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Actor Tab Hunter to appear at N.C. Gay Film Fest
Iconic 1950s heartthrob to host cult film screening

by Mark Smith

Tab Hunter will host a screening of the cinematic classic ‘Lust in the Dust.’

Tab Hunter, a Hollywood star whose career began as a 1950s heartthrob and the author of the recent national bestseller “Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star,” will be appearing at the 11th annual North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (NCGLFF) on Saturday, Aug. 12.

Hunter will host a screening of his cult classic film “Lust in the Dust,” starring himself, Divine and Lainie Kazan. Afterwards, he will participate in an on-stage Q&A, followed by a book signing and the festival’s reception, where Hunter will be the guest of honor.

For many years a major star of screen, stage, and television, Hunter appeared in more than 50 films, including the hits “Damn Yankees,” “They Came to Cordura,” “That Kind of Woman” and “Battle Cry.” His feature roles in “Lust in the Dust” (which he also produced) along with John Waters’s “Polyester” solidified his standing as a cult icon.
In Nevada on business, Hunter talked with Q-Notes by phone about his career and the appearance at the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Q. How challenging was it to look back over your life when you were working on your book?

A. It wasn’t challenging. It was actually pretty easy — but I guess I did have a few issues, because I’m a very private person.

Q. Looking forward to the screening of “Lust in the Dust’ in Durham?

A. Oh yes! That was such a fun film to do and I’m looking forward to showing it to a whole new generation of viewers. I co-produced that film and I think it’s a very important piece, because it’s one of Divine’s final roles.

Q. What was your favorite film to work on?

A. It’s hard to say. There are so many different categories. “Damn Yankees” was my first musical and I really enjoyed that. “Gunman’s Walk” was the first time I got to play a villain, so that was a lot of fun. Live television was interesting, too. My favorite in that genre was a Playhouse 90 presentation called “Portrait of a Murder” with Geraldine Page.

Q. Tell me about working with Sophia Loren in “That Kind of Woman?”

A. A very talented woman, under all that fiery sex she exuded, I found her to be terribly venerable.

Q. Rita Hayworth in “They Came to Cordura?”

A. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to work with her — she was everything good you hear about her. It was a sad time in her life, though. She had gone through so many divorces and was having a lot of problems. At that time, too, it was becoming more and more difficult for actresses her age to get work and I believe when she did that film she was just over 40. She was frightened and shy and quiet, but so sweet and kind. Everybody loved her.

Q. Divine in “Polyester” and “Lust in the Dust?”

A. I’ve always said that Divine is one of my favorite leading ladies! He was wonderful. Such a comic talent. Sorry that he left us at such a young age and sorry we didn’t get to see more from him. He was amazing.

Q. How did John Waters approach you about doing “Polyester?”

A. He called me in Indianapolis and said, “I’m John Waters, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of me before.” I laughed and said “Of course, I’m a huge fan.” I had seen ‘Pink Flamingos’ and ‘Female Troubles’ and some of his other earlier stuff. So he said he had a script for a movie and he wanted me to do it. I told him to send it over and I would take a look at it. The agent I had at the time, I don’t remember his name, said I’d be crazy to do a John Waters movie. I didn’t think so. I wasn’t working on anything else. It was funny, and I was introduced to a whole new age group of people. What were your initial thoughts?

Q. I remember you were in an episode of “McMillan and Wife” — what kind of relationship did you have with Rock Hudson?

A. We were friends. He lived up the street from me in Beverly Hills, but I don’t think I really knew him that well. He was a very private person and in his later years he was very secluded.

Q. What prompted you to come out publicly?

A. I had some things I had to say and I felt if people didn’t like it — well — that was gonna be their problem. I think it’s important to be who you are. I’ve always been kind of a quiet, conservative person, that’s who I am. I don’t really care for those “in-your-face” kind of tactics. But, like I said. I just had some things to say, and it was time.
Q. If you were in your 20s today do you think you would handle things differently than you did in the ’50s?

A. I don’t know how to answer that. But I do know I wouldn’t want to be in my 20s today. The world’s crazy and everything’s so fast. I have a great little house. I work in the yard. I do some writing. That’s life.

Q. Do you have any words of wisdom for today’s gay youth?

A. Be truthful to yourself. And be thankful for everything.
Tickets for “Lust in the Dust” hosted by Tab Hunter are $12. They can be purchased at the Carolina Theater box office, located at 309 W. Morgan St. in Downtown Durham or by calling the box office at 919-560-3030 or toll-free at 888-241-8162. More information is available at www.carolinatheatre.org.

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