Tommy Kirk Dies: Child Star Of ‘Old Yeller’, ‘The Shaggy Dog’ Was 79

It was very hard to meet people and, at that time, there was no place to go to socialize. "I consider my teenage years as being desperately unhappy," Kirk said in the interview. "I knew I was gay, but I had no outlet for my feelings. The lifestyle was not recognized and I was very, very lonely. Oh, I had some brief, very passionate encounters and as a teenager I had some affairs, but they were always stolen, back alley kind of things. They were desperate and miserable. It wasn't until the early '60s that I began to hear of places where gays congregated.
It was all going to come to an end." "When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn't going to change. I didn't know what the consequences would be, but I had the definite feeling that it was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career.
Tommy Kirk, one of Disney's major young stars of the 1950s and early '60s with performances in generational touchstone films such as Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog and Son of Flubber, has died at the age of 79.
Though he left the Disney youth films behind, Kirk went on to appear in a string of the beach party movies of the mid-1960s, as well as various low-budget sci-fi films like Village of the Giants, opposite Beau Bridges and Ron Howard, in 1965, and, in 1968, Mars Needs Women. He would continue to make sporadic appearances throughout the 1990s and early 2000s in films such as Billy Frankenstein (1998) and The Education of a Vampire (2001).
He lived alone in Las Vegas, close to his friend…and “Ol Yeller” co-star, Bev Washburn…and it was she who called me this morning. We in A Minor Consideration are Tommy’s family. "My friend of many decades, Tommy Kirk, was found dead last night," writes Petersen, who has long been an advocate for child actors through his organization A Minor Consideration, adding, "Tommy was intensely private. Tommy was gay and estranged from what remains of his blood-family. Without apology.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Kirk hadn't yet reached his second birthday when he and his family moved to Downey, California, and by the mid-1950s was cast as Joe Hardy, opposite Tim Considine's Frank Hardy, in The Mickey Mouse Club serial adventure The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure."
His death was announced on Facebook by friend and fellow child star Paul Petersen.
We will take care of this."
Kirk said in a 1993 interview with Filmfax magazine writer Kevin Minton that he realized he was gay at age 17 or 18, and that his sexual orientation all but destroyed his career. After they found out I was involved with someone, that was the end of Disney.” “Disney was a family film studio and I was supposed to be their young leading man.
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