Peter White, “All My Children” and “The Boys in the Band” actor, dies at 86

Peter White
Peter White

Cinema Center Films/Getty Images

Peter White, the actor best known for his groundbreaking role in The Boys in the Band, and a recurring stint in All My Children, has died. He was 86.

White died Wednesday in his Los Angeles home after battling melanoma, his former costar Kathleen Noone told The Hollywood Reporter. A star of both stage and screen, White was born in New York City on Oct 10, 1937. He later graduated from Northwestern University and spent time studying acting at the Yale School of Drama.

He began his prolific career in soaps, as Jerry Ames on CBS' The Secret Storm. He also appeared on an episode of N.Y.P.D., but the real launch of White's career came with his role in the original 1968 cast of the hit off-Broadway play, The Boys in the Band.

Peter White
Peter White

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Peter White

The groundbreaking piece of theater portrayed gay life in New York — post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS — through a group of queer friends who come together for a birthday party. Penned by Mart Crowley, the play was considered daring for its time, when most gay characters were demonized, dismissed, or simply subtextual. White told Soap Opera Digest in 2008 that he nearly passed on a role in the provocative play.

"Things were sort of really moving for me," he recalled. "I was doing so well, and I thought, 'I don't need this kind of risk.'"

After a mentor figure, actress Myrna Lot, encouraged him to take some risks, White seized his chance and originated the role of the sexually ambiguous Alan McCarthy. The play opened off-Broadway at Theater Four in April 1968, and closed two years later.

"Opening night, none of us knew what we had," White said of the production. "We all just thought, 'It's a play, it's something new, it's different and it's good.' It was a 100 percent gay audience — and then the next day, it went crazy! We got a call to come to the theater early, because there was such a crowd around the theater, you couldn't get near it. Everyone at the time wanted to call it a gay play — [I always thought] it wasn't [so much] a gay play [as] it was a play with gay characters."

Several revivals followed, including the 2019 production, which won the Tony award for Best Revival of a play. The Boys in the Band also spawned two feature films: the original, directed by William Friedkin, saw White reprise the role of Alan.

Another of Alan's notable roles came in 1974, when he first portrayed Lincoln Tyler, the son of stern matriarch Phoebe Tyler (Ruth Warrick), in All My Children. He was the third actor to fill the role, and reappeared throughout four decades — all the way through 2005.

White continued his prolific career with guest-appearances in The X-Files, The Jeffersons, Hart to Hart, Dynasty, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The West Wing and Ally McBeal. His film credits include Dave, Flubber, Armageddon, and First Daughter.

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