Actor revealed his closeted life in Hollywood, first in memoir and later in Jeffrey Schwarz film
Fans and friends of Tab Hunter are paying tribute to the actor who became a Hollywood leading man in the 1950s and later revealed his life as a closeted gay man in the studio system. Hunter died of cardiac arrest on Sunday in Santa Barbara, California, his partner Allan Glaser confirmed. He was 86.
Actor Matt Bomer posted condolences on Instagram, writing, "Grateful that we were able to meet the incredible Tab Hunter and thank him for his authenticity and courage."
Broadway and film star Harvey Fierstein tweeted of Hunter, "The gawjuss gay icon, and true gentleman, has left the building. We shared some good laughs back in the 80’s. I was always fond of this dear man."
Choreographer Matthew Bourne tweeted, "RIP Tab Hunter -- one of the most charming men I ever met."
George Takei, a fellow actor who also came out publicly later in his career, offered his own tribute on social media, calling Hunter "so much more than a teen heartthrob."
Actor Zachary Quinto, who is set to play Anthony Perkins in Tab & Tony, an upcoming film about the secret love affair that blossomed between the stars, posted on Instagram, "I was honored to get to know him in the past year and am so grateful to have experienced his sheer joy and love of life. and what a life! such a rich experience. such a vital and generous nature."
Among those mourning Hunter's passing is filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz, who directed Tab Hunter Confidential, a 2015 documentary that sprang from the star's memoir of the same title. In the film Hunt spoke of his rise to fame and the challenge of maintaining the false image of a straight hunk in the deeply homophobic era of the 1950s. He also talked about his romance with Perkins, another leading man encouraged to publicly hide his sexuality.
Schwarz wrote on Facebook, "This is how I’d like to remember him - completely at peace, living life on his own terms, happy and grateful for every day. A intensely private man, he bravely stepped outside his comfort zone to share his story in the documentary we made together."
He added, "Tab hoped his journey might help others to love and accept themselves. Although he’d probably laugh and brush it off, Tab did just that for people all over the world. His faith sustained him and he often spoke about knowing where he was going when he left this world behind. His was a life well lived, with very few regrets."
Tab Hunter Confidential is available on Netflix, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon and Google Play.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.