Movie Stars: Hunter, Tab–Double Life as Handsome Blond? Closeted All-American Hearthtrob? Gay Icon? Dies at 86

Tab Hunter, the good-looking actor of the 1950s and openly gay icon of the last two decades, has died. He was 86.

Hunter died Sunday, July 8, 2018, in Santa Barbara after a blood clot in his leg caused cardiac arrest, Allan Glaser, Hunter’s partner for three decades, confirmed the news.

With his All-American good looks, blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and toothy smile, Hunter rose to the top ranks of Hollywood leading men in the 1950s and early 1960’s.

He appeared in such popular movies as “Damn Yankees” and “Battle Cry,” and “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.

Hunter officially 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.”

Even so, Hunter confessed to having affairs with “Psycho” star Anthony Perkins and figure skater Ronnie Robertson before settling down with his longtime companion, Glaser.