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Romance Of Tab Hunter & Venetia Stevenson

In April, 1957, after one year of marriage, Russ Tamblyn and Venetia Stevenson were divorced. And for a while afterwards they took it pretty hard. Russ, for instance, holed up in a cabin by the sea out in Malibu, troubled and lonely. After a few weeks, when he started to pine for some feminine company, as any healthy American boy would, he found he was too embarrassed to call up any of the girls he knew and ask them for a date. What would they think of him—a guy who couldn’t stay married for more than a year? Venetia, too, was embarrassed about her divorce—she wasn’t old enough to vote and she was already a divorcee. But luckily she soon got over her troubled feelings— and one of the people who helped her most was Tony Perkins. You remember the picture of them together in last month’s MODERN SCREEN?—and the story MODERN SCREEN told about their being just good friends? Tony wanted to help Venetia get over her sadness about the divorce—and Venetia was glad to have his helping hand. One night Tony took her to a premiere and a party, and Venetia happened to glance across the room to discover that—Tab Hunter was looking at her. Through the cigarette smoke of the crowded room their eyes met. Tab came over to her table, chatted for a while—and made a date with Venetia for the next day . . . 

When Tab Hunter invited Venetia Stevenson out to Clyde Kennedy’s ranch to see his mare Swizzlestick, little did either of them realize that a romance would blossom. It did—Venetia flipped completely over horses and horseback riding and jumping—and Tab and Venetia have been constant companions ever since.

Since then Tab has bought another horse named Battlin’ Bim and now Tab and Venetia spend long hours riding together. Every time Tab has a moment off from the studio he calls Venetia and if she isn’t working on TV or a movie, or posing for a magazine cover, they head for the ranch in the Northridge section of the San Fernando Valley where Tab’s friend Clyde Kennedy operates a training and boarding stable.

Both of Tab’s horses are jumpers and it wasn’t long before Venetia was riding well enough to start jumping. Her courage and determination won Tab’s respect as well as his admiration. Tab says, “You ought to see Venetia jump those horses. I’m real proud of her.”

Last spring Tab and Venetia started taking his horses around to the little shows which serve as warm-ups for the big fair and the horse-show circuit in the summer. Tab and Venetia make the cutest couple at the horse shows. Walking side by side, they make a striking twosome—pretty Venetia in her slim-legged jeans with a scarf covering her silver-blonde hair—and tall, tan, and handsome Tab. Tab is very popular with all the girls but he only has eyes for Venetia.

At horse shows Tab is not treated or looked upon as a movie star by the other horse-show people. He has earned their friendship by his ability as a rider and he is among the best. There is a young set at the horse shows that Tab and Venetia are very much a part of: Tony Perkins, John Derek, Dale Robertson, Gene Nelson, Judy Spreckels, Tommy Sands and John Ericson are part of the group and ride a lot in their spare time, and Pat Wayne recently started jumping lessons. Venetia has earned the respect of a lot of people who expected her to be another ‘movie star’ type, and found her to be a good sport—always ready to help saddle or brush a horse. She was so thrilled when she got to show for the first time at Santa Barbara this summer. She ‘spent hours picking out and buying the right outfit, and admitting to everyone how excited she was. When she got a ribbon in her first try in the show ring, she ran to Tab first thing and told him how proud she was of him—because he was her teacher. Tab gave her a mighty hug and everyone around shared their infectious laughter and excitement.

In the early morning at horse shows, between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m., Tab and Venetia would exercise their horses to get them ready for the afternoon and night performances of the show. Then, in their jeans and cotton shirts and Levi jackets, they would hold hands and sip hot coffee—and watch the other riders exercising their horses.

I’ve never had so much fun”

When Tab is not going to ride during one session of the horse show, he and Venetia—complete with programs, popcorn, hot dogs and soda pop—climb into the stands and sit among the spectators. They have lots of fun watching their friends while Tab explains the rules to Venetia. Venetia says, “There is so much to learn so fast, ’m lucky to have such good teachers as Tab and Clyde.” Venetia likes the way Tab looks in the riding outfit he wears in the show ring—he’s so handsome. “And what I ’specially like,” says Venetia, “is that Confederate cap of his.” She confesses it’s fun to pull it down over his nose. “He’s cute when he’s mad,” she says. Only he can’t stay mad for two seconds put together before he’s laughing and giving her that big bear-hug of his.

Tab and Venetia have more fun than a barrel of monkeys—even when the going gets rough. Like earlier this year, when a rainstorm flooded the show grounds where they were riding and the show had to be postponed. In a matter of minutes the place was a sea of mud. Gallant Tab, up to his knees in mud, carried Venetia almost a city block to keep her from ruining her clothes. She was saying “No, put me down, Tab!”—and kicking and laughing. But Tab just picked her up and carried her anyway. All that laughing and kicking said louder than words that Venetia enjoyed being carried by Tab. And what girl wouldn’t?

The crowds at the fair get a kick out of Tab and Venetia, and follow at a short distance as the young couple pitch baseballs to win stuffed animals and go on all the rides.

Ever since that first night when their eyes had met through the cigarette smoke in that crowded room, they’ve been thinking, I’ve never had so much fun with anyone else in my whole life.

And that dreamy look in Venetia’s eyes says she’s looking forward to the day when she will hear the horse-show announcer say to the crowd, First prize goes to Battlin’ Bim owned by Tab Hunter and ridden by Venetia Stevenson—or is she thinking, ridden by Mrs. Tab Hunter? 


Tab can soon be seen in Warner Bros. LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE. Watch for Venetia in Warner Bros.DARBY’S RANGERS.



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