Hollywood's iconic golden-haired boy Tab Hunter dead, aged 86

Sergio Cunningham
July 10, 2018

Tab Hunter, a tousle-haired actor who established himself as an all-American golden boy in the 1950s, reaching No. 1 at the box office and pop music charts while anxiously hiding his gay identity - a secret that threatened to end his career - died July 8 at a hospital near his home in Santa Barbara, Calif.

His spouse, film producer Allan Glaser, said Hunter died Sunday of a blood clot in his leg that caused cardiac arrest.

After years of innuendo and gossip column speculation - including a notorious story in scandal sheet Confidential magazine that he had attended a "pajama party" - he came out in his 2005 autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. "He was athletic, more like a 60-year-old not an 86-year-old".

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", which Hunter co-produced. "The dilemma, of course, that was being true to myself - and I'm talking sexually now - was impossible in 1953". Glaser described Hunter's death as "sudden and unexpected".

Born Arthur Andrew Kelm, Hunter was given his on-screen moniker by talent agent Henry Willson, who discovered Hunter and was also responsible for naming Rock Hudson, another successful actor and closeted gay man back then.

Glaser said he wanted people to know "what a good man" Hunter was. With no dramatic training, he was cast in a minor role in the 1950 drama "The Lawless". His 1957 single "Young Love" made number one on Billboard's Hot 100 List and later received gold certification from the RIAA.

In 1964, Mr. Hunter made his sole Broadway appearance in a short-lived revival of Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, starring as Christopher Flanders opposite Tallulah Bankhead's Mrs. Goforth.

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Tab Hunter enjoyed success as a 1950s film star.

"I believed, wholeheartedly - still do - that a person's happiness depends on being true to themselves", Hunter wrote.

Hunter's failure to win the role of Tony in the film adaptation of West Side Story (1961) prompted him to agree to star in a weekly television sitcom. I grew up full of denial.

"I had my fling, and I was very fortunate", he said.

"I never mentioned my sexuality to Warner Bros.at all, and they never mentioned it to me, thank God", Hunter revealed.

In recent years, Hunter appeared in dinner theaters and organized film projects.

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