'Damn Yankees!' star Tab Hunter dead at 86

TAB HUNTER Various- 1960's

Actor and 1950s Hollywood heartthrob Tab Hunter, who later came out as gay, has died at age 86.

The cause was cardiac arrest triggered by a blood clot in his leg, said his husband, producer Allan Glaser.

In 1955, Hunter was almost outed by the magazine Confidential when it highlighted his five-year-old arrest for disorderly conduct at a "pajama party" attended by a number of gay people. Hunter made the reveal in his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, which was released in 2005. With no dramatic training, he was cast in a minor role in the 1950 drama "The Lawless".

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.

Though it was Tab Hunter's work on screen that earned him fame, he is remembered for being one of the few movie stars from the 1950s to come out as gay. It will be produced by Glaser, Quinto and J.J. And Warner Bros., alert to the increasingly important youth market, signed him to a contract.

While posters of Mr. Hunter were pasted in the bedrooms of teenage girls across America, he maintained closeted relationships with men such as "Psycho" star Anthony Perkins, at a time when performers were forced to keep their sexuality secret for fear of losing their careers and livelihoods.

With his blond hair, blue eyes and magnetic smile, Hunter set fans' hearts aflutter in films like "Battle Cry" and "Damn Yankees".

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Hunter grew up mostly in California. His 1957 single "Young Love" made number one on Billboard's Hot 100 List and later received gold certification from the RIAA. "He said he couldn't breathe, so I called 911, and we went to the hospital". The two next co-starred in 1985's Lust in the Dust, a western comedy film that also featured Lainie Kazan.

Hunter was born Arthur Andrew Kelm on July 11, 1931, in New York City.

Of "Polyester", Hunter wrote: "Everybody got the joke".

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

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 just have never been comfortable talking about my sexuality", Hunter said. As tastes changed, Hunter did summer stock and dinner theater, as well as appeared in spaghetti westerns.

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