Almost 20 years after his death Steve McQueen is still ‘The King of Cool’. What’s more his title in not under any serious threat. The McQueen brand is frivolously exploited by advertisers the world over and the family owned company that holds his image rights continues to make handsome profits.
Terence Steven McQueen was born March 1930 in Beech Grove, Indiana, Mid-Western America. He spent most of his teenage years up to no good and after an 18 month spell at the infamous Boys Republic reform school in California, he joined the US marine corps driving tanks for 3 years. By this time he had spent far too long under the spell of authoritative figures and decided to leave to pursue his love for acting, fast cars and motorbikes. His big break came playing Josh Randall in the TV show Wanted: Dead Or Alive. Little did anyone know that he would go on to become a global icon and a movie legend. By the time the show had come to an end in 1961 McQueen had already become a bona fide film star having graced the big screen in The Magnificent Seven. His legendary status was etched in history after his starring roles in The Great Escape, Bullitt, The Getaway and Papillon.
At 5 ft 6″ and just under 11 stone what he lacked in size he certainly made up for with charisma. His smile, those pure blue eyes and his look was all he needed. He learnt very early on that less is more. He seldom spoke and kept his thoughts to himself. Two hours exercise a day kept him lean and mean. Women oozed over him and men wanted to be just like him.
How cool was McQueen?
There is no cool scale available to measure McQueen’s coolness although knowing some of his off screen achievements will make it a little easier to judge.
a) He was good friends with Bruce Lee and had karate and Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s specially devised discipline) tuition from him. He never studied for belts but was thought to possess the skill and discipline of a third dan black belt.
b) His love of cars and motorbikes is well documented and his passion for speed scared the living daylights out of his passengers including one Bruce Lee who experienced a terrifying drive through Mulholland Drive at 140mph. He was a successful racing driver and appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated in 1971.
c) He just about slept with every woman he ever met including Ali MaGraw. They met whist making The Getaway and he managed to seduce her right under the nose of her then husband Robert Evans who was a producer on the movie.
d) He was a fully qualified stuntman and was made an honorary member of Stuntman’s Association of Motion Pictures in 1977.
e) He made president Nixon’s hate list and was pursued by the FBI for showing support to Martin Luther King. Way ahead of his time and most of his famous colleagues.
f) He was somewhat of a fashion guru. He knew what to wear and how to wear it. In the 1970’s when it was trendy to show off your hairy chest MacQueen was often pictured with a bare chest, most probably waxed. Again way ahead of his time.
Taking everything into account, most importantly his films, Steve McQueen registers as the ultimate cool star and most definitely deserves his proclaimed title ‘The King of Cool’. What a hero.
By Moh Deghani, founder of Myego Cosmetics.