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 (1984) 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.
He was one of the last actors to be put under exclusive contract at Warner Bros. before the eventual erosion of the studio system in the late 1950s.
James Dean at age 21 (b: 02.08.1931; d: 09.30.1955; deceased at age 24), a New York stage and television actor, was put under contract by Warner Brothers, arriving in Los Angeles with Dick Clayton acting as his agent. James Dean and Tab Hunter were the youngest male stars under contract at Warner Bros. Studio. Warner Brothers - in preliminary casting of the film "Rebel Without A Cause" - originally considered Tab Hunter and Debbie Reynolds, but the studio ultimately cast James Dean and Natalie Wood in the film's lead roles. Agent-actor Dick Clayton brought the newly arrived New York actor James Dean to the Warner Bros. studio Burbank lot, first introducing him to Tab Hunter on his first studio introduction tour. Dean frequently waited beside Hunter's studio lot portable dressing room trailer, sitting on the step-up, catching Hunter between his film set-up shots to talk, to learn about, to discuss Tab's film experiences, acting challenges on film-movie studio and location sets!.
During a verbal contest to re-name "Art Gilien," Art, sitting between his actor-agent friend Dick Clayton and talent agent Henry Willson, the pair of agents trying to come up with a re-branding for Art Gilien's new show-biz name; a serious amused dead-pan Art interjected - "what about Male Kelm" into their name choice debate; ignoring Art, Henry Willson remarked: "We have to get a tab on this new name! ... What are your interests, Art? - hobbies?" Dick Clayton, who (in 1943) had first met a twelve year old stable boy at the Du Brock's Riding Academy, at the corner of Riverside Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard, interjected, "he likes horses! riding and hunting" Willson pounced, "horses, hunting .... that's it ... TAB -- HUNTER".
Upon being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard Service, Art Gilien returned to Los Angeles, sharing a rented room in Hollywood with his brother Walt. During his absence serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, their mother had moved back to San Francisco. Dick Clayton, after returning from New York, began working in the mail room at Famous Artists Agency. His boss, Charlie Feldman, one of the most respected agents in the film industry, and his colleagues encouraged Dick to become a sub-agent. Dick encouraged Art to pick up his education. Art enrolled in the Del Powers Professional School. The school, just off Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood, was run by actress Mala Powers's mother and was crammed with kids who wanted to be in movies. Art graduated with a high school diploma. Art supported a new athletic course, figure skating, where he lived at the Polar Palace, an ice rink on Van Ness near Melrose in Hollywood. Besides horse training, Art began training to be a professional ice skater, gaining trophies on his ice-skating abilities and talents. In this new endeavor, he met an entirely new group of people, who became his extended family of friends. Bob Turk, who became a choreographer, a director, and producer for the "Ice Capades;" Bobby Specht became an Ice Capades skating star; Joyce Lockwood, who became his skating partner in pairs; Catherine Machado and Richard Dwyer, both became stars on ice; the extraordinary Ronnie Robertson. Art loved the athleticism of ice skating, the rigorous training, practicing figures and diligently skating through levels of tests, ranked in the nation's amateur standings. Art skated both singles and pairs. Joyce and Art won the California Junior Pair Figure Skating Championship in 1949, and the state's Senior Pair Championship the following year in 1950. During this period, Art supported himself by employment at the Orange Julius stand across from Hollywood's Musso and Frank restaurant; ushered at the Warner Bros. Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, making seventy-five cents an hour, where Art met a young girl named Carol Burnett, also working as an usher. Dick Clayton kept hounding Art about taking an acting career seriously, except Art wanted to skate, not waste time in a stupid acting class. Then one day Dick brokered the introduction that radically changed his life. "There's this agent, Henry Willson, who can really help your career. Willson is more of a personal manager than an agent. Willson handles all aspects of a client's career: discovering them, pitching them to the film studios, negotiating their contracts, counseling them - everything." Dick said, "Henry's specialty is finding new talent. He represents the greatest-looking guys in town." Henry Willson after arriving in Hollywood established himself as the chief talent scout for producer David O. Selznick; He had discovered future star Rhonda Fleming, Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones among others, for Selznick. Major film actresses, such as Lana Turner, Jeanette MacDonald, and Ann Southern, had Henry as their agent. But Willson's real attention was focused on his list of male clients, specifically young, good-looking, all-American guys. Henry believed that young women craved a male equivalent of the pinup stars who'd boosted the troop's morale during the war. Acting skill was secondary to chiseled features and a fine physique. Prompted by Dick Clayton, Art was accompanied to Henry Willson's Bel Air residence, located on Stone Canyon Road. Clayton was a nervous hen mother. "I have to warn you, Art, Henry doesn't have the most sterling reputation. People are always making jokes about Henry and his boys".
Brother Walt was a young spirited adventurer, often initiating an interest in an active new experience. Walt joined a school marching band, and Art followed him by joining his new interest. Walt performed in a school play, "The Wedding Shoes," that started Art thinking that maybe he could act, too. The greatest experience brother Walt ever did for his baby brother Art, however, was to introduce him to horses. One weekend, on a lark, Walt took his brother Art to Du Brock's Riding Academy, at the corner of Riverside Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard adjacent the Los Angeles river bed. The Du Brock's Riding Academy was a ramshackle old stable, located behind a huge green fountain that shot a geyser of water high into the air. Art was scared to death as they rented a pair of nags and headed out on the bridle path, onto the riding trails. Art had chosen a western saddle so that he would have a horn to grab onto should he start to fall. Although Art didn't like riding at first, soon Walt and Art were starting every Saturday morning with a trip to Du Brock's stable; even having a favorite horse, Star, a plain bay with a white star on his forehead. On the trail one day, Walt yelled to his brother, "If you want to gallop, just give him a kick. Harder ... Harder." "I am kicking," Art complained. Star wouldn't go faster than a slow trot. "Keep kicking!" The old rent horse finally broke into a canter, grabbing tight to the horn Art began laughing as he bounced all over the saddle. "Sit down!" Walt whooped. "You're giving that poor horse a headache!" Grinning from ear-to-ear, the biggest smile Art ever had on his face. That was the day Art fell in love with horses. Walt moved onto other interests, but Du Brock's became Art's home away from home. Now Art hoarded every penny so he could buy an extra half hour on horseback. Saturday mornings, he was up and out by six, hitchhiking to the barn. Owners Bud and Melba Du Brock got to know the blond-haired Gelien kid on a first-name basis. Soon, he was spending all his Saturdays there, doing chores for the grooms, Slim and Tommy. He would trade labor for riding time - mucking out stalls, cleaning tack, feeding horses, stacking hay-bales, anything to be with the horses. First, Art joined a regularly scheduled riding class. Griffith Park's bridle trails followed the Los Angeles River, riding the river bottom into the valley, right past Warner Bros. Studio, all the way out to Republic Pictures. Art would gallop through Ace Hudkins' sprawling ranch, jumping his horse Smiling Joe over fences and hedges, while his mother's endless cliches bounced through his head: "In life, one must have dreams -- they give you a lift." Art's mind swam with dreams--that one day he would be a top rider in the world of show jumping. The film studios did lots of business with Du Brock's, and photographers often came by to shoot still photo layouts for movie magazines. Art would gawk from the sidelines as some beautiful young actress would stand on a mounting block, slip her leg over the saddle, and smile for the still camera. Art noticed a lot of these girls being escorted by the same guy, a charming Irish fellow who also was a regular at Du Brock's and a pretty good rider as well. Overhearing someone say that he was an actor, Dick Clayton, who preferred Irish Lad as his preferred horse. One day, Dick Clayton showed up with actress Ann Blyth and a photographer in tow. In the middle of the photo session, the actor spotted Art grappling with a pitchfork of manure. "Hi, kid. You must live here. You're here every time I show up. What's your name?" "Art Gelien." "How old are you, Art?" He lied and said, "Fourteen" when he actually was twelve years old. "Ever thought about being in pictures? You got the look for it." Art's complexion burned with embarrassment, excitement, speechless! "My name's Dick Clayton," the guy said, shaking his hand. "If you ever want to get into the movies, talk to me." Art figured this Dick Clayton character had to be crazy. How could he have known he'd end up being the most important person in his life?.
In 1927, his mother a German Catholic, at the age of sixteen, the eldest daughter of John and Ida Gelien from Hamburg, was brought to the United States with her parents and three siblings, aboard the United States ship George Washington. Her father, John Gelien, known simply as Opa (the traditional German term of endearment for a grandfather), was a chef for the steamship company. Forever away at sea, Opa was like a phantom within his own family. The family settled in New York City upon arrival in the States. As. soon as the Geliens arrived on these shores, Gertrude was put to work, doing housekeeping and odd jobs around New York City's Manhattan district. Gertrude Gelien, afterwards, married Charles Kelm, who was Jewish, in 1929. This was Charles Kelm's second marriage. Their first child, born on August 18, 1930 was named Walter John; their second child, born on July 11, 1931, was named Arthur Andrew. During their marriage, family life was financially difficult, the father an alcoholic, an abusive husband who beat his wife Gertrude frequently after returning home from his daily work-job; after dinner, often returning to his local neighborhood whiskey speak-easy bar. Gertrude's German father Opa, learning of the abuse, orchestrated Gertrude with her two sons escape on a steam ship bound west, as far away from Charles Kelm as possible - the brothers and mother to the opposite end of the country, San Francisco, California, the Promised Land. Using his connections Opa got their mother Gertrude a job as a ship-board stewardess with the Matson Lines, for which he now worked. He found a San Francisco apartment for the family and covered the first two months' rent. Gertrude reclaimed her family surname Gelien and changed her sons' name to that, as well. Almost immediately, the relationship Walt and Art had with their mother started to mirror what Gertrude experienced with her own father. The brothers would not see their mother for weeks at a time, as she went to sea to earn her salary. A single mother trying to raise two boys during the depths of the Depression. The brothers lived in a a rented room in Mrs. Kelson's Divisadero Street apartment. Eager to better their station, Gertrude studied in her spare time to be a nurse, with a specialty in physical therapy. The bump in pay allowed her to enroll Walt and Art in a private school. Barely school age, the brothers had adventures straight out of Tom Sawyer. They wandered near Fisherman's Wharf, the Embarcadero, China Town and Golden Gate Park. In the cramped elevator of a hotel on Mason Street, their mother introduced the boys to Harry Koster. He lived there when he wasn't at sea. Mr. Koster ran a ship's galley, just like their grandfather Opa. Possibly, this was the reason their mother trusted him when they'd met aboard the Monterey, a Matson cruise ship. Gertrude dropped a bomb shell: "Harry and I have been married. You will treat him as your new father." Harry Koster vowed to provide for his new "family" so that Gertrude Gelien could remain home to raise her children properly. From their mother's perspective, it was a marriage of convenience. She saw Harry Koster as a life preserver. The brothers, not mature enough to comprehend that their mother remarried for their sake, not hers. Within months, Gertrude and the boys moved to Long Beach, where the Gelien family had relocated, living with her mother, father and her siblings, with the expectation that they would become a close knit clan, something they'd never been. It didn't work out that way. Opa died not long after the move, and Gertrude Gelien remained distant from her mother and siblings. Her new husband didn't even bother to go south with his new family. His home was the Monterey, sailing back and forth to Australia, a round-trip, literally, to the ends of the earth. His paychecks, however, were faithfully routed to his wife. Mother Gertrude landed another job, as a nurse on the Avalon, which sailed overnight from the mainland to Catalina Island; moving to Catalina Island to a tiny apartment for the summer of 1940, all to be together when their mother finished her daily circuit. During the day, the two boys swam and dived for the spare coins thrown into the twenty foot deep shore line by the island's tourists. With the summer over, the family moved back to Long Beach, where prewar life was idyllic, to a small house adjacent their landlord's house and garden. It came as a shock when the family abandoned Long Beach for a worse neighborhood in Los Angeles. Gertrude landed a wartime job with Lockheed Aircraft and needed to be nearer to the factory. First, an apartment on 69th and Figueroa, a stucco-and-asphalt corner with little charm. Beverly Peck lived halfway down the block. Like the boys, no father in sight. Beverly lived with her mom and a gigantic grandmother, always parked on a kitchen stool, minding a perpetually bubbling pot. Every time Walt and Art entered the kitchen, she would say, "You're too skinny. Here, eat this." Beverly became Walt's girl, but once the eleven year old lost interest, Beverly and Art became inseparable. Never being able to talk to Beverly, painfully shy, but watching brother Walt, Art learned. Always coasting in Walt's wake, without him, Art might never have left the house. Beverly and Art saved dimes during the week, and on Saturday they'd gather them; hop a streetcar downtown to Clifton Cafeteria, where Beverly's mother worked. Free lunch! Then the duo would walk hand in hand to the downtown movie palaces, entry to theaters like the Million Dollar, the Los Angeles, Paramount and the Orpheum, where they spent the rest of the day watching the latest double features. Art was ten years old during these blissful Saturday afternoons with Beverly Peck - and Robin Hood and Zorro and Captain Blood - turning him into a lifelong movie lover. Beverly didn't stay in his life very long. The Geliens, soon on the move again, this time to a nicer neighborhood, a better school. A nomadic childhood, never in one place long enough to develop lasting childhood friendships. A self sufficient survival machine, in their mother's operating manual, it said in big capital letters: TO AVOID SERIOUS INJURY, NEVER GET CLOSE. Art's childhood lessons - never get close to anyone, knowing he was only going to leave them behind in a few months. The family never saw Harry Koster once the war broke out in December 1941. Matson converted its ships to military service, and Harry spent virtually all his time in the South Pacific, feeding GIs aboard the Monterey. Then one day, in 1942, word reached Gertrude and the boys that Harry was dead of a heart attack aboard ship.
In early November, 1946, after he turned fifteen years old in July, Arthur Andrew (Kelm) Gilien, lying about his age, joined the U.S. Coast Guard Service located in San Pedro, California. He was assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Minnetonka. nicknamed the Mighty Minnie. His Coast Guard mates nick-named him "Hollywood" because of his penchant for going to movie palaces alone rather than going to bars with his ship-mates while on liberty, and for his knowledge and avid interest in the movie industry. Two months after enlisting, applicants were being taken for yeoman's school. Heading east on the Union Pacific Railroad, bound for the Coast Guard Training Center in Groton, Connecticut, Art had stowed actor-friend Dick Clayton's contact information since Dick (in his late 20's) had scored a spot in an Olson and Johnson comedy revue, "Pardon My French," produced on Broadway. "Art, if you get to New York, anytime soon, be sure to look me up." Weekend liberty in Manhattan left Los Angeles in the shade. Art would barge into Clayton's Greenwich Village apartment on Friday nights, sometimes with a couple of buddies in tow, and they would set out to take New York by storm. Art rode horses in Central Park, ice-skated at Rockefeller Center. Dick Clayton bought Art his first ticket to a Broadway show, "Mrs. McThing," starring the First Lady of the Broadway stage, Helen Hayes. Dick Clayton recognized the energy, the excitement, the glamour, the intoxicating experiences in Art's eyes and spirit. Clayton talked for hours on end about acting. Before long, Clayton invited Art to cocktail parties with his theatrical friends, a constant, bubbling current of talented, urbane men and witty, sexy women. Coast Guard boot camp was a breeze compared to the sink-or-swim challenge of keeping his head above water in this crowd. At one of these parties, Art heard a familiar song. Eager to share his new-found musical knowledge, he said, "Hmm, that sounds like Cole Porter." "Why, yes, dear," he was informed," - he's right over there." Cole Porter! Playing the piano and singing in someone's apartment - as if he had gotten out of his seat in one of those Hollywood Boulevard theaters and walked right into the movie. Impressed about show people, men and women, wasn't their sexual bias, but their elegance, sophistication, intelligence, and style. As if that wasn't enough, show people were talented. They were contributors. Art wasn't sure he would fit in, but at only fifteen years of age, he did his damnedest to stay afloat in this crowd. After graduating as a yeoman third class from the training program, returning in November, 1947 to his service assignment in San Pedro, the Coast Guard discovered Art's real age, sixteen years old, booting him out of the Coast Guard service ranks.
The Ford Motor Company delivered their first pony car in late fall of 1954 - the1955 Ford Thunder Bird, Ford's answer to General Motors' Chevrolet 1953 Corvette sports car. The '55 Ford Thunder Bird automobile, only built in Detroit, was delivered in either a gloss-white or gloss-black-ebony painted finish. One of the earliest owners on the West coast, in Hollywood, Tab Hunter (at age 24) purchased a black-ebony Thunder Bird with a red leather interior. The Ford Thunder Bird pony car became very popular for the young talented impressionable Hollywood movie-colony performers as their favorite chariot. Tad's Warner Brothers co-star Natalie Wood (at age 17) had her '55 white T-Bird with a white leather interior custom painted by the Ford dealer a Pepto-Bismo-baby-pink color. Tad's actress girl friend Lori Nelson (at age 22) had her white T-Bird custom painted canary yellow. New York actor Anthony "Tony" Perkins (at age 23), nick named "Ma Perkins" by his fellow actor friends, who was under contract at Paramount Pictures filming "Friendly Persuasion" - after learning how to drive, had his white T-Bird custom painted baby-blue.
In New York City on July 11, 1931, twenty-one-year-old Gertrude Gelien Kelm, the eldest daughter of John Gelien born in Germany, gave birth to her second son. Her first, Walter, who was born on August 18, 1930, eleven months earlier, so small he could fit in a cigar box. To honor this additional blessing, the infant's father Charlie Kelm visited Bellevue Hospital bearing gifts - "gift," to be precise: a nickel candy bar tossed on his wife Gertrude's maternity bed. Charlie left quickly, without suggesting a name for his squalling new-born son. That is why the birth certificate reads only "Male Kelm" on the official legal birth certificate paper document. Alone, Gertrude Kelm carried "Male Kelm" home wrapped in a blanket borrowed from a nurse. Eventually, Gertrude named "Male Kelm" - "Arthur" - after a friend of her father's she greatly admired, the distinguished German actor Arthur Kronenberg.
In the early 1950s, nineteen year old Debbie Reynolds (b: 04.01.1932) was twenty year old Tab Hunter's first date; both Debbie Reynolds and a young 19 year old Lori Nelson (b: 08.15,1933) were constantly linked with Tab Hunter as his romantic - and dating - companion by the movie colony's fan magazine reporters, with photographs of either actress with Tab during their studio film coupled appearances. When Debbie Reynolds became engaged to crooner Eddie Fisher, Lori Nelson became his primary studio dating partner. Upon the success of "Rebel Without a Cause" - Natalie Wood was matched with Tab Hunter by Warner Bros. casting and publicity department as the new generation Tracy and Hepburn. Natalie Wood engaged Tab Hunter's agent Henry Willson as her agent just so she could meet Willson's actor-client Robert Wagner.
He is buried at Santa Barbara Cemetery in Santa Barbara, California, beside his mother.
Hunter collapsed in his front yard after a walk with his partner Glaser, he died a few hours later at the Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. His death was sudden and unexpected as he was still very athletic and active for his age.
In 1960, MGM toyed with the idea of doing an all-male remake of 1939's The Women which would have been entitled, Gentlemen's Club. Like the female version, this would have involved an all masculine cast and the plot would have involved a man (Jeffrey Hunter) who recently discovers among his comrades that his wife is having an affair with another man (Earl Holliman) and after going to Reno to file for divorce and begin a new life, he later finds himself doing what he can to rectify matters later on when he discovers that the other man is only interested in money and position and he decides to win his true love back again. Although nothing ever came of this, it would have consisted of the following ensemble had it did: Jeffrey Hunter (Martin Heal), Earl Holliman (Christopher Allen), Tab Hunter (Simon Fowler), Lew Ayres (Count Vancott), Robert Wagner (Mitchell Aarons), James Garner (Peter Day), Jerry Mathers (Little Martin), James Stewart (Mr. Heal), Ronald Reagan (Larry), Troy Donahue (Norman Blake), and Stuart Whitman (Oliver, the bartender who spills the beans about the illicit affair).
In his 1952 film "Island of Desire", he had his first screen kiss with veteran actress Linda Darnell. Although nervous at first, Darnell informed Hunter before the love scene not to worry because she cited herself as being "good luck with newcomers". After the kissing scene was shot, Hunter later said Darnell came up to him, gave him a pinch, and remarked, "That was nice!".
On St Valentine's Day 1956 he allegedly received 62,000 cards.
He was a lifelong Republican.
On October 21, 2018, he was honored with a Sketch of the Day caricature on the website Star Portraits by a United States based artist known as Odoxesky.
On March 12, 2019, he was honored with a Sketch of the Day caricature on the website Star Portraits.