Published: Tue, July 10, 2018
Arts&Culture | By Matthew Castillo

Tab Hunter, iconic 1950s actor, dead at 86

Tab Hunter, iconic 1950s actor, dead at 86

Hunter also starred in the 1958 musical film Damn Yankees, his own television series The Tab Hunter Show, and The Pleasure of His Company, opposite Debbie Reynolds, with whom the studio crafted for him another fictitious real-life romance.

He passed away in Santa Barbara, California from a heart attack caused by a blood clot, his longtime partner Allan Glaser told The Hollywood Reporter.

The film star released his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star in 2005, in which Mr. Hunter came out as a gay man after years of industry rumors. The actor was also a sometime recording star, his version of the tune "Young Love" for Dot Records in 1957 reached No. 1 and stayed there for six weeks. "He was athletic, more like a 60-year-old not an 86-year-old".

Clayton encouraged a young Hunter to consider acting and set him up with agent Henry Willson.

In the 1980s, he won new fans by appearing in cult movies with Divine, the 300-pound transvestite, notably John Waters' 1981 "Polyester" and Paul Bartel's 1985 "Lust in the Dust", co-produced by Hunter himself. Glaser called the death was "sudden and unexpected".

By 1950 the new actor had nabbed a small role in the film "The Lawless".

He joined the U.S. Coast Guard at age 15, but eventually was discharged when the service discovered his age.

"I believed, wholeheartedly - still do - that a person's happiness depends on being true to themselves", Hunter said. "I'm very grateful for this road that I've been on - it's been a good one".

A highlight was the 1958 "Damn Yankees!", an adaptation of the hit Broadway musical with Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston in their Tony-winning NY roles and the original director, George Abbott, sharing direction with Stanley Donen.

"I thought, 'Look, get it from the horse's mouth and not from some horse's ass after I'm dead and gone, '" Hunter told THR's Scott Feinberg in 2015.

In fact, as his star was soaring in Hollywood, Hunter was involved romantically with actor Anthony Perkins and champion figure skater Ronnie Robertson.

In June it was announced that JJ Abrams and Zachary Quinto are producing the movie "Tab & Tony" about the secret love affair.

Hunter became a symbol of the gay rights movement, but it was a role he took reluctantly, saying in a 2015 interview with Slant that, "I just have never been comfortable talking about my sexuality".

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