MOVIES

1950s movie star Tab Hunter to get lifetime achievement award from Fort Lauderdale film festival

 
 
Hunter
Hunter

One-time Hollywood heartthrob Tab Hunter names his favorite leading ladies: Sophia Loren, Geraldine Page, Natalie Wood, Divine.

For many 1980s moviegoers, Hunter — a blonde-haired 1950s teen idol — is best-known for his teaming with drag queen Divine in the camp films Polyester and Lust in the Dust.

“Tab is the reason Polyester was successful. The main reason,” says the film’s director, John Waters. “Because people were shocked that a so-called regular Hollywood movie star would come and make a movie with me. And it sounds ridiculous today, but the fact that he kissed Divine was really taboo-breaking at the time.“

Hunter, 82 and a horseman for seven decades, will receive a lifetime achievement award Tuesday night from the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. He’ll also introduce a screening of Polyester — complete with the movie’s scratch-and-sniff Odorama cards.

“I used to say Divine was like a big beached whale,” Hunter says about his co-star, who died of heart failure in 1988. “He was so quiet and soft. A lovely human being. And then all of a sudden, you’d put him in his drag, and sparks would come out of his ass.”

Audiences at the time didn’t know it, but Hunter’s 1981 on-screen romance with Divine wasn’t far-fetched. A closeted gay man, Hunter already had secret relationships with actor Anthony Perkins and skater Ronnie Robertson. For more than 30 years he has been partnered with Allan Glaser, who co-produced Lust in the Dust in 1985 and is currently producing a documentary about Hunter based on the actor’s 2005 autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential.

“It’s about a journey. It’s about survival. It’s about growth. And it’s certainly about an industry that is no more, that I’m sure a lot of people are fascinated with,” Hunter says of the documentary. “We have some fascinating people in it. Everyone from Mother Dolores Hart, who gave Elvis his first screen kiss (and is now a Roman Catholic nun in Connecticut); Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner, Terry Moore.”

Hunter’s movie stardom peaked in the late 1950s. He had a No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Young Love, in 1957. A year later, he starred in the film version of Damn Yankees, which also featured original Broadway castmates Gwen Verdon, Ray Walston and Jean Stapleton.

In the movie musical, Hunter played ballplayer Joe Hardy. “[Director] George Abbott didn’t want me for the role. He wanted Stephen Douglass who did it on Broadway. But [Warner Bros. studio chief] Jack Warner said, ‘Look, I bought the project for Tab, and Tab’s going to do it. Just like he bought Pajama Game for Doris Day.”

Hunter says he always took whatever parts the studio gave him. “It’s called survival. You do whatever comes along.”

He also kept his mouth shut about being gay.

“The word wasn’t around. I never discussed anything. It wasn’t anybody’s business. I was concerned about everything. I was frightened of my own shadow as a kid,” he says. “The only reason I wrote the book was because I heard someone else was going to be doing a book and I thought, look, get it from the horse’s mouth and not from some horse’s ass after I’m dead and gone.”

Tab Hunter receives a lifetime achievement award 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. $10 FLIFF members, $12 seniors/students, $15 general admission. John Waters’ ‘Polyester’ starring Hunter and Divine will be screened at 8:15 p.m. $7 & $12 with Odorama card.

Steve Rothaus

Read more People stories from the Miami Herald

  • Celebrity roundup

    Joan Rivers in critical condition

    Joan Rivers is in critical condition after she stopped breathing during a medical procedure on Thursday, police sources tell The New York Post. The news was first reported by TMZ.

  • La vida local

    Chris Bosh a sharp dressed man; Ryan Cabrera at Hard Rock;

    Chris Bosh at the Espys? Makes sense. Chris Bosh at the Emmys? Say what? But that’s exactly where the Miami Heat star was Sunday evening in Los Angeles, with wife Adrienne, rocking a white tuxedo. Bosh tweeted a picture of himself in front of a white Lamborghini with the hashtag #Emmys! The NBA stud is taking a page from the Dwyane Wade fashion playbook and designing a line of neckwear with Armstrong & Wilson called Mr. Nice Tie. He was in L.A. promoting the collection.

  • Celebrities

    Mr. & Mrs.: Angelina Jolie marries Brad Pitt in Chateau Miraval, France

    NEW YORK (AP) – Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in Correns, France, a spokesman for the couple says.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category