RIP Tab Hunter (1931-2018)

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday July 10, 2018
Share this Post:

Arthur Andrew Kelm has died, age 86. World famous as Tab Hunter, he became an iconic heartthrob in 1950s Hollywood and also enjoyed a successful career as a recording artist.

Hunter rose to prominence with his starring role in the WWII drama "Battle Cry" (1955). "Battle Cry" was one of the year's most successful films, and Hunter, a contract player at Warner Brothers, went on to star in many more hit films, including the big-screen version of the hit Broadway musical "Damn Yankees" (1958). He also co-starred with superstar Natalie Wood in a pair of films, "The Burning Hills" and "The Girl He Left Behind" (both 1956).

Throughout his career Hunter carried a secret. He was a gay man at a time when coming out meant career suicide. He went out on studio-manufactured dates with Wood, causing Hollywood insiders to quip "Natalie would, Tab wouldn't."

Hunter's music career was as successful as his film career. In 1957 he enjoyed a #1 hit with the rock-and-roll song "Young Love," which sold over a million copies and was certified gold.

In 1961, after failing to secure the role of Tony in the classic musical "West Side Story," Hunter agreed to star in a weekly television series. "The Tab Hunter Show" was only a moderate success and was cancelled after one season.

Throughout his career Hunter appeared in dozens of films, and even appeared on Broadway opposite theater legend Tallulah Bankhead in openly gay writer Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore." He remained closeted about his sexuality throughout most of his life.

In 1981 Hunter agreed to appear with the outrageous drag queen Divine in gay director John Waters' "Polyester." Though many consider this his coming out film, Hunter continued to refuse to discuss his private life. He was reteamed with Divine in the Western spoof "Lust in the Dust" (1984).

Hunter did come out in 2005 with the publication of his autobiography "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star." In interviews he stated that he wrote the well-received book after he heard that someone else was planning to write a book about him. He said that he didn't want his story to be told by "some shmuck who doesn't even know me." "Tab Hunter Confidential" was turned into an acclaimed documentary in 2015.

On June 8, Hunter died of a blood clot that caused a heart attack. At the time of his death he had been with his partner Allan Glaser for over 30 years.