“McQueen, well, he’s the guy on his horse, the guy alone. He has his own code of honor, his own code of ethics, his own rules of living. He never, ever tries to impress the women, but he always gets the girl.”
-Donal Logue on Steve McQueen.
In contemporary fashion, the living enjoys pontificating judgment upon the dead. This has always been a thing, regarding our species, there has always been Men and Women, who can shake angry little fingers at those recently or long dead cold. Get good with that. It’s casual, and self-supportive of the ego, it facilitates our own sense of vulnerable nervousness relating towards our own mortality while not sharing the same eternal freeze of those the subject of scorn. So here is a figure the majority via film in global culture recognizes, and breathlessly defends, the Child Sexual Trauma Survivor, Dyslexic, Slightly Deaf, Alcoholic, Marine, Misogynistic, Patriotic, Drug Addicted, Loving Father, Complex immoral Hero / Anti-Hero; Mr. Steve McQueen.
“Whenever Ali MacGraw’s agent called, her husband would slam down the phone. No way was he going to allow his young wife to resume her career, even if she was the hottest female star in Hollywood. As far as Steve McQueen was concerned, Ali was better off barefoot and pregnant, serving him up meat and potatoes at 6pm precisely, which he’d devour alone in front of the TV. Which is why the star of Love Story and Goodbye Columbus simply stopped making movies for five years.”
Steve McQueen’s mother was an alcoholic Teenage prostitute, she often subjected him, as a boy to an infinite series of midnight customers and many of whom would then visit McQueen’s childhood room after the transaction was completed within his Mother’s chamber. As a boy, he was molested and raped, brutally. Even after a loving uncle took him into his home in Missouri his Mother would emotionally persuade the family that she had “changed”, she related she suddenly was “all better”. Relenting to her pleas, eventually McQueen was briefly reunited with his Mother before bolting from her Los Angeles apartment to seek solace on the mean streets of LA. Eventually, he decided to join the United States Marine Corps in 1947. At the time of his enlistment, he was working as a “Towel Boy” in a Brothel and was paid a competitive wage, with extracurricular benefits.
“It was all very pleasant just lying in the sun and watching the girls go by, but one day I suddenly felt bored with hanging around and went and joined the Marines.” -Steve McQueen.
There is an image most Americans have of Marines; brave, fierce & strong, yet somehow, for whatever insane reason, some to most Americans believe Marines are pious choir boys meticulously ironing their pleated khaki’s in between knelt labored sessions in stuffy Roman Catholic confessional booths. Hilarious and equally hilariously untrue. McQueen was damaged, and he desired to damage others, as trauma seeks to traumatize and pain painfully, loves pain. What makes a good Marine? Obedience? Bravery? Ferocity? Selflessness? Fuck You – Pay Me? I humbly believe it is all of these, with a dash of other ingredients as one should not attempt nor can NOT run mainline syringes of character traits to success prediction within every individual as all of us are vastly different creatures due only to a singular non-negotiable fact, no two frontal lobes are absolutely identical.
Seven times in ten months….SEVEN!…McQueen was busted back to Private by his command, which was an armor unit (Tanks). He was often visibly intoxicated off hours and discreetly intoxicated on duty. “I don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it” he was PFC Anarchy. Three things PFC Anarchy – McQueen loved; in no particular order, Fighting, Drinking and Pussy. Eventually, the law won after he was captured following a two week drunken AWOL sex-fighting-booze melee with a girlfriend resulting in a luxurious 41-day accommodation in military prison. At the time he medically complained, of chest and extreme abdominal pain which some reasonably attribute to minor, acute pancreatic inflammation and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Emotionally, McQueen professed his time in the Brig was necessary and “transformative”.
Months after his release he was engaged in Arctic operations in support of his unit and saved the lives of five men within a sinking tank that had broken through the sea ice. Decorated for his selfless heroics McQueen was ordered to service aboard President Truman’s Presidential Yacht on the Potomac River in Washington D.C before he was honorably discharged in 1950. Officially, McQueen had the following to say about his time in the Corps: “The Marines gave me the discipline I could live with. By the time I got out, I could deal with things on a more realistic level. All in all, despite my problems, I liked my time in the Marines,” -Steve McQueen. His resume unofficially had the following citations: Enumerable drunken brawls, 3 stabbings, two with a pool cue and one with a broken bottle, several cars stolen, at minimum: 3 pregnancies, all 3 resulting in miscarriages, the sexual conquest of a Major’s wife (Complete with “Brisk” anal intercourse as barracks boasted later in his enlistment), and two other unconfirmed tales of his life-saving heroism, a car accident, and one incident in which McQueen allegedly disarmed a robber and took his weapon from him after laying him out cold then escaping as he was AWOL from the Corps.
Following his discharge, he relocated and on the recommendation from a transient friend, took up acting as he had already made it that far in his life successfully pretending “to be – as if”, in many other mortal roles. As a Hustler McQueen had a specific utility, he could lease pleasure for personal accommodation from Women and did, most notably in 1952 when he met, and then moved in with established performance Filipino actress – artist Neile Adams. Married from 1956-1972 McQueen siphoned her wages purchasing new cars, narcotics, and libations to entice attraction from young starlets and he was demonically successful as his own star rose within the lit backdrop of a post-war Hollywood. He divorced Neile and pulled a Tom Cruise by marrying Actress Ali McGraw in 1973, who at the time was the hottest, highest paid actress on planet Earth. Divorcing her in 1978 after 5 years of marriage he married fashion model Ms. Barbara Minty in early 1980 and died of Malignant mesothelioma in Juarez, Mexico on 7 November later that year.
I’ll humbly inform the outraged masses there is no legal crime or matching penalty afforded to the consensual promiscuous. While sleeping with more women than mattresses exist may be detrimental to a marriage and grounds for divorce, it is certainly not a crime. Not a single allegation of rape, befell his name, ever. Not a single allegation of mistreatment by his hand from his mistresses surfaced, not even after his death when all the dirt really comes off in the bath, nothing. Actor James Garner, a rival of McQueen’s who once lived in an apartment directly beneath and adjacent to his, whose patio, nightly was showered in McQueen’s urine as an overt affront lamented “I did not like him, yet I could not blame him, I recognized a benevolent, yet wounded and prideful Man, almost a spiteful soul, who was so pleased with his ability to survive, he never considered how much love he could have generated for himself in any other form but vanity. It might not have been vanity, it simply might have been, simply him”. The urination of Garners Patio occurred nightly until Garner moved, McQueen moved months later. McQueen never issued an apology and it’s rumored on each occasion he saw Garner socially he’d shake his hand and whisper “Get fucked old Man” into his ear.
The Rolling Stones in 1973 referred to McQueen in their hit song “Star Star” from the album Goats Head Soup for which an amused McQueen was unofficially delighted by their lyrics: “Star fucker, star fucker, star fucker, star fucker star/ Yes you are, yes you are, yes you are/Yeah, Ali MacGraw got mad with you/For givin’ head to Steve McQueen”.
“By the time of The Getaway, McQueen was the world’s highest-paid actor, but after 1974’s The Towering Inferno, co-starring with his long-time professional rival Paul Newman and reuniting him with Dunaway, became a tremendous box-office success, McQueen all but disappeared from the public eye, to focus on motorcycle racing and traveling around the country in a motor home and on his vintage Indian motorcycles. He did not return to acting until 1978 with An Enemy of the People, playing against type as a bearded, bespectacled 19th-century doctor in this adaptation of a Henrik Ibsen play. The film was never properly released theatrically.” – Barger, Ralph; Zimmerman, Keith; Zimmerman, Kent (2003). Ridin’ High, Livin’ Free: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories. Harper Paperbacks.
Between 1974 and 1980, he relocated to the American West and actively avoided the trappings of fame, and the film industry. Sickened by his own exposure to the masses and engaged in self-loathing and hedonistic behavior in the years prior to death McQueen became a moral enigma, reversing his course in an amendment to his debauchery rife past existence in younger life. He would mentor youth, including the Boy Scouts of America and reduced to eventual stop his use of all recreational narcotics. Invigorated by his experiences with LSD he would often visit with Native American spiritual elders to consume Peyote and other Hallucinogenic substances in Sweat Lodge Ceremonies in pursuit of spiritual healing. His main interests in the years following his divorce from McGraw were riding horses, “Dog Wrestling” (McQueen was a lifelong dog lover, he bred several large hunting and livestock protection breeds) racing automobiles, motorcycles, aircraft, “getting fat and spending time watching my kids grow”, working with the animals of his Idaho-based Ranch, and “I’d like giving something back as I took nearly all of it.” -Steve McQueen, 1979.
McQueen expressed interest in the Rambo character in First Blood when David Morrell’s novel appeared in 1972, but the producers rejected him because of his age. Director Steven Spielberg said McQueen was his first choice for the character of Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Spielberg met him at a bar, where McQueen drank beer after beer. Before leaving, McQueen told Spielberg that he could not accept the role because he was unable to cry on cue. Spielberg offered to take the crying scene out of the story, but McQueen demurred, saying that it was the best scene in the script. The role eventually went to Richard Dreyfuss.
He was authentic and vulnerable. Coldly gregarious and bound to only his children as their subject, he was bold, allergic to romantic intimacy, undomesticated, and was more genuine than he ever was wicked. His last two films were loosely based on true stories; Tom Horn, and The Hunter, both released in 1980, the year of his death. Always on the run, running from one handsome face in the mirror;
“When I did The Great Escape, I kept thinking, ‘If they were making a movie of my life, that’s what they’d call it—the great escape.” -Steve McQueen.
1930-1980. Semper Fi.