Tab Hunter, Star of Damn Yankees!, Dead at 86

US actor Tab Hunter has died aged 86

Tab Hunter, a tousle-haired actor who established himself as an all-American golden boy in the 1950s, reaching No. 1 at the box office and pop music charts while anxiously hiding his gay identity - a secret that threatened to end his career - died July 8 at a hospital near his home in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Born Arthur Andrew Kelm in 1931, Hunter broke into movies in the 1950 film noir The Lawless after a spell in the coastguard as a teenager: he was given his screen alias by agent Henry Willson, who specialised in the pretty-boy "beefcake" stars of the time, such as Rock Hudson, Chad Everett, and Troy Donahue.

Hunter starred in the 1958 musical film Damn Yankees, in which he played Joe Hardy of Washington, D.C.'s American League baseball club.

Tab Hunter with actress Tuesday Weld in 1959.

Tab Hunter, left, with Divine in Polyester.

The switch carried him through to roles on several shows during the 1970s, including "Hawaii Five-O", "The Love Boat", and "The Six Million Dollar Man". Hunter appeared alongside Divine in John Waters' Polyester in 1981, as well as in 1985's Lust in the Dust, which also co-starred Divine.

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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".

He had been at the height of his career when "Confidential" magazine published a story about him attending a "pajama party", which was meant to out him to fans.

However, he was forced to disguise his sexual orientation and relationships with Anthony Perkins, star of Psycho, and figure skater Ronnie Robertson.

Hunter died on Sunday, according to the official Facebook page for Tab Hunter Confidential. I was just brought up that way. "I think it was easier with the movie because it was quite a few years later after the book".

In June it was announced that JJ Abrams and Zachary Quinto are producing the movie "Tab & Tony" about the secret love affair.

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