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Bachelor On His Own—Tab Hunter

Like a lot of other guys in their early twenties, Tab Hunter feels that being independent is just about the greatest thing there is. But—great or not—he knows that the first break from the comforts of home is not quite as easy as rolling off a log.

If you’ve lived all your life with one woman—your mom—and come to depend on her to have everything in its place, the first time you try to take over for yourself, things are apt to get a little muddled. Nobody’s surer of that these days than Tab.

Ever since he started to settle into his own apartment—and it’s been a kind of slow, piece-by-piece arrangement—he’s learned all the definitions there are for confusion and chaos. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t loving every second of it.

He and his mother had been talking about his getting out on his own for a long time. But Tab didn’t get around to doing anything about it until one day, by chance, he heard of a place in West Hollywood that might be right for him. It took him all of a half hour to know that this was his castle. He rented it on the spot—and he’s been gradually turning it into a home ever since.

The apartment has all the basic ingredients. It’s a miniature house off the main street, and a little walk runs from a small flight of steps to the entrance. A small flagstone porch overhung with creeping ivy vines shades the front door and gives the place a feeling of coolness and quiet, and the big main room has a fireplace.

It was that fireplace that sold Tab right from the start. He’ll never forget the first day he lit it.

When Pat Crowley, the young Paramount actress who lives around the corner, came to compare apartments Tab decided this was the moment to show off his pride and joy.

He broke up an orange crate and quickly set up the pieces on the gas jet. Then he turned the lever neatly and set a match to it with a flourish.

“I like fireplaces,” Tab said to Pat. “They’re cheery and give a place a warm feeling.”

The flames began leaping up the flue, spread out over the firebrick and on up the wall.

“Not that warm!” shouted Pat.

Tab struggled with the gas jet. It just wouldn’t turn.

“Throw some water on it,” Pat instructed.

“I can’t,” Tab shouted back. “The gas will spread all over the house. Then we’ll really be in trouble.”

Tab threw a hammer lock on the lever but the flame still leaped up almost to the ceiling. Tab could see the landlord’s temper going up in smoke.

Finally the first large volume of gas burned itself out, but not until Tab was almost as bright red as the fire glare from embarrassment. The jet’s fixed now but, nevertheless, Tab still approaches it with caution.

“I’ve got the feeling that gas fireplaces are like untrained horses. You can never trust them.”

Horses, or rather his horse, Out on Bail, was the one thing Tab had to give up when he made the change to bachelor living.

Tab had plenty of offers from people who wanted to buy him, but he hesitated to accept because he was reluctant to sell unless he could be sure the horse would be well taken care of.

“I have to sell Out on Bail.” Tab told Judy Powell, the lovely gal he’s been dating for about two years. “I hate to do it but I can’t keep him and the apartment.”

Judy is a terrific rider herself and had ridden Out on Bail many times.

“Any offers?” she asked.

“Plenty, but I don’t want to let him go to just anybody. I want to be sure he’ll be happy with his new owner.”

“What about me?” Judy asked. “You know how I feel about Out on Bail.”

“I sure do,” kidded Tab. “Sometimes I think you like my horse better than you like me.”

“No kidding now,” laughed Judy, “I’ve got my place in Ojai, where he can have plenty of room to run. And besides you’ll be able to ride him when you want.”

“Sold,” said Tab.

After the deal was made Judy said, with the understanding one horse-lover has for another, “Too bad you had to give him up.” And Tab, hating to admit how bad he felt, answered, “Well, you can’t ride an apartment or teach it to jump fences, but it sure gives you a lot of room to move around in.”

Tab’s apartment, for a non-bedroom job, is a big place. Besides the fireplace it has a maple secretary in the corner, two chairs, a sofa, a studio couch and no less than six occasional tables. A pull-down bed comes out of the wall, and behind it Tab has a dressing room with plenty of space for what it takes to keep a young bachelor spruced up.

However, he did need an extra closet for his suits. He bought one, but before it came he had clothes lying all over the house—on the chairs, the sofa, the coffee table. Everywhere.

The night the closet arrived, he was making the place a mess putting the pieces together. While he was right in the middle of deciding which bolt went into what hole, the telephone rang.

The voice on the other end asked, “Will I see you at the preview of Cinerama later on?”

“Cinerama . . .” started Tab, and then, “My gosh, is that tonight? I forgot all about it. How much time have I got?”

“About twenty minutes,” came the reply.

Tab hung up and set out to get dressed, but a moment later he was back at the phone calling a friend.

“I’ve got a premiere on tonight and it just hit me. All my black socks are at the laundry. My shirts are rumpled and scattered all over the place. I’ve been stepping all over my shoes putting one of those break-down closets together. And my tux is lying at the bottom of a big pile of clothes. It looks as if it went through the wars. Can you lend me anything for tonight?”

A few more calls to friends nearby, and for the next fifteen minutes people were running in and out with clothes tossed over their arms like a flock of salesmen at a Turkish Bazaar.

“This tuxedo should fit you, Tab.”

And another, “Here’s a shirt. But I couldn’t find the studs.”

And another, “I brought the socks, kid. Hope they’re not too big for you.”

The buddy who contributed the tuxedo also agreed to act as chauffeur. They raced down Hollywood Boulevard with one eye on the clock and the other warily on the lookout for a traffic cop who might be hiding behind a billboard.

They screeched to a stop in front of the theatre. Tab had time to race up the walk, say two words for the interviewer and dash inside to find his seat. He settled himself just as the thrilling roller coaster sequence burst upon the screen, but even that lost some of its thrill in comparison to the wild twenty minutes that had gone before.

That night taught Tab his first two lessons. First, his mom wouldn’t be around anymore to remind him of his appointments; and second, he’d have to get the laundry out at just the right time so there’d always be the necessary gear on hand.

Well, the closet was built. Tab added some gold pillows to the green sofa for the sake of color. He placed a brilliant painting of a ballerina over the mantel in a big gilt frame, selected some tasteful hunting prints for the other walls and bought himself a variety of knick-knacks.

Besides the living and dressing rooms, Tab has a bathless bathroom (a stall shower substitutes), a dinette and a well-equipped kitchen.

Tab made the kitchen his own by broiling two steaks for an invitation dinner party; and in front of the fire, he and his mom drank a toast to a bachelor’s lot.

The second dinner party didn’t run quite so smoothly. Tab set out to the market to buy the meat and vegetables for the little dinner he planned for himself and a young lady. But Tab doesn’t yet have this business of shopping down pat.

It used to be he’d go to the market with a list and methodically buy everything his mother had written down. Now he can’t figure out exactly what he needs. He just walks up and down the aisles looking at all the cans and bottles and labels and usually he ends up with one quart of milk.

This particular night he took his usual meandering path around the counters. Then a bottle of glue caught his eye. “I need glue,” he mused. Next time around, he spotted some typing paper. “Gosh, I’m all out of that.” On the third circuit, a gleaming can opener caught his eye.

Tab fiddled with it and looked it over.

“I don’t see how it works,” he said, “but I’ll buy it anyhow and see if I can master it.”

Tab’s making a sort of private market survey of can openers. They fascinate him. He has seven at the moment.

“l’m trying to find the one that works easiest,” he laughs. “I believe in kitchen efficiency.”

The can opener was the final purchase. By the time he paid for everything and hit the meat counter it was closed.

“So I took the girl out to dinner. She probably was happier that way anyhow—and besides that was a pretty good can opener.”

Then there was the matter of “The Bathroom Caper” as Tab calls it—which occurred on the first morning in his new place.

Tab had a 6:00 A.M. call at the studio for his new picture, “Gun Belt.” He rushed around dressing, shaving, gulping down a cup of coffee and slamming doors. He went into the bathroom to comb his hair and slammed that door too. The knob fell off. He was locked in and time was racing by. There was only one thing to do. So Tab did it. He started banging on the door and shouting for someone to let him out. Finally the guy next door heard him and opened the door from the other side.

Tab recalls this incident sheepishly. “I don’t think he liked getting shouted out of bed at that hour. A chapter for a book—‘How Not to Win Friends and Influence Neighbors.’ ”

Aside from the comic relief, Tab has slipped into the footloose life of the bachelor without too much difficulty. Of course his years in the Coast Guard and a generous supply of common sense gave him a good foundation. The details of the house run pretty smoothly.

Efficiency does the trick. Mondays, off come the sheets, all the soiled clothes go into the laundry bag and out to the laundermat they go. He has his shirts done as he needs them to keep the supply up to par. He has filing cabinets for receipts on the rent, utilities, car payments. . . .

There is a gleam in Tab’s eye whenever he talks about his new car—a Ford, complete with automatic drive, convertible of course, with wire spoke wheels and a special paint job in the shade called Flamingo Red. It’s Tab’s first brand new car of his life and it’s his pride and joy. When he bought it he said to his mom, “I’ll get you a new one too.”

“No,” said Mrs. Hunter,“you taught me to drive in the one you have now and I’m used to it.”

So Mom has “Beetle.” But one of these days, Tab says, he’s going to buy her a new car anyhow.

Tab can be found driving the new convertible at the oddest hours. Perhaps that’s one of the nicest things about living alone. In the years of a man’s life when every train whistle is a call to wander, when every mountain is the gate-post to an unknown land, it’s nice to shake some of the dust off your feet, even if it is 3:00 A.M.

Tab likes to drive down to the beach and along the shore road with the top down and the radio playing ballads or a good symphony. It’s almost as though the highway turns into a strip of dream.

Now that he’s living alone, Tab can indulge other vagrant whims at odd hours. He can read as late or loud as he likes.

Besides his other regular expenses, Tab includes his ice-skating lessons as general overhead. At least four mornings a week, from eleven till one, you’ll find him cutting fancy figures at the Polar Palace on Van Ness Avenue in Hollywood. He’s always been keen on the silver blades and has competed in amateur ranks since 1949.

One morning at the rink, Tab was inscribing some counter figures, and at the same time a lovely young skater named Georgiana Sutton was finishing up the same type of maneuver. Back to back they bumped. And bump, they fell to the ice. Tab turned around with a frown. The frown turned to a smile as he recognized Georgiana, whom he hadn’t seen for several years.

“It’s a little cold down here. How about a hot cup of coffee to warm us up a bit?”

Over coffee they talked and discovered that both were interested in finding skating partners for an up and coming competition. So now Tab and Georgiana spend a good many hours each week polishing up the technique they hope to show in the United States Pair Figures Competition under the auspices of the United States Figure Skating Association.

Should Tab and Georgiana come out on top, they’d like to go to Europe and enter the World Competition.

Another item of overhead is the dramatic lessons Tab takes from Jo Grahame. He considers the lessons a must, for he wants to keep improving in his profession, and Jo, who has coached such people as Jean Peters and Lori Nelson, is teaching him plenty.

Then there’s the item of the maid once a week. She has a motherly feeling toward Tab and does a lot of little extras. There was the day she walked in while Tab was in the midst of ironing. He was standing there in his shorts, wrestling with the iron, trying to whip a pair of denims into shape.

“What are you trying to do?” the maid laughed.

Tab looked up and wiped the perspiration from his forehead. “I’m pressing my denims,” he answered.

She walked to the ironing board and lifted the trousers up. “The seam,” she indicated, “is not supposed to run catty-cornered from the pocket.”

“I know. I thought I was getting it straight.”

“You go straight into the living room and read a book or something, and I’ll press these,” she chuckled.

Tab was glad to escape from the coils of the iron and retreated to his desk and accounts.

After rent, utilities, skating lessons, and coaching, Tab has about twenty dollars a week to spend on incidentals and such.

The things grouped under “incidentals and such” have a way of mounting up and he finds he can afford only one date a week—unless he’s invited to a party or spends an evening at the girl’s home or in his own bachelor’s haven.

All in all, it’s worth it. The extra expense and the trifling annoyances. And little by little, the routine falls into place so that the apartment becomes a real place to live in. For friends. For long gab fests. For reading aloud.

Full as the schedule seems to be, Tab spends a few hours now and then with his oil paints. He’s just a dabbler and admits it. His first painting was a winter scene. He called himself Grandpa Hunter after that. Then he painted the Eiffel Tower from memory of his trip to Paris a couple of years ago.

He finished up with some purple horses. That was his only attempt at modern art.

“Judging from the comments of my friends, purple animals aren’t very popular this year.”

But he only paints for laughs and to fill a few idle moments. It’s an outlet for energy. And in a place of his own, a guy can clutter the corners, if he wishes, fill the hours with learning and growing.

His place can be filled with laughter and talk, or it can be a quiet retreat to think and plan in. And above all, it can give him the sense of personal strength—a feeling a man needs, and wants and revels in. It makes the voice a little surer, the thinking a trifle clearer, marks the moments of dreams and prepares the way for the time when the place won’t be a bachelor’s den any longer, but a home for a family that will be dependent on him. And when that time comes, Tab will be ready for it.





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