Tab Hunter, 'Damn Yankees' star and gay icon, dies at 86

Carla Harmon
July 10, 2018

Mr. Hunter became a Hollywood heartthrob through movies such as the World War II drama "Battle Cry" (1955) and the baseball musical "Damn Yankees" (1958), which featured him alongside the original Broadway cast.

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.

Hunter appeared in television shows such as his own sitcom The Tab Hunter Show which lasted for one season, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Forever Fernwood, The Virginian, The Six Million Dollar Man, Ellery Queen, and The Love Boat.

A list of Hunter's co-stars reads like a who's who of Hollywood, and includs John Wayne, Lana Turner, Natalie Wood, Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Vincent Price, Divine and many others.

"This was sudden and unexpected", Glaser added.

Hunter was born on July 11, 1031 as Arthur Kelm in New York City, but grew up in California with his mother, brother and maternal grandparents. In addition to his hit movies, his recording of "Young Love" topped the Billboard pop chart in 1957.

In the 1985 Bartel film Lust in the Dust - a spoof of spaghetti westerns that also starred Lainie Kazan and in its outlandishness is often mistakenly attributed to John Waters - Hunter was comfortable enough to take delight in the joke of his character's name: Abel Wood, a pun that's as much acting critique as sex joke. The film helped introduce Hunter to a younger audience, some of whom were unfamiliar with his pin-up past.

In June it was announced that JJ Abrams and Zachary Quinto are producing the movie "Tab & Tony" about the secret love affair. At the age of 15, he entered the Coast Guard after lying about his age.

"I believed, wholeheartedly - still do - that a person's happiness depends on being true to themselves", he said. You can check out more social media tributes to Hunter for yourself below.

"He collapsed in my arms in the front lawn and I called 911 and we raced him to the hospital", Glaser told The Los Angeles Times; Hunter later died at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. "I'm very old-fashioned", he said in a 2015 interview.

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

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