1950s Teen Heartthrob, Gay Icon Tab Hunter Dies At 86

Actor Tab Hunter 21 is shown in Hollywood Ca. in 1952

Actor, singer and author Tab Hunter, a teen heartthrob of the 1950s and '60s, died Sunday night at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, just days before his 87th Birthday.

A Facebook page for the star announced his death and asked fans to "honor his memory by saying a prayer on his behalf". "He would have liked that".

The blonde hair, blue-eyed Hunter quickly became one of Hollywood's top leading men in the 1950's and '60s landing roles in movies like "Damn Yankees!" and "Battle Cry".

Born Arthur Andrew Kelm, Hunter was given his on-screen moniker by talent agent Henry Willson, who discovered Hunter and was also responsible for naming Rock Hudson, another successful actor and closeted gay man back then. "We'll call you Tab Hunter".

In his 2005 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, gay. Glaser also shared with THR that Hunter's passing was "unexpected and sudden". Warner Bros., alert to the increasingly important youth market, signed him to a contract. RIP, Tab Hunter. This news was previously reported by Variety.

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A list of Hunter's co-stars reads like a who's who of Hollywood, and includs John Wayne, Lana Turner, Natalie Wood, Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Vincent Price, Divine and many others. "The dilemma, of course, was that being true to myself, and I'm talking sexually now, was impossible in 1953". In addition to his hit movies, he tried his hand at singing and his recording of "Young Love" shot to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart in 1957. "But this was very hard for me".

"I believed, wholeheartedly - still do - that a person's happiness depends on being true to themselves", Hunter said.

The following year he enjoyed another star turn as Joe Hardy in the film adaptation of the musical "Damn Yankees!".

Hunter said he hadn't admitted it to himself at that point - while he was considering getting married, he was also in a relationship with a world-class male figure skater, Ronnie Robertson. The memoir was developed into a documentary in 2015 and his affair with Perkins is the subject of Tab & Tony, an upcoming film starring Zachary Quinto.

"I never mentioned my sexuality to Warner Bros.at all, and they never mentioned it to me, thank God", Hunter revealed.

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