Actor Tab Hunter, Star of ‘Damn Yankees!’ Movie, Dies Age 86

Actor Tab Hunter, Star of ‘Damn Yankees!’ Movie, Dies Age 86
In this Oct. 14, 2005, file photo, Hollywood icon Tab Hunter, the blond actor and singer who was the heartthrob of millions of teenage girls in the 1950s, and received new attention decades later when he revealed that he was gay, has died. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

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Tab Hunter, actor and singer in 1950s films like “Battle Cry” and “Damn Yankees!” has died. He was 86.

Hunter died Sunday of a blood clot in his leg that caused cardiac arrest.

In addition to his hit movies, his recording of “Young Love” topped the Billboard pop chart in 1957.

Born Arthur Andrew Kelm, his screen tab (slang for “name” at the time) was created by Henry Willson, the same talent agent who came up with the names Rock Hudson and Rory Calhoun.

The legend goes that Willson said to the young man: “We’ve got to find something to tab you with. Do you have any hobbies?” His client answered, “I ride horses. Hunters.” Agent: “That’s it! We’ll call you Tab Hunter.”

Hunter made a flurry of movies in the latter half of the 1950s, aimed at capitalizing on his popularity with young girls. The films included such war dramas as “Lafayette Escadrille” (Clint Eastwood in a small role). He made the Westerns “The Burning Hills” (Natalie Wood). And he made romantic comedies like “The Pleasure of His Company” (Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds.)

Besides the movies, he displayed his athletic skills—he had been a figure skater as well as horseman—in a TV special, “Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates.”

Over the years, he also played small roles in “The Loved One,” ”The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” and “Grease 2.”

Hunter was born in 1931 in New York City, the second son of a mechanic and his German immigrant wife. His father left the family two years later and the boy took his mother’s name, Gelien. Young Arthur Gelien grew up in San Francisco and Long Beach, California, and joined the Coast Guard at 15, lying about his age.

In 1960, Hunter’s boy-next-door reputation did take a hit when he was charged with cruelty for allegedly beating his dog. (He was acquitted). In recent years, Hunter appeared in dinner theaters and organized film projects.

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