American actor Tab Hunter isn’t really named Tab Hunter. His real name is Arthur Gelien. According to Tab’s autobiography, his unique stage name was coined by Hollywood talent agent Henry Willson.*
Exasperated, Henry finally said, “C’mon, we’ve got to tab him something.” He thought…for about two more seconds. “Hey, that’s not bad,” he announced. “Tab.”
As soon as Tab Hunter’s acting career started taking off in the early 1950s, parents began naming their sons Tab:
- 1962: 44 boys named Tab
- 1961: 52 boys named Tab
- 1960: 66 boys named Tab (rank: 937th)
- 1959: 89 boys named Tab (rank: 813th)
- 1958: 82 boys named Tab (rank: 831st)
- 1957: 120 boys named Tab (rank: 698th)
- 1956: 68 boys named Tab (rank: 907th)
- 1955: 43 boys named Tab
- 1954: 13 boys named Tab
- 1953: 6 boys named Tab [debut]
- 1952: unlisted
That spike in ’57 can likely be attributed to a song — Tab’s version of “Young Love,” which hit the #1 spot on several different Billboard charts in 1957.
The soft drink TaB was introduced in 1963, but the drink wasn’t named for the actor, and its introduction didn’t seem to affect the usage of Tab as a baby name.
Dozens of babies continued to be named Tab every year until the early ’70s. The name last appeared on the SSA’s baby name list in the ’90s.
*Henry Willson invented snappy names for many of his clients. He turned Robert Mosely into Guy Madison, Roy Fitzgerald into Rock Hudson (inspired by the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River), Francis Durgin into Rory Calhoun, Merle Johnson into Troy Donahue, and redhead Marilyn Louis into Rhonda Fleming (“Fleming sounds like flaming, plays up her hair”).
- Hunter, Tab and Eddie Muller. Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2006.
- Hofler, Robert. The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006.