Tab Hunter, 'Damn Yankees' Star, Dies at 86

Tab Hunter, the 1950s heartthrob best known for his role as Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees, has died. He was 86.

tab-hunter_Silver Screen Collection : Contributor
(Photo: Silver Screen Collection / Contributor, Getty)

A Facebook page linked to the actor and singer who had a No. 1 record announced his passing and a spokesman for Hunter confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that he died from a blood clot on Sunday.

"SAD NEWS: Tab passed away tonight three days shy of his 87th birthday. Please honor his memory by saying a prayer on his behalf. He would have liked that," the post from the Facebook page read.

Hunter died in Santa Barbara on Sunday, just shy of his 87th birthday.

At the height of his career, which included the hit movie Battle Cry (for which he beat out James Dean and Paul Newman) and chart-topping records like "Young Love" (which replaced Elvis Presley's "Too Much"), he was dogged by rumors that he was gay — a rumor that could potentially end a career in the conservative era. Variety reports that he was at one point "outed" by the gossip magazine Confidential.

Hunter came out as gay in 2005 when he published his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. He wrote about publicity stunts coordinated by studios to mask his homosexuality, like when he was linked to co-stars and friends like Debbie Reynolds and Natalie Wood.

Although he became a gay icon, he said in 2015 that he was never fully comfortable discussing his sexuality.

“I just have never been comfortable talking about my sexuality," Hunter told Slant at the time. "I think it was easier with [the documentary] 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.”

In fact, he may have only revealed that he was gay because he wanted to get in front of the story. He said that he had been told by producer Allan Glaser, his romantic partner for more than three decades, that someone was planning to write a book about him.

"I thought, 'Look, get it from the horse's mouth and not from some horse's ass after I'm dead and gone,'" he told THR in 2015. "I didn't want someone putting a spin on my life."

A feature documentary about him, Tab Hunter Confidential, was released in 2015 and produced by Glaser.

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"If I had come out during my acting career in the 1950s, I would not have had a career," Hunter said in a 2017 interview with the Pocono Record. "Not much in Hollywood has changed in 60 years. I really didn't talk about my sexuality until I wrote my autobiography."

"My film career had long since been over by then. I believe one's sexuality is one's own business. I really don't go around discussing it. Call me 'old school' on that topic."