Thomas Lee Kirk (born December 10, 1941) is an American former actor and later a businessman. He is best known for his performances in a number of highly popular movies made by Walt Disney Studios such as Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, The Swiss Family Robinson and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, as well as beach-party movies of the mid-1960s.
Kirk said he knew he was gay from an early age:
I consider my teenage years as being desperately unhappy. I knew I was gay, but I had no outlet for my feelings. It was very hard to meet people and, at that time, there was no place to go to socialize. It wasn't until the early '60s that I began to hear of places where gays congregated. 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. 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. It was all going to come to an end.
While filming The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, Kirk started seeing a 15-year-old boy he had met at a local swimming pool. The boy's mother discovered the affair and informed Disney, who elected not to renew Kirk's contract. Kirk was 21 years old. Walt Disney himself fired Kirk after receiving a complaint from the boy's mother. Kirk describes the situation himself: "Even more than MGM, Disney was the most conservative studio in town.... The studio executives were beginning to suspect my homosexuality. Certain people were growing less and less friendly. In 1963, Disney let me go. But Walt asked me to return for the final Merlin Jones movie, The Monkey's Uncle, because the Jones films had been moneymakers for the studio." 
The news was not made public and Kirk soon found a home for himself at American International Pictures (AIP) who were looking for a leading man to co-star with Funicello in a musical they were preparing, The Maid and the Martian; Kirk was cast as a Martian who arrives on Earth and falls in with a bunch of partying teenagers. The movie was later retitled Pajama Party and was a hit, so AIP signed him to star in a follow-up, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.
In the meantime The Misadventures of Merlin Jones had become an unexpected smash hit, earning $4 million in rentals in North America and Disney invited him back to make a sequel, The Monkey's Uncle (1965). He was also cast in a John Wayne film, The Sons of Katie Elder, and it seemed his career was in good shape.
Kirk publicly came out as gay in a 1973 interview with Marvin Jones. At the time he was studying acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, while working as a busboy in a Los Angeles restaurant. He was in "Deadline", a 1973 episode of The Streets of San Francisco (1973) and a feature My Name is Legend (1975).
irk got over his drug addiction and gave up acting in the mid-1970s. He worked as a waiter and a chauffeur before going into the carpet cleaning business in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, an operation which he ran for twenty years. In 1990 he said:
I made a lot of money and I spent it all. No bitterness. No regrets. I did what I did... I wasn't the boy next door anymore. I could pretend to be for a few hours a day in front of the camera. But I couldn't live it. I'm human. I'm not Francis of Assisi.
He continued to act occasionally, including in the R-rated spoof Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold. As of 2006, Kirk had more than thirty feature film roles to his credit. He also enjoyed writing.
I don't blame anybody but myself and my drug abuse for my career going haywire. I'm not ashamed of being gay, never have been, and never will be. For that I make no apologies. I have no animosity toward anybody because the truth is, I wrecked my own career.
Tommy Kirk was inducted as a Disney Legend on October 9, 2006, alongside his former co-stars Tim Considine and Kevin Corcoran. His other repeat co-stars, Annette Funicello and Fred MacMurray, had already been inducted (in 1992 and 1987, respectively). Also in 2006, the first of Kirk's Hardy Boys serials was issued on DVD in the fifth "wave" of the Walt Disney Treasures series.
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