In Loving Memory - Tab Hunter Dead at 86
Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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Tab Hunter, the epitome of the blond teen heartthrob in the '50s, who had a successful career as a pop singer and later gamely parodied his sex-symbol image in the John Waters film "Polyester," has died. Hunter's passing was announced on the official Facebook page of the 2015 documentary about his life, "Tab Hunter Confidential," which noted he died days before turning 87.


Tab Hunter Smile 


Born Arthur Kelm in New York City, he grew up in California. After an underage stint in the U.S. Coast Guard, he was signed as an actor by starmaker Henry Willson, who specialized in hunks like Rock Hudson, Robert Wagner, and Guy Madison. It was Willson who renamed the tall, fresh-faced newcomer ahead of his film debut in "The Lawless" (1950).


tab hunter Kicking Back
Kicking Back in a Typical '50s Publicity Shot



Throughout the '50s, Hunter was an A-list star and teen-mag heartthrob, appearing in hits like "Island of Desire" (1952), "Track of the Cat" (1955), "Battle Cry" (1955), "The Sea Chase" (1955), the 1958 screen adaptation of "Damn Yankees," and "That Kind of Woman" (1959) opposite Sophia Loren.



So intense was Hunter's following that his first single "Young Love" in 1957 spent six weeks atop the music charts, and a later hit led to the formation of Warner Bros. Records.


Charges against Tab Hunter 


Hunter's popularity allowed him to weather a controversy — he was all but outed in a September 1955 Confidential magazine article that reported on his arrest in 1950 for disorderly conduct. Hunter told THR in 2015, "Confidential targeted me. It all came about because Henry Willson... cut a deal with them to keep Rock [Hudson] out of their pages, feeding them dirt on me instead." Confidential insinuated that Hunter had been at a gay orgy. "It was all bullsh-t. I had been invited to the party by a friend and attended it solely for the free food. When I arrived, there happened to be a couple of guys dancing with a couple of guys and a couple of gals dancing with a couple of gals, so I looked and said, 'Oh, it's one of those parties,' and then proceeded to the refrigerator. Moments later, the cops showed up and arrested all of us. That's exactly how innocent it was. When the Confidential article came out, though, I thought my career was over."


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Hunter with Divine in "Polyester"


Hunter's career cooled in the '60 and '70s, but he experienced a revival in the outrageous John Waters film "Polyester" (1981), in which his leading lady was drag legend Divine. He went on to sing "Reproduction in "Grease 2" (1982) and to again spoof his matinee-idol image in "Lust in the Dust," again opposite Divine.


Tab Hunter with Producer Allan Carr and Co Star Lorna Luft
Hunter with Producer Allan Carr and Co-Star Lorna Luft at the

"Grease 2" Premiere in 1982



In 2015, Hunter's longtime partner Allan Glaser produced "Tab Hunter Confidential," directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, in which Hunter opened up about his childhood, his optimistic approach to his career's ups and downs, and what it was like to be gay during the Golden Age of Hollywood. It was based on Hunter's well-received 2005 memoir of the same name.


 Tab Hunter and Allan Glaser in 2015

Hunter with Partner Allan Glaser in 2015


 Tab Hunter and Anthony Perkins

Tab Hunter and Long Term Lover Anthony Perkins 


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Tab Hunter Tony Perkins


His love affair with fellow closeted movie star Anthony Perkins, most famous as Norman Bates in "Psycho" (1960), is the subject of a recently confirmed film collaboration between J.J. Abrams and Zachary Quinto.


Movie Tab and TonyTab Hunter and Anthony Perkins movie Billy Magnussen and Andrew Garfield

Proposed Cast for Tab Hunter and Anthony Perkins Movie

Billy Magnussen and Andrew Garfield

Tab Hunter with Cast of The Boys in teh Band

In June, 2018 Tab Hunter attended Broadway's "The Boys in the Band," and was posing with all of the cast members (Except for Jim Parsons who was Recovering from a Minor Foot Fracture).




Natalie Wood and Tab Hunter arriving at the 28th Academy Awards 1956 cropped

Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood Arriving at the 28th Academy Awards in 1956


Tab Hunter shared this wonderful coming out advice before he died:  


“For young people coming to terms with their sexuality today, all I can say is, be true to yourself. Geraldine Page once told me, (The press loved her. They hated my guts.) ‘If people don’t like you, that’s their bad taste.’ I needed to hear that, and I’d like to pass that on to all of you. Just remember... If people don’t like you, that’s their bad taste.” 


Tab Hunter Autograph


Tab Hunter didn’t come out as gay until later in his life. He came out in 2005 when he released his autobiography "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star" (2005). Tab died from complications of a blood clot in his leg that caused cardiac arrest. According to his partner Glaser, whom he had been with since 1983, Hunter’s death was “sudden and unexpected”.