Steve Mcqueen – Was He The Coolest Man on The Planet?
In 1974 Steve McQueen was the highest paid movie star of all, one of the most recognised and envied men in the world. His philosophy, "I live for myself and answer to nobody," was self indulgent but understandable, given his early years.
Steve McQueen was born into trouble. His mother was a teenage prostitute - deserted by McQueen’s father after six months. Steve never knew him but his love of speed and risk taking must have been inherited – his father was a professional stunt man.
McQueen was largely brought up by his mother’s parents and a great uncle. His mother was an alcoholic who could not cope but she did take him back from time to time with disastrous results. Steve and a couple of stepfathers did not get on and he ended up running wild on the streets of LA – then in a Reform School.
For a while he worked as a “towel boy” in a brothel then joined the Marines at 17. After a rocky start he was discharged three years later, a commended soldier who once rescued five comrades from certain death on a training mission. Funded by the GI Bill, McQueen enrolled at an acting school – and began to play the sort of tough guy roles he lived out in real life.
It was this credibility as well as his acting that took him to the top – but most of all it was his startling good looks. Without seeming to try, he could charm almost any woman he met into bed. Charisma was wrapped round him, embedded in every move he made,
The casual look was made for McQueen. His gave it a new social status at a time when suits and ties were more acceptable. The McQueen image of jeans and open neck shirts was laid down in the sixties and has never faded. The look, often with shades, slotted into his racing lifestyle.
In his early years he supported himself by racing in weekend bike events and probably had the talent to be a professional rally driver. Driving at speed was a vital part of his life
His hit film, Bullit, features one of the most watched car chases of all time, round the streets and hills of San Francisco. Four decades later the sequence was used in a Ford commercial. McQueen’s image as the coolest man around still glittered across the years.
The films he’s most remembered for include The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, Bullit and The Thomas Crown Affair.
The blue tinted Persol shades he wore in Thomas Crown were auctioned in 2006 for $70K, his Rolex watch went for $234K in 2009. 31 years after his death there are whole stores devoted to offering the McQueen look.
As his son Chad says, “You can mention a great star like Richard Burton and kids have no idea what he was about. Show them a Steve McQueen picture and they’re onto it straight away.”
One reason why he was known as The King Of Cool.