HOLLYWOOD—Tab Hunter was Hollywood’s young golden boy. The girls swooned and followed him wherever he was. The studios made money on his sexual image.

MSJ: Tab, we’ve known each other since the early 50s and you haven’t changed very much at all. What secret potions are you using to look so young?

TH: So secret potions or anything like that, just staying positive and rejecting negative ideas or people in my life simple as that, I’ve learned not to take life too seriously. Just go with the flow and hope for the best.

MSJ: What do you miss about the old days?

TH: That’s easy. I loved waking up in the morning and have to rush to the studio into “makeup” for the day’s shoot. The studio was home to me and I think most of us who were under contract felt the same way.  The studio was like an extended family. We did what they told us and make the world believe that we were bigger than life and most of the time it felt good.

MSJ: Most of the time?

TH: Yeah, there were moments when you got sick of the rules and had the need to run and act like the other young people your age who were not tied to a studio. You were told who to date, make friends with and who was safe to have sex with. You were owned by the studio and they made you feel that your future was in their hands and you’d better not stray and if you did, then you would be doomed. When your contract was up, you would find that you couldn’t get through the studio gate. You were on your own. And that was something we all dreaded.

MSJ: You were a young sex symbol during that time. Did that label make you feel uncomfortable?

TH: I have to confess that there were many times when I’d pretend to be sick or couldn’t make a premiere appearance because I wasn’t into posing for the press with someone I had no feelings about what so ever. It was just part of the job. Made me feel kind of phony, not honest or real, but again I had no choice, it’s what the studio wanted and I did what they wanted me to do or say.

MSJ: Were there times when you wanted to tell the world that you were gay?

TB: Sure there was! But it would have ended my movie career if I dared to admit something like that in those days. We were all in the closet and scared to death that one of the tabloids would have our name in one of their headlines, exposing our lifestyle.

MSJ: But many people actually knew?

TH: Oh sure, but it wasn’t bantered about and discussed, only in private acceptable gatherings, if you know what I mean. When I decided to come out, it felt for the first time in my life that I was a free human being. I wasn’t subject to studio whims or rules or had to put up a face that a studio created or publicized. The world has really changed and it feels good.

MSJ: Since you’re older, do you still have an urge to be back in front of the camera?

TB: Sometimes. After all I spent most of my growing years working and learning to be an actor. I loved the challenge that every character I was given to play; it was like taking a psychology class. I was learning about human emotions and desires and it felt good at the end of the day. Then I was working with some really fine actors who were extremely educated and knowledgeable about life and survival. So, I guess being an actor was my college in so many ways.

MSJ: Tab, what do you really want from life at this stage of your life?

TH: Peace. I want to observe the world around me, look in the eyes of ordinary people and understand their need to laugh and survive as human beings. I want to love and not feel ashamed. I want to be around people who are not afraid to dream.

By Michael St. John