Tab Hunter, the 1950s star of the likes of Damn Yankees!, who came out as gay in his 2005 memoir, has died, aged 86. Born Arthur Andrew Kelm on July 11th, 1931, Tab was a talented ice skater and horse rider as a teen, who joined the coastguard and then almost accidentally segued into acting.
With his charm and good looks, he was spotted by Warner Bros. who groomed him to be one of the first teen idols, finding success in the likes of Battle Cry, The Golden Arrow, The Sea Chase and, perhaps most famously, Damn Yankees!. He also has a successful singing career.
In the mid 1950s, the tabloid Confidential outed him as gay, which affected his career but didn’t destroy it. That was partly due to the studio helping to cover things up (while also leaving its options open, as they also allowed Confidential to out Tab – who’d been betrayed by a former manager – in exchange for them not outing Rock Hudson. Hunter was forced to stay closeted though, going on studio mandated dates and hiding relationships with the liked of Anthony Perkins.
Although his Hollywood career declined after the 50s, he continued to work both on the screen and in theatre. Later appearances including a cameo in Grease 2 as well as appearing opposite Divine in John Waters’ Polyester (1981) and Paul Bartel’s Lust in the Dust (1985).
He wrote his memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential, in 2005, in which he publicly came out for the first time, and wrote about his experiences being a gay movie star in the 1950s. That memoir was more recently turned into an excellent, award-winning documentary (you can read our review here). It was recently revealed that JJ Abrams and Zachary Quinto are working on a movie about Hunter’s relationship with Anthony Perkins.
Hunters passed away due to complications from deep vein thrombosis. His partner of over 35 years, Allan Glaser, said it was “unexpected and sudden.”