Tab Hunter, the Fifties actor who became a gay icon following the publication of his 2005 memoir, has died at the age of 86.
The Facebook page tied to Tab Hunter Confidential, the 2015 documentary about the actor, announced Hunterâs death Monday. âTab passed away tonight three days shy of his 87th birthday. Please honor his memory by saying a prayer on his behalf. He would have liked that,â the account wrote. The Hollywood Reporter later confirmed the death with Hunterâs spokesperson, although no cause of death was revealed.
A heartthrob matinee idol during Hollywoodâs Golden Age, Hunter starred in films like 1958âs Damn Yankees, Battle Cry and Westerns like Track of the Cat and The Burning Hills.
Rumors regarding Hunterâs sexuality during a conservative era in Hollywood threatened to derail the young actorâs career. A 1955 article in the gossip magazine Confidential attempted to out Hunter, while gossip columnists at the time would subtly hint at Hunterâs homosexuality in items about the actorâs publicity department-orchestrated relationships with good friends Natalie Wood, who co-starred with Hunter in the 1956 romantic comedy The Girl He Left Behind, and Debbie Reynolds.
Hunter remained closeted until 2005, when he confirmed that he was gay in his memoir Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star; a documentary about the book, produced by Hunterâs longtime partner Allan Glaser, was released in 2015.
âIf I had come out during my acting career in the 1950s, I would not have had a career,â HunterÂ told the Pocono Record in October 2017. âNot much in Hollywood has changed in 60 years. I really didnât talk about my sexuality until I wrote my autobiography. My film career had long since been over by then. I believe oneâs sexuality is oneâs own business. I really donât go around discussing it. Call me âold schoolâ on that topic.â
The actor added, âThere still isnât a romantic male lead in films who is actively working who has come out as gay. Perhaps there has been on TV, stage and in different arenas in the entertainment business, but not a major male movie star. Film actors today still fear that coming out would damage their career.â
Following his brief tenure as a leading man, Hunter continued to act on the big and small screens as well as on stage. In the early Eighties, Hunter enjoyed a brief career comeback with roles in Grease 2 and John Watersâ Polyester; Hunter would appear alongside actress and fellow LGBT icon Divine in three Eighties films, including Divineâs final film Out of the Dark.
At the height of his film career, Hunter recorded the hit single âYoung Loveâ in 1957; the song spent six weeks at Number One on the Hot 100 after knocking Elvis Presley out of the top spot. Hunter, who as an actor was under contract with Warner Bros., would later claim that studio boss Jack Warner was infuriated that the Paramount Pictures-owned Dot Records, which released âYoung Love,â was profiting off a Warner actor. As a result, the studio founded Warner Bros. Records in 1958, with Hunter its first signee.
Hunterâs death comes a month after the announcement that Tab & Tony, a film about the actor and Psycho star Anthony Perkinsâ secret love affair, was in the works, with J.J. Abrams and Zachary Quinto producing a screenplay penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright.
Quinto wrote on Instagram, âSo sad to wake up to the news of the passing of Tab Hunter. I was honored to get to know him in the past year and am so grateful to have experienced his sheer joy and love of life.Â and what a life! such a rich experience. such a vital and generous nature. and such a pioneer of self-acceptance and moving through this world with authenticity as his guide. he will be missed greatly. may he rest in peace.â
Elton John tweeted, âRIP to the most handsome and special man. âYoung Loveâ forever.â
â Elton John (@eltonofficial) July 9, 2018