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Tab Hunter, 50s Actor and Gay Icon, Dies at 86
10 July 2018, 06:16 | Myron Mathis
'Damn Yankees!' star Tab Hunter dead at 86
The movie star, musician, novelist and gay icon passed away just three days shy of what would have been his 87th birthday.
Most of Hunter's fame was found on stage, appearing notably in "Battle Cry", "The Burning Hills", "The Girl He Left Behind", and many more.
In the 1980's Hunter withdrew from public life with Glaser and wrote an autobiography in 2005, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, which was adapted into a documentary in 2015.
The fuss over the young actor began two years later when he appeared bare-chested opposite Linda Darnell in the British-made "Island of Desire".
A career revival of sorts was triggered by his casting in Polyester, the hitherto-underground John Water's 1981 paean to all things cheesy-50s; Hunter starred alongside Waters regulars Divine and Mink Stole.
Natalie Wood, Tab Hunter and Peggy Lee at the Audience Awards in 1955 where Hunter was named promising new male actor.
Glaser described his partner of three decades' death as "unexpected and sudden". TV proved a fertile environment, with The Tab Hunter Show premiering in 1960 followed by a string of TV movies. In addition to his hit movies, he tried his hand at singing and his recording of "Young Love" shot to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart in 1957.
Another highlight for Hunter was the 1958 Damn Yankees, an adaptation of the hit Broadway musical about a baseball player (Hunter) who makes a deal with Lucifer.
Born in 1931 as Arthur Andrew Kelm, Hunter's stage name was brainstormed by talent agent Henry Willson, who also repped Rock Hudson.
He did stage work along the way, mostly summer stock and dinner theater but with a stop on Broadway in '64 opposite Tallulah Bankhead in the Tennessee Williams failure The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. His affair with Psycho star Anthony Perkins is the focus of the upcoming docudrama Tab & Tony, written by Tony- and Pulitzer-winning playwright Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife) and produced by J.J. Abrams and Zachary Quinto.
At the age of 15 Hunter ran off to join the Coast Guard, but was dismissed from service after it was discovered he had lied about his age. "I'm very grateful for this road that I've been on - it's been a good one".
Writing the book was hard, he told The Associated Press in 2005, "because I'm a really private person".
After living in New Mexico for a time, Hunter returned to live in a home in Montecito in Santa Barbara County with Glaser.
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