Tab Hunter, a former on-screen heartthrob and gay icon, has died. He was 86.
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.
With his All-American good looks, wavy blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and toothy smile, Hunter rose to the top ranks of Hollywood leading men in the 1950’s and early ’60’s. He appeared in the likes of “Damn Yankees” and “Battle Cry,” and had chart-topping records such as “Young Love.” But at the height of his popularity, he was dogged by rumors that he was gay, a potentially career-ending rumor during that culturally conservative era. At one point, he was “outed” by the gossip rag, Confidential.
Hunter fell out of favor as the 1960s continued and a new breed of stars such as Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino, actors who were often less corn-fed and polished, entered the mainstream. As tastes changed, Hunter did summer stock and dinner theater, as well as appeared in spaghetti westerns.
See photos of Tab Hunter:
Tab Hunter throughout his life
Tab Hunter throughout his life
Actor Tab Hunter (Photo by ?? John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Tab Hunter (Photo by Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images)
1952: American actors J.L. Warner, Peggy Lee (1920 - 2002), and Tab Hunter smiling and holding their trophies for Best Motion Picture, Best New Personality Actress and Actor, respectively, at the Audience Awards at the Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles, California. Lee wears a satin strapless dress while Warner and Hunter wear tuxedos. (Photo by Jack Albin/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Tab Hunter, US actor, wearing a blue check shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, leaning on a stable door, circa 1955. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
circa 1955: American actors Natalie Wood (stage name of Natasha Gurdin) and Tab Hunter. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES,CA - MARCH 21,1956: Actress Natalie Wood and actor Tab Hunter pose as they attend the 28th Academy Awards in Los Angeles,CA. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Tab Hunter, US actor, wearing a blue top, with the sleeves rolled up, with his hands in the pockets of his trousers, circa 1955. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - CIRCA1955: Actor Tab Hunter poses at home in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - CIRCA1955: Actor Tab Hunter with Lori Nelson attend a party in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Natalie Wood lies on the chest of Tab Hunter in a scene from the film 'The Girl He Left Behind', 1956. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 17,1956: Actor Tab Hunter with Jan Chaney attend the premiere 'Giant' in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11: Tab Hunter in 'Portrait of a Murderer' on PLAYHOUSE 90. Image dated February 11, 1958. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
American actor Tab Hunter, circa 1960. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Tab Hunter (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Allan Carr, Lorna Luft and Tab Hunter during 'Grease II' premiere party at The Red Parrot in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Betty Galella/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 19: Tab Hunter (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Tab Hunter during Los Angeles Premiere of Newly Restored Hitchcock's at Cineplex Odeon in Century City, CA, United States. (Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage)
Tab Hunter during Tab Hunter Launches His Autobiography 'Tab Hunter - Confidential - The Making of a Movie Star' - October 14, 2005 at Barnes & Noble - Lincoln Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Shane Gritzinger/FilmMagic)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
He was rediscovered in middle age, however. Hunter was cast opposite Divine in “Polyester,” a low-budget John Waters comedy that gleefully sent up everything from alcoholism to foot festishism. The film helped introduce Hunter to a younger audience, some of whom were unfamiliar with his pin-up past.
Hunter came out as gay in 2005 with the publication of his autobiography, “Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star.” In it, he wrote about studio publicity arms efforts to mask his homosexuality by linking him with co-stars and friends such as Debbie Reynolds and Natalie Wood. That book inspired a 2015 documentary by Jeffrey Schwarz, also called “Tab Hunter Confidential.”
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. I think it was easier with [the documentary] because it was quite a few years later after the book. But it’s still not my comfort zone. I was just brought up that way. I’m very old-fashioned.”
Despite being publicly closeted for much of his life, Hunter had relationships with “Psycho” star Anthony Perkins and figure skater Ronnie Robertson before settling down with Glaser.
More stars we've lost in 2018:
Celebrities who died in 2018
Celebrities who died in 2018
Aretha Franklin died at the age of 76 on August 16 following a long battle with cancer. Read more here.
(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain died of an apparent suicide on June 8. Read more here.
"Superman" actress Margot Kidder died at the age of 69 in May. Read more here.
(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
Burt Reynolds died at the age of 82 on September 6 after going into cardiac arrest. Read more here.
(Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
Comic book legend Stan Lee died at the age of 95 in early November. Read more here.