Tab Hunter, 50s heartthrob and gay icon, dies at the age of 86

Tab Hunter's partner, Allan Glaser, revealed that the cause of his death was a blood clot that led to cardiac arrest

                            Tab Hunter, 50s heartthrob and gay icon, dies at the age of 86
Tab Hunter (Source: Getty Images)

Tab Hunter, Hollywood's heartthrob from the 1950s, is no more. The "Battle Cry" actor died on Sunday at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California. Allan Glaser, who had been his partner for 35 years, confirmed the news of his passing to CNN. Hunter was 86; Glaser said that the cause of his death was a blood clot that led to cardiac arrest. Hunter had always sparked speculation among his peers in Hollywood over his sexuality and only confirmed it in 2005 in his autobiography "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star."

It was his blond hair, blue eyes and an ever charming smile that made him so popular among the fans - especially with performances in "Damn Yankees."

"We were walking home and he collapsed in my arms in our front yard," Glaser shared with CNN. "He said he couldn't breathe, so I called 911, and we went to the hospital." He also added: "This was sudden and unexpected. He was athletic, more like a 60-year-old, not an 86-year-old."

Hunter was born Arthur Andrew Kelm in New York City and then raised in California. After his parents split, a young Hunter, his mother and his brother, all started using her maiden name "Gelien." Hunter was just 15 when he ran off to join the Coast Guard, from where he was eventually dismissed for having lied about his age. 

While working at horse stables near Los Angeles, he was finally spotted by Dick Clayton, who had then encouraged him to consider acting seriously and had set him up with agent Henry Wilson. Wilson then gave him the stage name 'Tab Hunter' and soon he signed with Warner Bros.

His small role in the movie 'Lawless' which happened in 1950, wasn't effective as his only line in the entire movie was cut out. Finally, in 1955, he played a World War II soldier in 'Battle Cry,' which had turned him into a star and then followed his more popular roles in movies like 'The Burning' and 'The Girl He Left Behind.'

Hunter's career in music was also a hit one, and his single 'Young Love' reached iconic levels of success in 1957. 

The very next year arrived his role in the musical 'Damn Yankees!' - something that boosted his career further. But in 1960, he sifted his focus to television, having even paid to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. His career in TV started with the sitcom 'The Tab Hunter Show,' which lasted a season, and paved the way for several other shows during the 1970s, including 'Hawaii Five-O,' 'The Love Boat,' and 'The Six Million Dollar Man.'

Much later in his career, in 2015, Hunter finally opened up about how he had been keeping his sexuality a secret while being hailed a sex symbol. "I never mentioned my sexuality to Warner Bros. at all and they never mentioned it to me, thank God," Hunter told The Hollywood Reporter

Back at his career's prime, 'Confidential' magazine had even published a story about him attending a "pajama party," just to out him. But soon after that arrived his autobiography where he himself came clean and confessed having a relationship with 'Psycho' actor, Anthony Perkins; a movie on their secret love affair is now being produced by JJ Abrams and Zachary Quinto. 

The 2015 documentary 'Tab Hunter: Confidential' - where he had collaborated with Glaser - revolves around his career and closeted Hollywood life. "I just have never been comfortable talking about my sexuality," Hunter had told Slant magazine then. "I think it was easier with the movie 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."