The public knew Tab Hunter as one of Hollywood's hottest stars, the object of every teenage girl's affection. He seemed to have it all -- fame, money and talent.
But in his new book, "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star," Hunter reveals details of his private life that he could not share until now. Hunter writes about how his father abandoned the family, his mother struggled with bouts of instability, his brother was killed in Vietnam, and how he himself suffered molestation by a school choir master. Even when he made it out of a life of poverty, Hunter was haunted by fear that the public would discover that he is gay.
"Better to get it from the horse's mouth, I decided, and not from some horse's ass," Hunter has said.
In the book, Hunter describes how he became a Hollywood creation, right down to his name, which was chosen because he loved riding hunter and jumper horses (His given name is Arthur Gelien.) The studios were always setting up dates with potential leading ladies, from Natalie Wood to Debbie Reynolds.
"Natalie was like a little filly finding her legs," Hunter recalled. "Debbie was fun. We used to play baseball with her mother's biscuits they were so bad."
Hunter never confided his true sexual identity to any of his "girlfriends," describing himself as "very private."
Hunter paid Confidential magazine $10,000 to suppress photos of him and fellow actor Anthony Perkins, whom he dated for a few years. But Hunter said the public would have believed what it wanted, even if the pictures came out.
"I became the hottest star at Warner Brothers at that time. It was amazing," Hunter said. "People believe what they want to believe."
Hunter said he is not bitter about having to hide his private life at the peak of his career, and still has trouble feeling pride about his sexuality.
His satisfaction about his career is reflected in the final passage of his book, which Hunter read for "GMA":
"If you happen to spot me, in the middle of some seemingly insignificant chore, lifting my face to the sky and mumbling something -- don't worry. I'm only saying, 'Thank you.' That's what life is all about."
You can read an excerpt from "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star" below.
On July 11, 1931, in New York City, twenty-one-year-old Gertrude Kelm gave birth to a second son. Her first, Walter, was born eleven months earlier, so small he could fit in a cigar box. To honor this additional blessing, the infant's father visited Bellevue Hospital bearing gifts -- "gift," to be precise: a nickel candy bar tossed on his wife's bed. He left quickly, without suggesting a name for his squalling newborn. That's why it reads only "Male Kelm" on the official papers. Alone, Mother carried me home, wrapped in a blanket borrowed from a nurse.
Eventually, my mother named me Arthur, after a friend of her father's she greatly admired, the distinguished German actor Arthur Kronenberg.
Named for an actor. Maybe it was fate.
My mother was sixteen when she came to this country, arriving from Germany in 1927 with her parents and three siblings, aboard the United States Lines 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.