Adult Industry Icon Jack Wrangler Dies at 62

JC Adams
NEW YORK CITY — Actor, producer and adult industry legend Jack Wrangler died today in New York City. He had been suffering from complications from lung disease. Wrangler enjoyed a prolific career encompassing scores of gay and straight adult films throughout the 1970s and '80s, and his life and career was the subject of 2008 documentary "Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon." He was 62 years old.

Wrangler is survived by his wife, cabaret chanteuse Margaret Whiting. Their surprise marriage in 1994 reignited Wrangler's tabloid notoriety, but the partnership endured.

"The world just lost a gay hero," director and Channel 1 Releasing principal Chi Chi LaRue told XBIZ.

His blond, rugged good looks, deep voice and confident swagger came to define masculinity for a generation of gay men. Wrangler was among the first erotic performers to capitalize on his fame with a variety of products and personal appearances at nightclubs and bathhouses.

He first worked as a child actor. Post-adult, Wrangler fostered a successful career as a theatre producer, director and composer, and conceived the 1997 Broadway production "Dream: The Johnny Mercer Musical."

Director Jeffrey Schwarz enticed the reticent performer to be interviewed for the documentary that became "Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon," which last month won the GAYVN Award for Best Alternative Release for its distributor, TLA Releasing.

The film introduced Wrangler to a new generation of fans. Gossip columnist and culture vulture Perez Hilton commemorated the passing on his popular blog, a sign of Wrangler's status as a pop icon.

"Making this film was a great opportunity to pay tribute to a man who lived his life with grace, humor and confidence," Schwarz said. "Jack and the filmmakers he worked with were true pioneers in the industry, and I hope this film can remind us that porn can be revolutionary, inspirational and just plain fun."

"Jack was one of the earlier pioneers in helping to bring awareness to the gay community by being open about who he was and about following his dreams," said Lewis Tice, director of marketing and publicity for TLA Releasing.

"We are deeply saddened as he is an essential part of our gay history. Our sympathies go out to his family."

Wrangler shot roughly 85 gay and straight adult films, including "Behind the Green Door, the Sequel" (1986), "Kansas City Trucking Co." (1976), "A Night at the Adonis" (1978), "Sex Machine" (1980) and "The Devil in Miss Jones: Part II" (1982).

Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized.