Tab Hunter, 50s Actor and Gay Icon, Dies at 86

Brenda Watkins
July 10, 2018

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.

Hunter died Sunday night in Santa Barbara after a blood clot in his leg caused cardiac arrest, Allan Glaser, Hunter's partner for more than three decades, confirmed to Variety.

In 2005, he released a memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential, in which he revealed that he had been a closeted gay man throughout his acting career.

But in his 2005 memoir, "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star", Hunter recounted the stresses of being a love object to millions of young women when he was, in reality, a gay man.

Willson, whose client roster included Rock Hudson, Robert Wagner, Troy Donahue and Rory Calhoun, was once described wryly as having a knack for "discovering and renaming young actors whose visual appeal transcended any lack of ability".

Mr. Hunter continued to appear in films through the 1980s, including two memorable screen performances opposite drag legend Divine.

"This was sudden and unexpected", Glaser added. This story was made possible by generous people like you.

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

Hunter made a flurry of movies in the latter half of the 1950s aimed at capitalizing on his popularity with young girls.

Hunter also launched a career in music and had his first hit single "Young Love" in 1957.

Hunter appeared on Broadway once, opposite Tallulah Bankhead in Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, in 1964. "I'm very grateful for this road that I've been on - it's been a good one".

"I believed, wholeheartedly - still do - that a person's happiness depends on being true to themselves", Hunter said. I grew up full of denial.

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".

For a short time in the late 1960s, after several seasons of starring in summer stock and dinner theater in shows such as Bye Bye Birdie, The Tender Trap, Under the Yum Yum Tree and West Side Story with some of the NY cast, Hunter settled in the south of France, where he acted in spaghetti westerns, including Vengeance Is My Forgiveness (1968), The Last Chance (1968) and Bridge over the Elbe (1969).

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