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He's kissed worse 

Tab Hunter was the pretty boy pin-up of an entire generation of teenage girls, and Hollywood spent much of the 1950s finding excuses to film him with his shirt off. He knocked Elvis off the top of the charts with his hit song "Young Love." In 1981, John Waters redefined Hunter as a gay icon (sorry, ladies) acting opposite Divine in Polyester. Hunter, who speaks at the High Museum's Rich Theatre tonight, has just released his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star.

So when I told my mother that I was going to interview you, she told me she liked you better than Elvis, and she was pretty sure she was in love with you.

If it hadn't been for people like your mother, I wouldn't have been in business.

Then she started singing "Young Love" to me.

Is that right? She remembered that?

It gets better: She told the ladies in her knitting class, and they all remembered you running around in your bathing trunks in your movies, and they said they still think you're terribly handsome. They wanted to know if you're married.

You know, I only did one beach picture. I'm not married. I'm married to my dogs and my horse.

And then there's [Hollywood producer and life partner] Allan [Glaser].

Allan I've known for 20-some years. He's a powerful force in my life.

I guess that plenty of people knew all along that you were gay, but it wasn't until 1981, in Polyester, that you came out in a way that no one could ignore. Were you nervous about how people would respond?

I didn't really consider that coming out. I just thought that was a fun role to do, working with my favorite leading lady: a 300-pound guy. John called me, very timidly. 'My name is John Waters, and I'm doing a film with Divine.' I told him, 'I know who you are,' and that surprised him. He said, 'Let me send you the script. But before I do that, how would you feel about kissing a 300-pound transvestite?' I paused a moment, then I said, 'Sure, I've kissed a lot worse.'

Page to Stage presents Tab Hunter, Thurs., Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m., at the Woodruff Arts Center's Rich Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. Free (ticket required). 404-733-5000. www.woodruffcenter.org. Book: $24.95. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 408 pages.

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