Tommy Kirk, a former teen actor, best known for playing Travis Coates in Old Yeller and several other Disney films, was found dead in his Las Vegas home on Tuesday, 27 September 2021.
He was 79 at the time.
His longtime friend, Paul Petersen II, broke the sad news of Kirk’s demise on Facebook. “Please know that Tommy Kirk loved you, his fans,” he wrote.
“Tommy was gay and estranged from what remains of his blood family. We in A Minor Consideration [a non-profit] supporting past and present young performers] are Tommy’s family. Without apology. We will take care of this. You lifted him up when an industry let him down in 1965. He was not bitter. His church comforted him. May God have mercy on his soul.“
Who is Tommy Kirk?
Tommy Kirk was born in 1941 in Louisville but grew up in Los Angeles County. As a teenager, he appeared in a play at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he was discovered by an agent who helped him to make his screen debut in “The Last of the Old-Time Shooting Sheriffs”, a 1955 episode of TV Reader’s Digest.
From there, his acting career began, and he started to appear in episodes of several TV series, some of which include The Loretta Young Show and Gunsmoke.
He rose to fame when he began to play the role of Joe Hardy in the Hardy Boys series and others like The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure and The Mystery of the Ghost Farm. In 1957, he was cast in Old Yeller, the Disney classic about a boy and his dog.
The film’s success led to many more Disney roles for him. Notably, he played Wilby in The Shaggy Dog, Ernst in Swiss Family Robinson, and Biff Hawk in The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel, Son of Flubber.
In 1973, Kirk publicly came out as gay, and this affected his acting career. He later admitted to struggling with drugs and eventually ended his acting career.
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