Actor Tab Hunter, star of 'Damn Yankees' movie, dies age 86

Actor Tab Hunter arrives at The Hollywood Reporter's Academy Awards Nominees Night at Spago on Monday

'Damn Yankees!' star Tab Hunter dead at 86

"Tab passed away tonight three days shy of his 87th birthday", Hunter's Facebook page announced.

The cause was cardiac arrest triggered by a blood clot in his leg, said his husband, producer Allan Glaser.

While Tab Hunter's studio publicized staged romances with likes of Natalie Wood, the heartthrob actor was involved with a champion figure skater named Ronnie Robertson and with Anthony Perkins, who beat out Hunter for the role of Norman Bates in the film version of "Psycho".

Hunter confirmed he was gay in his 2005 autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. He later pursued an acting career after his time in the service, changing his name to Tab Hunter. He was 86 years old.

Tab Hunter enjoyed success as a 1950s film star.

A list of Hunter's co-stars reads like a who's who of Hollywood, and includs John Wayne, Lana Turner, Natalie Wood, Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Vincent Price, Divine and many others.

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Born Arthur Andrew Kelm on July 11, 1931, in New York City, he moved to California with his mother and brother after his parents divorced, where they resumed their mother's maiden name of Gelien.

Glaser described his partner of three decades' death as "unexpected and sudden". His slide followed the classic pattern: "to a television series (The Tab Hunter Show, on NBC, 1960-62); European films (The Golden Arrow) and cheap kid flicks (Ride the Wild Surf") In his memoir, he took pains to note that Ride the Wild Surf was his only beach-party movie.

His singing talents were also heard on the radio; his 1957 song "Young Love" was a No. 1 hit for six weeks, beating out Elvis Presley.

Variety reports he accepted his role as a symbol of the gay rights movement in a 2015 documentary, "Tab Hunter Confidential". The film helped introduce Hunter to a younger audience, some of whom were unfamiliar with his pin-up past.

"I believed, wholeheartedly - still do - that a person's happiness depends on being true to themselves", Hunter said. She said Hunter was always the "most humble, ordinary guy you could possibly meet".

After living in New Mexico for a time, Hunter returned to live in a home in Montecito in Santa Barbara County with Glaser. "I'm very grateful for this road that I've been on - it's been a good one. And I look up there and I think I've contributed", Hunter told The Hollywood Reporter.

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