Actor and 50’s teenage heartthrob Tab Hunter died July 8 just three days short of his 87th birthday as the result of a bllod clot. Partner Allan Glaser said that Hunter’s death was “sudden and unexpected.”
Like many stars of the day, Hunter was an actor and singer in the fifties. He had a hit with the song “Young Love” in 1957.
An object of the desires of millions of teenage girls, Hunter could not reveal his true self – that of being a gay man; he instead had to appear to be a “confirmed bachelor” and hide any relationship.
Hunter made his screen debut in 1950 in “The Lawless” and while he is best known for his performance in the film adaptation of “Damn Yankees”, Hunter broke out on the scene as a teen idol in 1952 after appearing shirtless in “Island of Desire”.
Appearing in over 75 film and television productions, Hunter’s other roles include “Return to Treasure Island”, “Battle Cry”, the TV series “Conflict”, “Climax”, “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates”, “Meet Me in St. Louis”, 32 episodes of “The Tab Hunter Show”, “The Pleasure of His Company”, “The Golden Arrow”, “Combat”, “Man with Two Faces”, “The Virginian”, “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean”, “The Six Million Dollar Man”, “The Love Boat”, “Hawaii Five-O”, the science teacher Mr Stuart in “Grease 2”, “Benson”, “The Fall Guy”, and his final film role in 1992 in “Dark Horse”.
Hunter also made a number of appearances as himself in variety shows, game shows, talk shows, award ceremonies, documentaries, and “American Bandstand”.
He made only one foray onto the Broadway stage with an appearance in 1964 of the revival play “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”.
He was born Arthur Andrew Kelm on July 11, 1931 in New York City; but when he turned to acting, the story is that talent agent Henry Wilson gave Kelm the stage name of Tab Hunter – tab was slang for name and he liked riding horses (Hunters). After his mechanic father left the family, young Arthur took his German mother’s last name of Gelien. Growing up in California, he lied about his age and joined the Coast Guard when he was only 15. His older brother Walter was killed in Vietnam in October 1965.
Hunter is survived by his long time partner Allan Glaser.
feature photo credit: By Trailer for “Gunman’s Walk” (1958) – Trailer for “Gunman’s Walk” (1958), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29875572