Actor and Montecito Resident Tab Hunter Dies at 86
Tab Hunter at the premiere of his film "Tab Hunter: Confidential" (Facebook photo)
Hollywood actor, singer, author, and longtime Montecito resident Tab Hunter died on Monday at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. He was 86, passing three days before his 87th birthday.
He collapsed on Sunday in the arms of his husband of 35 years, Allan Glaser, at their home before being rushed to the hospital. Hunter then went into cardiac arrest after a blood clot in his leg traveled to his lung. "It was sudden and unexpected," Glaser said to the Los Angeles Times.
Hunter starred in more than 40 films and during the 1950s and 1960s, was a well-known Hollywood star and heartthrob known for his "All-American" style and Californian surfer look. At the height of his career he had his own television show, "The Tab Hunter Show," and a hit single with Young Love. He co-starred in films with Debbie Reynolds, John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth, Fred Astaire, and more.
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. At age 15 he joined the U.S. Coast Guard and was eventually discharged for being underage. He then moved to Los Angeles and was discovered by Hollywood's film industry.
An agent created the name Tab Hunter for his first film, The Lawless, a 1950 Western. Two years later he earned a starring role with Linda Darnell in Island of Desire, which almost immediately catapulted his career. Most notably Hunter started opposite John Wayne in The Sea Chase, was the lead in Battle Cry, and starring role in the 1958 musical film Damn Yankees.
Hunter starred in two 1956 films with Natalie Wood where the press ran numerous stories about the rumored love affair. Meanwhile, he hid his relationships with championship skater Ronnie Robertson and actor Tony Perkins. Just last month it was reported a film was in the works by J.J. Abrams about Hunter and Perkins' secret Hollywood romance.
In the 1980's Hunter withdrew from public life with Glaser and wrote an autobiography in 2005, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, which was adapted into a documentary in 2015.
Glaser told the Los Angeles Times that Hunter was a religious man who worked with paralyzed veterans and animals, especially horses. “He was a tremendous human being. If he could do anything to better someone else’s life, he would,” he said.
“I want people to know what a good man he was,” said Glaser. “It was more important that Tab was known for being a good human being. That was most important to him than being an actor and a recording artist. He didn’t place importance on his movie career or his celebrity.”
Hunter is survived by his husband and several nieces and nephews. Plans for a funeral service have not yet been made.