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In 2005, actor Tab Hunter released his autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Now thanks to director Jeffrey Schwarz and Hunter’s partner, Allan Glaser, a documentary based on the book is hitting movie screens.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, Tab Hunter Confidential will be screened at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, with Hunter in attendance to discuss the film at a special event benefiting the Desert AIDS Project. The film will then remain on Camelot screens for at least a week.

During a recent phone interview, Hunter explained why he decided to write the book.

“I wrote the book with a lot of hesitation, but I figured I had to do it, because someone else was going to write a book,” Hunter said. “I figured it’s better to get it from the horse’s mouth, not from some horse’s ass after I’m dead and gone, where they’ll put some spin on it. I didn’t want that. People are noted for doing that.”

Hunter, now 84, worked as a stable boy at the age of 14; that is how he met actor and agent Richard Clayton, who used to come to the barn to ride and shoot promo photographs.

“That’s where it started, where I was shoveling the real stuff out of the barn,” Hunter said. “(Clayton) discovered me there, and my career went on from there.”

Hunter’s love of films started around the same time. He said he would see films on weekend evenings after working in the barn all day.

“All those wonderful Tyrone Power films like The Black Swan and all of those things—I loved the total escapism,” he said. “I was always so locked within myself that I admired anybody who could be out there, and those films gave you a whole different vision of the world. That was really important to me when I was a kid, and you’re scared of your own shadow. Lucky, my brother helped me out a lot, but we used to go to the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara all the time.”

While Tab Hunter was best known for acting and his all-American good looks, he also recorded music as well.

“I was doing a chore with Natalie Wood for a film we had done, and I was singing,” he said. “Howard Miller, who was a huge disc jockey in Chicago, asked me, ‘Did you ever think of recording?’ And I said, ‘I sing in the shower, and everyone sounds good in the shower.’ He said, ‘I’d like to introduce you to Randy Wood at Dot Records.’ He put me in touch with Randy, and Randy heard me sing, and presented me with a tune called ‘Young Love.’ I recorded it on a Friday and heard it on the car radio while I was driving the following Monday, and almost hit a palm tree, I was so shocked. It knocked Elvis out of the No. 1 slot and stayed there for about six weeks.

“From there on, I went on to do an album. Jack Warner (of Hunter’s studio, Warner Bros.) called me in the office and he said, ‘Wait a minute! You can’t do that! We own you for everything!’ I said, ‘But Mr. Warner, you don’t have a recording company.’ He looked at me and said, ‘We do now!’ and started Warner Brothers Records. That’s amazing when you stop to think how huge that company is now.”

Hunter starred in both hits and films that flopped. However, Hunter insisted he has no regrets.

“I don’t ever wish I didn’t do anything, because I did them because it was called ‘survival,’” he said. “That’s what happens when you have bills to pay. Usually, the actor gets the blame if the picture isn’t any good. … They don’t realize the producers and the directors and all the money behind it is what makes the picture. I’ve done a lot of bad pictures, and I don’t look at those and forget them; that is just called experience. The best part is I got to work with good people—actors, writers and directors. That helps you grow.”

He said he is particularly proud of several films, however.

“I love Damn Yankees because it was my first musical,” he said. “I love That Kind of Woman because it was with Sophia Loren—need I say more? Also, it was with Sidney Lumet, who was a wonderful director. I liked Gunman’s Walk, because it was the first heavy I ever played in a film, and that’s a really great picture. But I think TV is what gave me more opportunity than movies, because the studio era was falling apart then.”

John Waters helped Tab Hunter enjoy a bit of a resurgence in the 1980s when he cast him in Polyester. Hunter also went on to star in Grease 2, and became a bit of a cult favorite with the younger generation.

“John was great,” Hunter said. “I was doing a play in Indianapolis, and I got a call one day, and it was John. He said, ‘Hello. I’m John Waters, I don’t know if you know me or not.’ I said, ‘John, I’m a major fan of yours! I love Mondo Trasho and Pink Flamingos.’ He said, ‘I have a script I’d like you to do, if I can send it to you.’ I said I had two weeks off before I had to do another play, and asked when he planned to shoot. He asked me, ‘Before we go there, how do you feel about kissing a 300-pound transvestite?’ I said, ‘I’m sure I’ve kissed a whole hell of a lot worse.’ He sent me the script; I read it. I had already met Divine at David Hockney’s party a little while earlier, and I thought he was wonderful. It was a great experience, and I loved doing that film for him. It revitalized my career.”

When the book Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star was released in 2005, it included a confession on a subject about which members of the press and many others had speculated for decades: Hunter is gay. When he looks back, he said he feels the press is still quite cruel.

“I think, ‘How sad!’ Because everything seems to be so in your face and pushed out there from a time when things were much quieter and much simpler; people didn’t discuss those things, and the word ‘gay’ wasn’t even around,” Hunter said. “They might have said something, but it was hush, hush. It was nobody’s damn business. My touch of reality in the unrealistic world of Hollywood was going out to the barn and shoveling the real crap. … People are always going to be quick to label people. The first line of my book is, ‘I hate labels.’ People were always trying to label people, and what’s much more important is that we’re all human beings. What kind of a human being are you? That’s what’s important.”

He said he misses the relative privacy the media offered stars back in his heyday.

“Everything is discussed today, and I’m not really sure I like that,” he said. “I love what Allan (Glaser) said in an interview last week. A reporter was talking about the documentary, and Allan said, ‘Yes, Tab came out of the closet and did the documentary, then turned around and closed the door behind him.’ I thought that was funny, but it was true. The documentary is about my journey, the early years, the Hollywood years, and these golden years. We’re all on a journey—but the most important question is: What kind of journey are you on?”

Tab Hunter Confidential will be shown at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 12, at Camelot Theatres. 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $20 and include a post-show Q&A; VIP tickets, which include a pre-screening reception, are $65.. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Previews and Features

When John Waters took the stage Tuesday night at the McCallum Theatre, his raspy voice made it obvious that he was a bit under the weather. (Later in the night, he mentioned fighting an ear infection.) However, his illness didn’t stop Waters from delivering a fantastic spoken-word comedy show—most of which was related to Christmas.

Waters often spoke about his favorite leading lady, the late, great Divine (Glenn Milstead). He mentioned that the recent documentary I Am Divine didn’t include the fact that Divine loved Christmas decorations, to the point of overcharging his parents’ credit card to buy them—and then lying about. He also affirmed a story about how Divine bounced checks, lied to the authorities about it, and still managed to pass a lie detector test.

Another amusing story involved a young Waters and his lady friends getting high on a combination of LSD and amphetamines, and driving around and stealing Christmas gifts from cars. Waters earned laughs as he said that mediocre gifts would often get thrown out the window, and that the ladies would “return” other gifts for cash.

Waters addressed a quote attributed to him that’s circulating around the Internet: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!” He conceded that the rule doesn’t apply if that somebody happens to be cute enough. (The same goes for racists, he admitted.) He also told an amusing story about how he once took home a carnie, and that Waters didn’t know the carnie had a fake leg until he saw the man remove the leg and perform fellatio on himself.

This was Waters’ Christmas show, of course, so he discussed in detail what he hates about Christmas, such as getting e-mail based Christmas cards, and receiving gift cards as presents. He affirmed that the best gifts are books—and mentioned various strange and rare (and even nonexistent) editions of books he would like to receive.

At the end of the show, he gave the audience the opportunity to ask some questions. The first question came from a woman who asked if he was Daniel Tosh’s father; he replied that he didn’t have kids, and didn’t want any kids—although he’s a great uncle, and would help the kid do a number of amusing things, up to and including “getting an abortion.” One woman told him that her brother showed her Pink Flamingos when she was 12 years old. An interesting moment came when someone asked him about Manson family member Leslie Van Houten, who is a friend of his. Becoming serious for a moment, Waters explained that although Van Houten did bad with the Manson Family, he feels that she deserves clemency, because she’s reformed and has done amazing things with her life, despite being behind bars.

The last question he took involved what he would want on his gravestone. He replied he would only want his name, date of birth, and date of death, explaining that gravestones aren’t a good place for jokes.

Fortunately, the McCallum was indeed a great place for jokes and laughter on Tuesday night. The Pope of Trash didn’t pull any punches during a raunchy, vulgar and downright hilarious night of stories and comedy.

Published in Comedy

The career of John Waters has spanned five decades, during which he’s seemingly done and seen it all.

He’s had cult film success, followed by mainstream success. Earlier this year, he released the book Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, about his personal journey hitchhiking across the United States. And on Tuesday, Dec. 2, Waters will show locals his skills as a spoken-word performer, when he brings A John Waters Christmas to the McCallum Theatre.

John Waters made his first short film, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, in 1964. The 17-minute film featured a black man and a white woman getting married on a rooftop in a ceremony led by a Ku Klux Klan member. Waters followed that up with films including Roman Candles, Mondo Trasho and The Diane Linkletter Story, but it was his 1972 film Pink Flamingos that launched Waters and his childhood friend, Glenn Milstead, aka Divine, into fame. Pink Flamingos, made for about $10,000, was an unexpected hit that went on to become a cult classic.

During a recent phone interview, Waters wouldn’t say whether he was surprised by the following he gained thanks to Pink Flamingos and the films that followed.

“My audience has always been technically minorities who didn’t even get along with any other minority,” Waters said. “They were gay people who didn’t want to be accepted—but that’s changed completely now. A lot of my audience now is smart people who are in prison. I’m always amazed now; for my Christmas show last year, my sister was there, and asked, ‘How do you get away with saying all of that shit?’ And no one ever gets mad at me anymore. I think it’s because over the past 50 years, I have never changed that much. I’m not (now) as angry as I (was) when I made Pink Flamingos, (now) at the age of 68, thank God.”

John Waters has usually had to raise the money himself to make his films over the years, which has led to long periods between films. As far as fundraising goes, don’t expect him to start asking for money via sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo any time soon.

“I’m not going to be asking people to send me $100,” Waters said. “If I was young, that’s definitely how I would have made a movie. I’m all for it—God knows it works for other people. I could get the funds now to make a movie that costs $1 million or $2 million very easily. But my movies don’t cost that; they cost $6 million or $7 million because of the movie stars; I have music in them; and all the unions I work with.

“If you’re young today, it’s much easier to get a movie made. First of all, it’s cheaper to make movies now, and you can make a movie on your cell phone, which is like 8-milimeter when I was young, only it’s a lot better. I think the big Hollywood studios are looking for a 25-year-old who makes the next film that makes people crazy. They weren’t looking for it when I made it, but right now, they are!”

While Waters at first made films primarily starring friends and colleagues from Baltimore, as the years progressed, his movies began featuring Hollywood stars including Kathleen Turner, Tab Hunter, Edward Furlong, Johnny Depp and Johnny Knoxville. He’d love to work with yet other big names, too.

“I’ve always said Meryl Streep, because I’ve loved her in anything,” he said. “I’m also a big fan of Isabelle Huppert, and I think she would make a movie with me, but the problem is I can never figure a way to put someone with a French accent in a movie set in Baltimore. I would have to think of a story where we kidnap someone at the airport.”

During our 10-minute interview, the subject of Edward Furlong came up. The Terminator 2: Judgment Day actor, who was a child star in the ‘90s and who appeared in Waters’ 1998 film Pecker, not too long ago spent two months in prison due to domestic-violence charges.

“We all have our bad days and nights,” Waters said. “He’s not the only one who’s been in one of my movies who’s been in prison. Actually, I think many of them have.”

In 2012, John Waters decided to hitchhike across America. Waters said he never had a moment during which he felt in danger, and he managed to have a number of surprising adventures. He was picked up in Ohio by the indie-band Here We Go Magic, and got a ride from Myersville, Md., Councilman Brett Bidle.

“I didn’t get any creepy rides,” Waters said. “I thought up creepy ones, definitely, or that I’d get murdered. But no one was creepy. I had a cop. I had a truck driver. I had a minster’s wife, a single black woman taking her kid to a daycare center, and a coal-miner.”

I asked him what he has planned for his show at the McCallum.

“I’ve always wanted to do the Christmas show in Palm Springs,” Waters said. “Mostly, because it’s never cold, and I always have to bring the right kind of outfit. My idea of Christmas is the same everywhere: It makes people crazy; it makes people happy; you can’t ignore it; and it’s a steamroller coming at you, so you might as well have fun with it and celebrate the extremes of it—the good parts and the bad parts. I talk about all of that.

“I’ve always wanted to smoke crack and do Christmas carols where I just knock on people’s doors and start shrieking ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ in their faces. I’ve never smoked crack, but that would be the only time I would.”

What’s the worst Christmas gift John Waters has ever received?

“I remember one year, I got the soundtrack to Rocky, and I threw it out the window. I did live in a high-rise at the time, so that was probably dangerous.”

A John Waters Christmas takes place at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 2, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $25 to $55. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Comedy

The McCallum Theatre will, as always, bring in big names and big shows during the 2014-2015 season (and subscription tickets that include many of those big names are going on sale at 8 a.m., Tuesday, April 8).

Comedy legend Bob Newhart. Grammy Hall of Famer Neil Sedaka. Violin icon Itzhak Perlman. The legendary musical Anything Goes.

But if you’re looking for some hidden gems on the just-announced schedule, McCallum director of communications and public affairs Jeffrey Norman encourages you to check out Mitch’s Picks.

“Mitch” is Mitch Gershenfeld, the president and CEO of the McCallum, who has been booking shows at the venerable theater—the top-selling venue in California in the spring, according to Pollstar—for about 14 years now. His “Picks” are five shows by performers who may not be household names, but are immensely talented nonetheless.

“He’s kinda saying, ‘I’ve been booking shows for a long time, and I can personally recommend these,’” Norman said.

Those picks by Mitch include a show by Cheyenne Jackson (below), who will be performing Shaken Not Stirred: The Music of the Movies. The performer is best known for acting roles on 30 Rock and Glee, but he’s one hell of a singer, too. (He’s also gorgeous, and proudly out.) He’ll be performing on Saturday, Nov. 1; tickets are $25 to $75.

Mitch’s other picks include the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (yes, I really did just write “Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain”) on Thursday, Jan. 29; Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass performing Brothers on the Battlefield, a multimedia show honoring the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, on Monday, Feb. 16; Mona Golabek’s one-woman show about a young Jewish musician in 1938 Vienna, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, on Wednesday, Feb. 25; and 2Cellos on Friday, March 6.

Norman encouraged me to look for clips of 2Cellos—which consists of Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser—online. I now encourage you to do the same. (Scroll down to the bottom to see one.) They’re simply amazing (and, like Cheyenne Jackson, they’re simply gorgeous.)

“Elton John called them the most amazing thing since Jimi Hendrix. They play the heck out of those cellos,” Norman said.

Of course, Norman—a veteran of the theater-venue world himself—also has his own opinions, so I asked him for one of Jeffrey’s Picks for the 2014-2015 season.

“It would have to be Dame Edna,” Norman said, referring to the alter ego of Australian comedian/performer Barry Humphries, who recently turned 80. “She had reportedly retired—or perhaps I should say he had reportedly retired. Apparently, he decided to do one last farewell tour, and he specifically remembered the McCallum Theatre, and wanted to return.”

Dame Edna—who was a semi-regular on Ally McBeal, fans may recall—will perform on Monday and Tuesday, March 30 and 31; and Wednesday, April 1. Tickets are $35 to $95, possums.

And now for my pick: I was intrigued to see that John Waters, the uniquely Baltimore “pope of trash” known for Pink Flamingos and Hairspray, will be doing his one-man Christmas show, A John Waters Christmas, at the McCallum on Tuesday, Dec. 2; tickets are $25 to $55.

I’ve seen Waters do a one-man show before; he’s hilarious and even charming (though certainly graphic and, um, profane).

“We were very explicit in the brochure: This is for diehard John Waters fans. He is definitely putting the ‘x’ back in Xmas,” Norman said.

All in all, 2014-2015 looks like yet another diverse and busy year for the McCallum—and Norman said up to a dozen more shows may be added before all is said and done.

“I am really excited about it,” Norman said. “It’s a really fun, interesting, eclectic season that has a little bit of everything.”

A lot of really fun and interesting things are going on behind the scenes at the McCallum, too. While the theater is best known for its great shows, the McCallum Theatre Institute spends a lot of time, money and effort promoting arts around the community, especially to local students; Norman notes that the institute puts on 1,700 workshops at 28 schools throughout the valley each year.

In September 2014, the McCallum will be expanding its community-arts mission even further: Thanks to a $600,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation, the McCallum will launch a new effort. The Crisálida Project: Transforming Ourselves, Transforming Our Communities is “an initiative to give voice to the cultural traditions and aspirations of the largely Hispanic and economically disadvantaged communities” in Indio, Coachella, Thermal and Mecca.

The project, funded by the grant for two years, will be led by master storyteller David Gonzalez. He will hold a series of meetings, classes, workshops, story circles and performances in the East Valley to promote community art-making, gather stories and preserve traditions.

Norman said that the products of The Crisálida Project could lead to community-wide performances, and perhaps even shows on the McCallum stage, although there are no prescribed expectations for the project.

“As the valley’s leading performing-arts venue, we have a responsibility to promote broader access to the arts,” Norman said.

Hear, hear. Looks like 2014-2015 is going to be a great year for the McCallum, both inside the theater itself and beyond.

For subscription sales or more information, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Local Fun