other boys?

HUNTER: I guess I was about 13 maybe.

KING: What do you do with it at that age?

HUNTER: I think the first thing that really -- my first awareness of -- of things going choing (ph), choing, choing and all that at that age was there was a girl in the corner by the name of Lois that was really kind of always coming on to me and I was just a kid.

And one day I -- we went around behind the garage and I was just frightened to death and I ran back home a few minutes later and that night the police came by and she reported me with her mother to the police.

KING: Saying?

HUNTER: Saying that I had, you know, molested her or whatever it was and it was so traumatic to me as a kid and that's my first encounter and I didn't -- we didn't really do anything. We just played, you know, but all the foreplay stuff. But then later, my next involvement was I believe someone came onto me in a theater when I was a kid.

KING: A boy?

HUNTER: Some man.

KING: And you liked it?

HUNTER: No, I felt -- I felt very uncomfortable at that stage.

KING: When did you know you were -- when did you know you were gay?

HUNTER: Well, see the word wasn't around in the '50s.

KING: No, it wasn't.

HUNTER: And I was -- I was a very fearful person. I was living...

KING: What did they call them then, you were a fag?

HUNTER: Well, I was going couldn't you call me -- every name they called you but I was very private. My mother was a very, very private person and brought us up to be like that, you know. You know, you just never talked about anything like that ever.

And, I was living two lives because in motion pictures I was a kid going "Wow, look at this what's happening to me" but at the same token I had all these feelings that were -- that I was trying to hold back and not knowing what to do with and expressing and not expressing. And my touch of reality in an unrealistic world were my horses, I really -- they were -- they've been major my whole life, Larry, my whole life.

KING: Really?

HUNTER: Oh, the love of my life.

KING: You're more comfortable with them than with humans?

HUNTER: Oh, absolutely without a doubt.

KING: Did the studio -- in those days were the studios trying to get you to date people?

HUNTER: Well, your job...

KING: And they want your picture in the paper with young single starlets?

HUNTER: Your job when you're under contract to a studio your job is to do as they say and, my gosh, what young kid wouldn't want to go out with, you know, on different dates and do this and that. But, Natalie had just -- I did two films with Warner Brothers, "Battle Cry" and then "Track of the Cat" for Bill Wellman, the Bob Mitchum film.

KING: I remember.

HUNTER: Then Warner thought what the heck we've got him under -- we've done two pictures, let's put him under contract. So, they put me under contract, exercised the option, and put me in a film with John Wayne and Lana Turner called "The Sea Chase."

But, "Battle Cry" went, it skyrocketed so they threw me, they said we've got to do something with this kid and Natalie had just finished "Rebel" with Jimmy so we got to do something with her.

So, they threw us together and they were going to make us into the Myrna Loy/William Powell of the '50s I guess. I don't know. And we were on every magazine and thrown into all the PR stuff you could possibly imagine.

KING: And for you it was faking it?

HUNTER: No, it wasn't faking it. It was having fun with it. I loved it.

KING: Did she know that you were not?

HUNTER: I have no idea what Natalie -- Natalie was a kid at the time. She was like a -- she was like a little -- a filly finding her legs. She was a little girl and a young woman. So, she had things going choing, choing, choing inside grinding her one way and a little girl at other moments. She was fabulous. She was great fun and I loved her and we got along really well.

KING: Our guest is Tab Hunter. The book is "Tab Hunter Confidential, the Making of a Movie Star." As we go to break, a scene from the "Sea Chase."


ANNOUNCER: Linda Darnell, never more beautiful, never more luring, a temptation to any man alone on a paradise island with handsome newcomer Tab Hunter, a broad-shouldered young giant certain to zoom to the heights of stardom.

HUNTER: You don't realize anything, how much you've changed or how it raises Cain every time you smile. You don't know how rough it gets.




HUNTER: I really studied for four years. My teacher said I had a -- a natural lip for playing the cornet that is. I mean well to play the cornet you've just got to have good lips. Oh, gosh!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you, you are a wonderful boy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are so honest.

HUNTER: Oh, I'm honest but I'm dumb too.


KING: From the wonderful movie "Damn Yankees." But by the way...

HUNTER: Loved that show, loved that film.

KING: ...any clip you see tonight a lot of them are available from Warner Home Video. Was it fun to do a musical?

HUNTER: I loved it. I wanted to do it in the worst way because I had had a hit record just out, you know, a few, you know (INAUDIBLE). KING: Well, you sang.

HUNTER: Yes, well I tried to. I loved it. I love singing. You know my mother always used to encourage me, "Sing, sing" and I was in a choir in church, yes.

KING: When you -- tell me about the story with the priest. The priest condemned you when you tried to confess to being gay when you were 14.

HUNTER: I didn't use that word though. I just went in and I told him what I, you know, that I had had bad things that I had done, you know, is what I said and I told him as best I could.

And, as opposed to a love of God, I felt that I was the most despicable person that walked the face of the earth. And I left there. It was so traumatic I didn't go to church for years. It was really difficult.

KING: Wasn't it difficult to be in a closet?

HUNTER: I never looked at it like that. I just didn't think of myself as being in the closet. I just thought -- I never addressed...

KING: You didn't think that someone was going to reveal this?

HUNTER: I never addressed things because, you know, my mother was a very strong woman to my brother and myself. She would always say nothing in life is for show, so what do I do? I wind up in show business, you know. It was just...

KING: But in other words you never picked up the paper with worry that "Confidential" magazine was going to release the fact that you were not heterosexual?

HUNTER: Well, Larry, a lot of those magazines did and a lot of the -- there were a lot of innuendoes and things but -- and I was very fearful at the time when all that was happening but oddly enough, right at the same time, people believe what they want to believe.

KING: But you were a romantic lead.

HUNTER: And what happened was I was the -- I became the hottest thing at Warner Brothers Studios. I mean how do you explain Jean Moret in France? Of course that's France. Maybe that's why you can explain it. Jean Moret doing the (INAUDIBLE) film, you know, "Beauty and the Beast" being a huge matinee idol. Explain that to me.

KING: So, did the studio heads know?

HUNTER: I don't know. We never discussed it.

KING: You never discussed it.

HUNTER: But I did see -- I did see a memo from George Abbott to Jack Warner when we were researching this book and he didn't want me. He didn't want me at all. He thought I was a little light in my loafers for the role.

And Jack Warner said, "No, I bought Pajama Game for Doris Day. I bought Damn Yankees for Tab Hunter." And the very first day I went into meet all the Broadway cast, I was just thrilled to meet them. We all -- I rushed in from doing a show in New York, came right to the reading and he started giving me line readings.

And I said, "Oh, from what I gather, you want me to do it like Stephen Douglas (ph) did it on Broadway." And he said, "Yes, yes, yes." And I said, "Well, you know, I thought Stephen Douglas had a magnificent voice but I thought he was a real stick. If I play the character, first of all, he's got to be a human being."

So, he fired me from the film. And then my agent, Dick Clayton said, "You better go to Jeff Corey (ph)," who was my coach at the time and said, "You better work with Jeff and learn a little bit of humility, a little how to cope with situations and things like that." And Jack Warner said, "I want him in my film. He's doing my film" and I loved it.

KING: Were there always rumors about you?

HUNTER: I don't know. I know there were a few, quite a few, but like my friend Venetia Stephenson (ph) said, excuse me, she said "You never confronted Tab with those things. You never talked about those things." I lived a very don't ask, don't tell life.

KING: Why did you write about Anthony Perkins?

HUNTER: Because a lot has been written about Tony and myself and I figured, "Look, let's get it straight. Let's get it right. Let's get it the way it was."

KING: What is the story?

HUNTER: Well, I had a relationship with Tony for two to three years but those are only threads in the tapestry of my whole life. That's not my whole life. Now, those are just threads in my life.

And Tony was a very fascinating man. I admired him. I thought he was a wonderful actor, had a terrific sense of humor. He was just a terrific guy. Unfortunately, he was very uptight and I was very career conscious and, you know career minded and so was I at the time.

KING: Was he hiding it too?

HUNTER: Oh, I'm sure he was.

KING: Yes.

HUNTER: I'm sure he was. In fact, I remember...

KING: Did the two of you ever discuss it, say what if somebody finds out about us or you never? This amazes me.

HUNTER: I think he was more aware of, you know, like when we would go out to a movie or something like that, I'm sure he was more aware of, you know, people saying things.

I remember one time I did go to visit him on the set of the Pearsall story because I played Pearsall on Fear Strikes out on Climax and I really wanted Jack Warner to buy the project for me and they didn't because TV produced a lot of stuff that made great films, "Day of Wine and Roses," "Marty," some great stuff.

KING: I remember you in Climax.

HUNTER: It was a good show.

KING: Yes.

HUNTER: And so I asked Warner's to buy it. They didn't do it. So, Paramount bought it for Tony and so I would just -- I just went over one time to see him on the set, you know, and see what was happening there and it was a big mistake.

I shouldn't have gone because all kinds of things were written about how I spent all this time on the set and was upset about this and that's just not in my makeup. That's not my character. I really just thought, I just withdrew from all of that nonsense.

KING: We will take calls for Tab Hunter at the bottom of the hour. As we go to break, Tab and Natalie Wood in "The Girl he Left Behind."


WOOD: Andy, stop. Let's just look at the ocean.

HUNTER: I've seen the ocean before.




HUNTER: You know I don't like this lousy town. I don't like the people in it, see. I like people. I like people who likes me, see? All the people here cares about your money, lousy, rotten money. Did I ever tell you about Cathy (ph)? She's my girl. She's a character but she's cute.


KING: That scene from "Battle Cry."

Did you know James Dean by the way?

HUNTER: Yes, I did. I knew Jimmy. He tested for "Battle Cry."

KING: Really?

HUNTER: He tested for "Battle Cry" and Paul Newman tested for "Battle Cry." I did nine tests to finally get that role.

KING: It seems in talking to you were you comfortable in the gayness? By that I mean it seems never to have caused you angst as it would others. Others have told me over the years when they've had to be in the closet it's been so hard and tormented. And you don't seem to have been tormented.

HUNTER: I just -- denial. I learned denial from my mother. I just never confronted those things and if anybody did, I just would go crazy. I mean I'd just pull right in. Just -- I just didn't -- it was really difficult.

KING: And when you were with a man no thought of being caught?

HUNTER: I never thought about that.

KING: That's what I mean. Most people would have thought about it.

HUNTER: I mean the same thing when you're with a woman.

KING: That's different.

HUNTER: You think about being caught.

KING: Well, it's still different. It's a heterosexual society isn't it?

HUNTER: Yes but people want to put you in a slot, you know, all the time and I remember Geraldine Page told me something that I've never forgotten. We were doing a Playhouse 90. It was the second Playhouse 90 I had done and Gerri (ph) was a brilliant actress.

And, I said "Gerri, everyone loves you. You can never do any wrong. It's fabulous" and people used to take such pot shots at me all the time. I said, "God, the press and people they just really hate me and I'm really trying."

And she grabbed hold of my arm and she said, "Listen to this, Tab. If people don't like you, that's their bad taste." Well, I looked at her and I said, "Gerri, I will never forget that and furthermore I tell so many people that they should think the very same thing. If people don't like you, that's their bad taste."

KING: Do you think your good looks got in the way of people appreciating your abilities?

HUNTER: People place such importance on the external. It's disgusting. My mother, again I go back to her because she's strong in this book. She's really an important part of it. She said, "Don't concern yourself with the external. Concern yourself with the internal. That's what's important."

KING: Yes, but do you think the public, do you think you -- people regarded you first as good-looking Tab Hunter rather than actor Tab Hunter? HUNTER: Well, I wasn't an actor. They look -- they take the externals. Here I was a kid thrown into Hollywood with a brand new name starring in motion pictures. Where does one serve one's apprenticeship? I respected people like Jimmy from New York.

I respected Julie Harris, Kim Stanley, I mean the people that really were important, that mattered, that had a great foundation. I had no training. I had to learn while doing and it was really difficult.

KING: How did you like working with John Wayne?

HUNTER: I wasn't a big fan of his.


HUNTER: No. I thought he was a nice guy but I wasn't a big fan of him, no.

KING: Didn't treat you well?

HUNTER: He treated me fine. He treated me fine but I just -- that macho stuff doesn't, you know, it turns me off. It's not -- it's not real. My three favorite people Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Van Heflin, those were fabulous people.

KING: Gary Cooper wasn't macho?

HUNTER: Oh, Gary Cooper simplicity, beautiful, lovely human being, lovely human being.

KING: Astaire?

HUNTER: Fred Astaire, style, what happened to style, Larry? What happened to style?

KING: What happened to Tab Hunter? You were so big. What happened? Why didn't you stay big? What happened?

HUNTER: Hollywood cools and when it cools you have to go to where the work is. I ran off to Italy to do spaghetti westerns. They were a little light on the meat sauce, some pretty bad stuff, a few things over there.

Lived in the south of France, you know, stayed out of the country for a long while. Then I came back and did a lot of -- I was a pioneer of dinner theater. I toured all over the country. I did a play on Broadway with Tallulah Bankhead and a Tennessee Williams play. I did a few guest shots on television but that isn't what I wanted to do, guest shots on television. That wasn't where it's at for me.

KING: Did you miss stardom?

HUNTER: Not stardom. I missed working with the people that I could really learn something from. It took me a while to get on that band wagon, a few years maybe, but once I got realizing that on that wagon that I've got to learn a lot, I loved it. I really loved it and I was a workaholic and I turned into a workaholic to the point of where I actually -- my health was in jeopardy.

KING: Are you OK now?

HUNTER: Solid as a rock, thank you.

KING: John Warner's brought you into producing?

HUNTER: No, actually John didn't bring me into producing. I was doing a play in Indiana and I had two weeks off before I did another play. So, he called me and he asked me, "Would you like to do Polyester with Divine?" He said, "You know who I am?" And I said, "Oh, yes, I loved (INAUDIBLE). It was one of my favorite films."

He said, "Well, I just would love you to take a look at this script but first how would you feel about kissing a 300-pound transvestite?" And I said, "I'm sure I've kissed a lot worse."

And he sent me the script and the agent I had at the time said, "No, no you can't do this. It will be bad for your career" and I thought what have I got to lose, please, come one. So, I did Polyester and I don't regret one minute of it. It was wonderful.

KING: You were reborn?

HUNTER: And because of that I thought of -- I thought of Divine for our film "Lost in the Dust."

KING: We'll take a break and be back. We'll include your phone calls. The book is "Tab Hunter Confidential, the Making of a Movie Star." Here's Tab with Debbie Reynolds in "The Pleasure of his Company."


DEBBIE REYNOLDS: What do you mean showing off?

HUNTER: You heard me.

REYNOLDS: We didn't speak French all evening.

HUNTER: I wonder what it was.

REYNOLDS: It just so happens we were in a French restaurant and the proprietor was a Frenchman and when you speak to a Frenchman you speak French.

HUNTER: Well, not if he's lived in America for 30 years and speaks better English than I do.

REYNOLDS: You seem to be weak in all languages.

HUNTER: Oh, my French is just as good as yours. (INAUDIBLE). It was salad, plain, ordinary salad.

REYNOLDS: It was not plain, ordinary salad. It had upland cress in it and wild dandelion leaves.

HUNTER: That's what my cattle eat. You don't see them dancing around yelling (INAUDIBLE) and all that fuss about (INAUDIBLE).




LAINIE KAZAN, ACTRESS: Now Marguerita's done with talking. Let's go. Well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think someone should bury him.

KAZAN: Ninfa, Red Dick, bury him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You people have got a strange sense of humor.


KING: "Lust in the Dust." Tab Hunter is our guest. The book is "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star." Interesting you use that title "Confidential," which was a major expose magazine.

HUNTER: Exactly. The reason I use it was because I made three covers and four stories.

KING: You did?

HUNTER: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.

KING: Revealing the homosexuality?

HUNTER: All kinds of stuff. I mean, right in the -- you know, my agent that I had at the time, Henry Wilson, who was -- not at the time. But Henry Wilson, who gave me my name and all that, he also had Rock Hudson and Rory Calhoun, Guy Madison, Ronda Fleming, discovered Lana Turner, was Natalie's agent for awhile.

But when he heard that "Confidential" was going to be -- going to be doing a story on Rock Hudson, he sold -- since I left him as an agent. He was no longer my agent. I went to Dick Clayton, who had become an agent and was my good friend. He -- he threw the story about me to "Confidential" and the story about Rory Calhoun being in prison.

KING: And they killed the Rock Hudson story.


KING: Did you know Rock Hudson?

HUNTER: Yes, he lived up the street.

KING: Did you ever have a relationship with him? HUNTER: He was a neat guy. No, I never...

KING: No, never had a -- did he ever come on with you?

HUNTER: No, he wasn't my type.

KING: By the way, the first...

HUNTER: But he's a great guy and had a great sense of humor. Was really a terrific guy.

KING: The first official Tab Hunter CD is now available from Epic Records or Eric Records.

HUNTER: Yes, Eric.

KING: Check his web site:,

Let's take a call. El Paso, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Tab. I have two questions for you. My first question is what do you think about the Hollywood of today compared to the Hollywood of 50 years ago?

HUNTER: That's an interesting question, because 50 years ago, the studios ran it and the studios were different than the studios today. Today they're large corporations. Back then Jack Warner ran Warner Brothers. Harry Cohen ran Columbia, Darryl Zanuck ran FOX.

And when they said, we're sending you on a 26-city tour with Natalie to do -- to promote the picture, you'd go, "Yes, sir," and that's your job. And you do it.

Today it's just all -- the rewards are so incredible today that I think there's an awful lot of greed out there. And I think it's a little frightening. And I also think all the things that happen to poor people in the industry today, the actors, what they have to put up with all the people just wanting to know every single moment of their lives. I think it's really sad.

KING: No privacy at all.

HUNTER: The important thing, Larry, is the performance they give. What they are, you know...

KING: You would think that would be.

HUNTER: If they're able to move you. It's all about being able to touch someone.

KING: You have a second question, ma'am?

CALLER: My second question was what actor or actress of today do you admire?

HUNTER: There are a few that I admire. First name that pops in my head, Renee Zellweger I like a lot. Johnny Depp I think is terrific. He's really a chameleon. I think he's excellent. Of course I've always liked Jack Nicholson. He's the best. Those are three at the top of my head.

KING: Calgary, Alberta, Canada, hello.

CALLER: Hi, I just wanted to comment. First of all, great cover on "Outlooks" magazine. We're great to see you in Canada as well, great interview. Just wanted to inquire how are you and your current partner -- partner, sorry, Allan Glaser?

HUNTER: What about it?

KING: What's the question?

HUNTER: What's the question?

CALLER: Just wanting to inquire how you and your partner are.

KING: Oh, how are you doing?

HUNTER: Fine, thank you very much.

KING: Beverly Hills, California. Hello. Hello?

CALLER: This is Chicago.

KING: Go ahead, Chicago. They told me Beverly Hills. Go ahead. Go ahead.

CALLER: Who was your favorite actor and who was your favorite actress?

KING: That you worked with. Did you have a favorite?

HUNTER: Yes, I did have -- I did have favorites. But favorites for different reasons.

Favorite actress, I would say, was without a doubt probably Geraldine Page, no question. But I loved working with Sophia Loren. I loved working with Natalie. I think that was terrific. I loved working with Debbie Reynolds, because we knew each other as kids.

Favorite actor, I've mentioned the three: Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Van Heflin. I thought they were just incredible people.

KING: What was Cooper like to work with? Someone said he was one of the great film actors of all time, because he did it all so low key.

HUNTER: So subtle and so understated. You know, less is more. Less is more. He was a wonderful human being. And I got to know Maria quite well, too, his daughter, who was just terrific. Just terrific.

KING: Sad, he died early. HUNTER: Yes, yes.

KING: Speaking of that, here is Tab Hunter and Gary Cooper in "They Came to Cordura."


HUNTER: Two outstanding an exploit too early in one's career would make one a marked man, a sure victim of the jealousy of one's superiors.

GARY COOPER, ACTOR: Request refused.

HUNTER: May I know why, sir?

COOPER: I don't know of any president that allows a man to refuse a decoration.

HUNTER: I grant that, Major, but between officers and gentlemen, could there not be an arrangement by which the citation, my citation would never reach channels?

COOPER: Absolutely not.




COOPER: Is he resting? Didn't you hear me? Is he resting?

HUNTER: What's it to you? Do you want to log it? You want to make it look good in your reports? You think of everything, don't you, captain? Pulling the strings on all of us like we're a bunch of puppets around there. He's in there dying, don't you understand? Dying! But you're getting your woodshop (ph). You're going to be famous.

COOPER: Nothing.


KING: Tab Hunter's the guest. The book is "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star."

By the way, his single, "Young Love," was No. 1 for six week in 1957. In fact, Warner Brothers was angry because you recorded it for Dot.

HUNTER: In fact, that's why they started Warner Brothers Records. They were making money from Dot Records. They finally -- Jack Warner refused to let me record anymore. And he came to an agreement with Randy Wood at Dot.

And then it took them -- it took, God, longer to create -- I mean, Jack Warner longer to create earth than it did for him to start Warner Brothers Records.

KING (singing): Young love...

HUNTER (singing): Young love.

KING (singing): ... first love.

HUNTER: That was it.

KING: New York City, hello.

CALLER: Hello, I have a question for Tab.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Tab, what have you learned through your own experience as a gay person and finding your own way in the world? What advice would you give to gay people today who are trying to find their way in nontraditionally gay professions, be that business, law, leading men in Hollywood?

KING: Good question.

HUNTER: It's a good question. But I don't think anybody should -- a lot of people push too much and try too hard. And I don't like to see anybody who's in your face. And that bothers me. I think that people should kind of be reserved. And I think it's really important. I think it's really important.

You have to be yourself, of course. But I think people are pushing too much. There's -- less is more. And I think that's really -- a lot of people don't understand. And like Geraldine Page said, if they don't get your message, that's their problem, not yours.

KING: A lot of females, many are more comfortable around gay people. Are you aware of that?

HUNTER: I am aware of that.

KING: Do you have a lot of girlfriends?

HUNTER: I've got a lot of girlfriends.

KING: Why do you think that is, nonthreatening, easy to be with?

HUNTER: It could be. It could be. I heard Jane Fonda talking about -- with David Susskind about that.

KING: She was comfortable around him?

HUNTER: She was comfortable. He asked her the question. "Why is it that you always hang around with people who were, you know, gay?" A

And she said, "Because they're not threatening. They're not coming onto me the way" -- and she literally said, "the way you do." You know. I mean, Jane called it the way it was, which I respected her for.

KING: I love Jane.

HUNTER: But just the rapport you have with people is what it's all about, male, female.

KING: You have many girlfriends, don't you?

HUNTER: Yes, of course.

KING: Kingston, New York, hello.



CALLER: Obviously, you have drunk from the fountain of youth. My goodness, you are so extraordinarily handsome and youthful, if I must say.

HUNTER: Well, thank you.

CALLER: I just wanted you to know that God loves you and God knows your heart, Tab Hunter's heart, like no one knows. And I wonder is it possible for you to elaborate a little bit about your faith. Thank you.

HUNTER: Well, that's a lovely...

KING: Lost your faith through all this?

HUNTER: No, I have not.

KING: Have not?

HUNTER: My faith is stronger now than it ever has been.

KING: Even though your faith condemns your lifestyle?

HUNTER: I -- that's what I'm told. I only have one person that I'm worried about -- I mean, not person, but I have one being. I'm only concerned about answering to one. I don't care whether people like me or dislike me. I'm not on earth to win a popularity contest. I'm here to be the best human being I possibly can be. And that's what it's all about.

KING: And you don't think that being makes judgments about you?

HUNTER: I don't know. I don't think so. And I'll tell you, what I find on this trip through life -- and believe me, it's been pretty rocky, I mean, with all the things that have happened. Life is nothing but a bunch of thank yous and every day you better say thank you.

KING: You had a heart attack right?

HUNTER: Oh, yes.

KING: When you were 49 years old.

HUNTER: Oh, yes, I had a heart attack, and then I had a stroke 10 years later. And then I had a quadruple bypass 10 years after that.

KING: Were you ever close to buying it?

HUNTER: Yes, with the heart attack. I had that skiing up in Taos, New Mexico, right up on the mountain. I was close to...

KING: The stroke you suffered in New Mexico.

HUNTER: Yes, my friend Dr. Lamb was kind enough to jump on the first plane and was a major help.

KING: Your older brother was killed in Vietnam?


KING: Were you close?

HUNTER: Very. My brother opened doors for me. He was a wonderful -- he made me see what life was all about. I was really -- I was a pretty frightened kid. Pretty stupid. And he was the one who got me interested in horses.

KING: Was he gay?

HUNTER: No, no. My brother was married and had seven children.

KING: Did he make judgments about you being gay?

HUNTER: He never said a word about it. He never -- whether -- if he thought it, I never knew about it. We never talked about those things. I just never confronted things like that.

KING: It must have been horrible to lose a sibling in a war.

HUNTER: He was incredible. Like my mother used to say, aren't you excited about -- aren't you pleased with your son, Tab. And my mother used to say, "Yes, but Walter's the intelligent one." She was absolutely right. He was brilliant.

KING: To Lima, Ohio. Hello.

CALLER: Hello?


CALLER: Yes, I'm lying in bed here reading Tab's book.

HUNTER: Oh, really?

CALLER: The last time I talked to Tab was in 1957 when his phone number was Hollywood 759.

HUNTER: That was a Hollywood service that a lot of people had in Hollywood. Yes, I remember that.

CALLER: Yes, I worked for Nick Adams at that time. And then I met Dick Clayton.

HUNTER: Dick Clayton -- Dick Clayton is still with us. He's 90 years old, God bless him. And he's the major -- the major influence in my life. In fact if it hadn't been for Dick Clayton, there would be no Tab Hunter.

KING: I remember Nick Adams, too. Good actor.

HUNTER: I remember Nick, yes.

KING: Do you have a question?

CALLER: Yes, I'm reading the book and I'm just wondering. I guess, you're still a little bashful. You haven't named more people that I was expecting to see in the book.

HUNTER: Well, I wrote down what I felt was the most important that were the most important for me. The most important that kind of paved the way for me and helped me.

KING: Were there any people you protected?

HUNTER: Not really. I just -- I just probably didn't mention some people.

KING: We mentioned "Young Love," 1957. Major hit. Watch.


HUNTER (singing): The heavenly touch of your embrace tells me no one could take your place ever in my heart. Young love, first love, filled with true devotion.




HUNTER: I love you, Francine. I love your ankles and your pretty wrists, your breasts and your belly.

DIVINE, ACTOR: Oh, dare I say? I love you, too, my darling.

HUNTER: Then let's make love, you sweet little thing.

DIVINE: Todd, be gentle with me. Please. Gentle.


KING: With Divine. What was that like?

HUNTER: Well, Divine was like a 400-pound beached whale. He was one of my favorite leading ladies, I've got to tell you. He was really terrific. He was just -- you know, you get him out of that drag, and he was like a big beached whale, really. He was very quiet and all that. But you put the clothes on him and gave him the role to play and zap, he was terrific.

KING: Waco, Texas, for Tab Hunter, hello.

CALLER: Hello. How are you?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: Wonderful. I was just wondering what your take on Governor Schwarzenegger's veto of the marriage amendment there in California was?

HUNTER: Well, I just don't think we're ready for it yet.

KING: You're against marriage?

HUNTER: I just don't -- I just don't feel the time is right.

KING: To Beverly Hills now. Hello.

Are you there? Beverly Hills, are you there?

CALLER: Oh, yes, I am.

KING: Well, speak. It would help. Go.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Hunter. Henry Wilson approached my husband in a bar when he was 21 and wanted to make him a client until he asked his name and realized who his father was. How did Henry Wilson discover you?

HUNTER: Dick Clayton introduced me to Henry Wilson, because Dick wasn't an agent at the time. But I always knew that Dick would, once he became an agent, become my -- become my agent. He was my good friend.

KING: How good an agent was Henry Wilson?

HUNTER: Well, he didn't get me -- he got me the first role I ever did, in "The Lawless." I said, "hi friend," wound up on the cutting room floor.

Then when I was up for "Island of Desire," he didn't get me that. Paul Guilfoyle, the character actor from New York, wonderful, wonderful actor.

KING: I remember him.

HUNTER: Oh, he was great. He always played a mousy killer.

KING: Yes.

HUNTER: Paul Guilfoyle got me that. Then "Battle Cry," Merv opened the door to that one, and my agent -- I went with Dick Clayton. But Henry never got me anything. Maybe a couple television shows, and that was about it.

KING: Did you know "Battle Cry" would be as big as it became?

HUNTER: Well, the book was a No. 1 seller. It was a fabulous book. Leon Uris' first novel, wasn't it?

KING: I think, so, yes.

HUNTER: Yes, good book.

KING: But it was done so well. You know, a lot of movies are made from books and they're not done well.

HUNTER: I did see something when I was researching my book at the Warner Brothers -- at the archives, and the Marine Corps was really thrilled about its portrayal, because Hollywood had a tendency to get la-di-da and all that nonsense. I mean, they really did a good job, and they were thrilled with the way that Warner handled it, except that they didn't like the idea of, as they said, humping this married woman by this Marine.

KING: Remember, a lot of what you see tonight is available on Warner Home video. And we'll be -- by the way, Martha Stewart tomorrow night. We'll be back with Tab Hunter, but as we go to break, here's Tab with Sophia Loren.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 'That Kind of Woman," the romantic kind of story the screen tells today with new sparkle, new sophistication. Starring Sophia Loren in her most startling role as Kay, the kind of woman who turns every man's head.

Tab Hunter as Red, the young rookie who turned the tables on her.

SOPHIA LOREN, ACTRESS: He doesn't look old enough to drink.

HUNTER: I'm old enough to do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A reckless impetuous boy, storming the defenses of this exciting, expensive woman in two crazy nights and one carefree day, turning the world topsy-turvy for all of them. A boy who wouldn't take no for an answer.




HUNTER (singing): We're two lost souls on the highway of life, and there is no one with who we would rather. Ain't it just great, ain't it just grand. We got each other.


KING: Joe Hardy, "Damn Yankees."

HUNTER: Wonderful show.

KING: Bob Fosse directed.

HUNTER: Bob -- no, Bob Fosse did all the choreography and danced a number in the film with Gwen. But it was directed by George Abbott who was very stiff, and we were not really...

KING: And lived to about 180.

HUNTER: About 180. But the director really over his shoulder helping him in Hollywood was Stanley Donen, who was just hot off of "Singing in the Rain."


HUNTER: Not many people know that.

KING: That was a great...

HUNTER: Stanley Donen was terrific.

KING: Bloomington -- and Jerry Lewis revived it and brought it and had a great tour with it.

HUNTER: I would have loved to have done that.

KING: Bloomington, Illinois, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Tab. You look terrific.

HUNTER: Thank you.

CALLER: I've got a question for you. You obviously adored your mother.


CALLER: And it's clear that at those times these types of thing were not discussed. Do you think she knew what your preference was?

HUNTER: I don't know. She probably did. You know, she was an amazing, amazing woman.

KING: Your father what, ran away?

HUNTER: My father, no. My father was very abusive to my mother. And my grandfather came and saw how my mother and my brother and I were living, and he moved us to California immediately.

KING: You ever hear from your father again? HUNTER: No, I did try to go see him. My mother sent my brother there one time for the summer. And when my brother came back, I said, "What's our dad like? What's our dad like?"

And he said, "Don't ask."

So when I was in the Coast Guard I had the address. And I went by and I knocked on the door. He opened a little chain about this far. And I said to the woman, the eyeball that met me. I said, "Is Charles Kelm there?" This voice said no. And I said, "Would you tell him that his son came by to say hello?"

And she said, "Yes" and slammed the door.

And I just went, "Whew!" And I walked in the snow for hours. It was terrible.

KING: West Bloomfield, Michigan, hello.



CALLER: Yes. When we were young, what you did was you put spark into my life. And your mother was right. I could see the inner you, not just your good looks.

HUNTER: That is really nice to hear. Thank you.

CALLER: And I'm originally from Winter, Ontario. Now, do you have any projects in the works now?

HUNTER: I do have some projects, yes.

KING: What's cooking? You've got 30 seconds.

HUNTER: The Evelyn Keys project that we've got called "Blues in the Night," a lovely -- a love story for Ireland.

KING: Are you producing it?

HUNTER: We'll produce that possibly. And I do some screenplays with Lee Marvin's ex-wife, Betty. We write.

KING: No kidding.

HUNTER: Yes, absolutely. She's crazy.

KING: Will you act again?

HUNTER: No, that was my past life.

KING: You don't want to act at all?

HUNTER: That was my past life. Been there, done that. Thank you. KING: Don't miss it. What if you saw a great part?

HUNTER: I'd work for John Waters again, because he's so off the wall.

KING: What about another great part?

HUNTER: They don't want me.

KING: Don't bet against it. Thank you, Tab.

HUNTER: Larry, thank you very much.

KING: Tab Hunter, what a story. And the book is "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star." Quite a guy.

And any of the videos you saw tonight, a lot of them are available on Warner Home Video.

Tomorrow night, Martha Stewart is our guest, also, for the full hour.

Right now, the dynamic duo stand by, the co-hosts of "NEWSNIGHT." There they are, Aaron Brown and Anderson Cooper. They're becoming interlocked. They're our own Huntley-Brinkley.

Mr. Brown, I pass it to you.

AARON BROWN, HOST, "NEWSNIGHT": Good night, Mr. King. Thank you very much.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines