For decades, the gay love affair between heartthrobs Tab Hunter and Anthony Perkins was one of Hollywood’s best and simultaneously worst kept secrets.
Their romance was the subject of the 2015 documentary Tab Hunter Confidential and is currently being made into a movie called Tab & Tony, which is being produced by Zachary Quinto and J.J. Abrams.
Now, in a new essay published by Attitude, Hunter recalls the very first time he laid eyes on Perkins:
It was a hot day so I swung by the Chateau Marmont for a swim. And that’s when I first saw Tony. He was there with a songwriter friend, and they were all around the pool. He had just been filming Friendly Persuasion with Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire. I went for a swim and when I came out my friend Venetia Stevenson said, “Oh I want you to meet Tony – do you know him?” We hadn’t met, but I already knew that he was a very fine actor. He was at Paramount and I was with Warner Brothers. We just chatted and got on and soon we were starting to see each other.
Since they couldn’t be seen in public together, Hunter says he and Perkins had to be very discreet.
“We couldn’t just go out for dinner together or go see a movie because we were both getting so popular back then,” he says, adding: “One summer we took a little beach house with his family and friends, it was quite wonderful. But it was always out of the public eye.”
Hunter also recalls how different studios had different policies regarding gay actors:
Warner Brothers never said a word about my sexuality, and that’s just the way I wanted it. However, Paramount did have something to say about my relationship with Tony, and they told him they didn’t want him to see me anymore. Every studio was run by an executive who had their own policies and their own ways of doing things. And Paramount ran a really tight ship.
As well as their inevitable breakup, which actually happened over a movie role:
I was pitching for a movie called Fear Strikes Out, about a famous baseball player, but Tony got Paramount to buy it and went for the role. It made a difference to our relationship. I felt betrayed; I was really disappointed by that. It was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back. We sort of separated, I guess we just outgrew each other and then we lost touch for a while.
Looking back, Hunter describes Perkins as “a special part of my journey.”
“He wanted to be a movie star more than anything,” he writes. “I wanted that too, but not with the same kind of drive he had. We were such opposites–but then maybe that was the attraction.”