Richard Chamberlain says he's gay. Now that he's no longer seeking heartthrob roles, the ''Dr. Kildare'' and ''Thorn Birds'' star says he feels secure in coming out

In what may be the least astonishing coming-out-of-the-closet announcement in recent years, Richard Chamberlain has announced he is gay — with a vengeance. For the first time, the 69-year-old actor discusses his sexuality in a new memoir, ‘”Shattered Love,” which he’s been promoting with concurrent public appearances at Gay Pride Month events this month and coming-out announcements in current interviews with People magazine, gay and lesbian magazine The Advocate, and on Sunday’s ”Dateline” on NBC. ”I can talk about it now because I’m not afraid anymore,” he told ”Dateline.”

These days, Chamberlain lives in Hawaii with his partner of 27 years, whom he identifies in his book only as ”Martin.” (According to E! Online, other sources have named him as Martin Rabbett, the actor and producer who played Chamberlain’s lookalike brother in 1987’s ”Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.”). Chamberlain had long refused to comment on his sexuality, having nurtured a heartthrob image from the days of his 1960s TV series ”Dr. Kildare” to his reign as mini-series king in such 1980s sagas as ”Shogun” and ”The Thorn Birds.” He didn’t even come out in 1997, when he played a gay man dying of AIDS in the little-seen movie ”A River Made to Drown In.” However, he told ”Dateline” on Sunday, ”I’m not a romantic leading man anymore, so I don’t need to nurture that public image anymore.”