Jack Wrangler dies at 62; 1970s gay porn star

Jack Wrangler was a symbol of self-confidence for many gay men.
(Associated Press)
Associated Press

Jack Wrangler, a ruggedly handsome 1970s-era porn star whose openness about his homosexuality made him a symbol of self-confidence for many gay men, died Tuesday in New York City from complications of lung disease. He was 62.

His life of sometimes surprising turns -- the openly gay star found decades-long love with singer Margaret Whiting -- was chronicled in the documentary “Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon,” released last year.

Born John Stillman in Beverly Hills, the son of TV producer Robert Stillman, Wrangler got his start performing in the religiously themed 1950s NBC series “The Faith of Our Children.” He studied theater at Northwestern University.

As a young man, he was bartending and go-go dancing in the West Hollywood gay community when a role in a San Francisco play sent his career hurtling in a new direction -- under a new last name, borrowed from the label on his plaid work shirt.

His resume grew to include more than 80 adult films, including “A Night at the Adonis” and “The Devil in Miss Jones: Part II.”

He met Whiting, a big-band-era singer whose hits include “That Old Black Magic” and “Moonlight in Vermont,” in the 1970s. Their romance turned tabloid heads: She is 22 years his senior, and Wrangler continued to describe himself as gay even in an interview with the gay magazine the Advocate last fall.

Nonetheless, Wrangler told the Chicago Tribune in 1985 that the two saw “things the same way, comically, professionally and romantically.” The pair eventually married.

He got out of porn after meeting Whiting and turned his attention to theater and cabaret, crafting Whiting’s cabaret acts and several shows around the legacy of songwriter Johnny Mercer, who had fostered her career.