In what feels like another galaxy far, far away a Hollywood celebrity once raised awareness for mental health in a P.S.A. asking you to join the fight against mental illness, despite the fact that the same actor would be described as “mentally ill” if the truth was revealed about his lifestyle.
Tab Hunter the blue-eyed dreamboat whose square-jawed image graced the walls of countless teenage girls bedrooms also lived in the shadows of homophobic mid-century America. In fact the screen idol often went out on dates with glamor-pusses like Debbie Reynolds, arranged by the studio and lapped up by the movie magazines.
But he shared more with Carrie Fisher than just dating her Mom.
He too was an advocate for mental illness, born of having had to tragically commit his beloved mother Gertrude to a psychiatric institution, and later made a Public Service Announcement for the Mental health Association that offered national awareness and compassion for the mentally ill.
It was a good and earnest thing he did of course. But it is a tad ironic that in the late 1950’s when this Public Service Announcement was made, Tab, a gay man, would have been regarded as being mentally ill by this same Mental Health Association. It wasn’t until 1973, a scant 4 years before Princess Leia graced our screen, that the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.
The tragedy is, unlike Carrie Fisher who was open and unabashed about her very real mental illness, a homosexual Hunter had to conceal a part of himself that was not in fact a mental illness, but would have been perceived as so by an uneducated public if he revealed it.
File this in the too ironic to be true but it is department.
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