Tab Hunter was something of a freak of nature. Tall, blonde, square-jawed, fresh-faced and with a muscular build, he was an impossibly beautiful specimen of human being who was discovered shovelling manure by a Hollywood agent.

Hunter knew the impact his looks had on others and was happy to take the Hollywood ride, which resulted in his becoming a huge star within two years.

Two things that didn’t work in favour of the screen Sigh Guy were the facts he wasn’t much of an actor and that he was gay. He worked on the first to the point where he became a competent talent but, as his looks faded, so did the roles.

As for being gay, while it caused some conflict as he attempted to lead a discreet lifestyle, he seemed to have a good time along the way, with a string of male lovers and only one problematic scandal.

Hunter’s book is a candid biography, explaining the dilemma he had about playing out one role on the movie screen and in the fan mags while being romantically involved with such stars as Anthony Perkins, Rudolph Nureyev  and ice skating champion Ronnie Robertson.

 Hunter includes plenty of detail, from getting anonymous hand-jobs in New York theatres through to his relationship of almost 20 years with producer Allan Glaser, as well as some of the tricks he mastered in escaping from the lecherous Hollywood gay casting couch of the 1950s.

In the early 1980s, just when he seemed destined for a life as a permanent TV guest star and performing in dinner theatre, John Waters and drag superstar Divine cast him in the cult classic Polyester, and he earned a new camp following.

For its stories of a Hollywood gone by and the adventures of hunky gay star enjoying the fame game, this makes for a solid summer read.

Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star by Tab Hunter and Eddie Muller is available from The Bookshop Darlinghurst for $49.95. The SSO‘s Essential Summer Reading guide will be published Thursday, 5 January.

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