Tab Hunter Dies: ‘Damn Yankees’ Hollywood Heartthrob Was 86

Lawrence Kim
July 9, 2018

Tab Hunter has passed away at the age of 86.

Hunter was prompted to go public about his sexuality after his partner of more than 30 years, Allan Glaser, told him someone was writing a tell-all book about Hunter.

Hunter's 1957 Dot Records recording of "Young Love", which stayed at No. 1 on the charts for six weeks, also spurred the creation of Warner Bros.

But in his 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.

Born Arthur Andrew Kelm in NY in 1931, Hunter shot first broke into the movie industry with a small role in 1950 drama The Lawless. Warner Bros., alert to the increasingly important youth market, signed him to a contract. Although he was often seen out and about with Natalie Wood, Sophia Loren, and other big-name actresses, Hunter had a relationship with Anthony Perkins, and he confirmed he was gay in his 2005 autobiography. The films included such war dramas as "Battle Cry" (with Van Heflin) and "Lafayette Escadrille" (Clint Eastwood in a small role).

A highlight was the 1958 "Damn Yankees!", an adaptation of the hit Broadway musical with Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston in their Tony-winning NY roles and the original director, George Abbott, sharing direction with Stanley Donen.

Tab Hunter, left, with Divine in Polyester. "But this was very hard for me".

Hunter appeared alongside Divine in John Waters' Polyester in 1981, as well as in 1985's Lust in the Dust, which also co-starred Divine.

Hunter appeared on Broadway once, opposite Tallulah Bankhead in Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, in 1964.

Hunter was born in 1931 in New York City, the second son of a mechanic and his German immigrant wife.

His parents split when he was young and he, his mother and his brother began using her maiden name of "Gelien".

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).

"I just have never been comfortable talking about my sexuality", Hunter said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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