Producer Allan Glaser, Hunter's spouse, said died Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif., of a blood clot in a leg that caused cardiac arrest.
He also was the subject of speculation that he was gay, a fact he would confirm later in his 2005 autobiography "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star".
Hunter had a music career, releasing a hit song "Young Love" in 1957, which sold over one million copies. He was 86 years old.
The pair also co-produced Dark Horse in 1992, about a young girl who, with her beloved horse, is injured and must find the courage to ride again; the film starred Hunter, Ed Begley Jr, Mimi Rogers and Natalie Wood's daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner.
In recent years, Hunter appeared in dinner theaters and organized film projects.
Since his "80s resurgence in the John Waters and Paul Bartel films costarring Divine, Hunter had relaxed into a more self-amused, even self-deprecating attitude about the vast chasm between the man born Arthur Gelien in 1931 and the teen idol manufactured and rechristened Tab Hunter by Henry Willson, the agent behind such creatively named Hollywood hunks as Rock Hudson, Dack Rambo and Troy Donahue".
"This was sudden and unexpected", Glaser added.
He appeared in the likes of "Damn Yankees" and "Battle Cry,"and had chart-topping records such as "Young Love".
Tab Hunter's headshot, circa 1955.
He joined the U.S. Coast Guard at age 15, but eventually was discharged when the service discovered his age.
"We were walking home and he collapsed in my arms in our front yard", Glaser said.
"So sad to wake up to the news of the passing of tab hunter. 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. and such a pioneer of self-acceptance and moving through this world with authenticity as his guide. he will be missed greatly. may he rest in peace". And this guy said, 'Turn around Tab, this is for the next issue of Confidential magazine.' I went, 'Oh God!' and turned away.
Another highlight for Hunter was the 1958 Damn Yankees, an adaptation of the hit Broadway musical about a baseball player (Hunter) who makes a deal with Lucifer. Meanwhile, he hid his relationships with championship skater Ronnie Robertson and actor Tony Perkins. "I never mentioned my sexuality to Warner Bros.at all and they never mentioned it to me, thank God", the actor recalled to THR in 2015. Zachary Quinto, who is now working on a movie about Hunter's life and love with Anthony Perkins, wrote a long tribute to the actor on his Instagram account.