Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture Film & TV

Exclusive: Tab Hunter recounts his secret relationship with ‘Psycho’ star Anthony Perkins

Hear the Hollywood's icon's fascinating story in his own words.

By Will Stroude

As JJ Abrams and Zachary Qunito prepare to take the illicit love affair of Hollywood actors Tab Hunter and Anthony Perkins to the big screen, Tab, now 86, recounts the pair’s relationship in his own words…

I used to have a lot of horses and I’d just finished bringing them in from the field. 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.

But it was difficult; we couldn’t just go out for dinner together or go see a movie because we were both getting so popular back then. I didn’t talk about my personal life to anyone back then at all. The way I saw it it was nobody’s damn business.

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.

At the time I loved being part of the movie industry, but Tony was more career-focused than I was. Despite the opposition we did continue seeing each other. I remember 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.

A while later 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.

Then he got married to Berry [Berinthia Berenson] and the next time I saw him was when I was involved in a film called Lust in the Dust [in 1984]. I called him up, went up to the house and sat down with the family.

It was the first time I’d seen him in years. I was very pleased to see that he had a wonderful family. Who am I to decide – to even discuss – what was right for him? That was his own choice.

The choices we make in life are very important, he made that choice and for him it was the right decision. It didn’t surprise me, I don’t have preconceived ideas about how people are, about who they are.

When he died [in 1992 of AIDS-related complications], it was very sudden. I heard that he was ill, I called and was told he’d just passed away. I never got the chance to see him again.

A photograph of Anthony Perkins taken by Tab Hunter and re-discovered years later in a garage sale

Thinking back about him now, he was a special part of my journey. If he was shooting a film, I’d pick up a car and drive out to see him and we’d spend time together.

I struggled to teach him how to waterski, to get him up on a horse, but he was very bright and quick and had a dry sense of humour and a simplicity and a shyness about him that was very appealing.

But my God, he was shy! I think that’s why he was so popular. He wanted to be a movie star more than anything. 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.