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Happy Birthday Tab Hunter!

July 11, 2012
MelnitzMovie_James-Bridges-Theater

Melnitz Movies James Bridges Theater, UCLA

For two years, while a student at University of California at Los Angeles in the late 1980’s, I managed Publicity and Public Relations for UCLA Melnitz Movies. This is a little known fact amongst my friends and colleagues because it long ago dropped off the bottom of my resume. Perhaps it’s time to add it back on (to LinkedIn, at least, where there’s plenty of room). I was an English major at UCLA, but I took enough cinema classes to qualify for a Film minor, had I bothered to pursue the paperwork. Melnitz Movies was (and still is) affiliated with the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the world’s largest university-based media collection. We utilized the archive to show one or two week retrospectives of a particular actor, director or producer, followed by a preview of their soon to be released film. The goal was to get them to attend the final showing and field some questions from the audience. We were able to use this ploy to get several big names to drop by. The small theater (seating less than 300) and low-stress academic setting helped; as did the Film & Television Archive’s prestige and the school’s proximity to Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Pacific Palisades where these cinematic luminaries lived. Rob Reiner, Richard Lester, Clint Eastwood, and Peter Weir were just a few of the Hollywood folks I met during this period of my career.

Interestingly enough, one of the people that really stands out in my memory is Tab Hunter. He wasn’t the biggest name, but he was unpretentious and approachable and although we were from two different worlds and generations (he is exactly my father’s age) we had some great conversations. As it happens, Tab turns 81 today. Happy Birthday Tab!

Tom+Tab-MelnitzMovies-UCLA

Happy Birthday Tab!
Tom (me) on the left, and Tab.

Tab Hunter is a connection to the Golden Age of Hollywood and the old studio system era. Along with James Dean and Natalie Wood, he was the last of the actors placed under exclusive studio contract to Warner Bros. In the 1950’s Tab Hunter was Hollywood’s boy wonder, starring in dozens of major motion pictures with just about all of the leading ladies of the time. He also became one of the first rock music teen idols with a 1957 number one record, Young Love (knocking Elvis Presley out of the top spot for six weeks). With the studio controlling every aspect of Tab’s image (Warner Bros. Records, was created to manage and better profit from his singing career) he led a double life as a teen heartthrob while secretly in a relationship with actor Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame). Read his 2005 book, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star for his version of the decline of the studio system, on being gay in Hollywood in the 50’s and 60’s, and of course many anecdotes about the movie stars of that era. When I met Tab his career was experiencing somewhat of a revival with roles in John Waters’ Polyester and the cult comedy-Western Lust in the Dust. He still acts in the occasional play and sometimes guest DJs on SiriusXM Radio. A documentary based on his autobiography is currently in production and is due for release in 2014.

That’s it. I just wanted to wish Tab a happy birthday with many joyful years to come!

Tab Hunter-2005 Book Signing

Tab Hunter at a 2005 book signing.

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