Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Steve McQueen

"In my own mind, I'm not sure that acting is something for a grown man to be doing."
– Steve McQueen


His father abandoned him and his mother was an alcoholic prostitute who seduced him sexually; so did some of her “johns”. A gang member practically from the day he could walk, he bounced back and forth between his mother and grandparents and seemed set for a career as a petty thief and vandal (arson was among his specialties), before ending up in a California reformatory, where he was gang raped. Upon release, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17. Since he was already a fan of bikes and fast cars, he enjoyed his duties as a mechanic and tank driver, but continued to have trouble with authority figures. After three years of military service he drifted around the the Caribbean. In a bordello in Santo Domingo, he hired himself out as a sex object and porn performer. Those early years would lead to McQueen's future problems with authority and relationships.


Gravitating to New York City, he hustled on the streets of Times Square to support his two loves: acting and motorcycles. A little later, in a borrowed tux, he became a "gentleman for rent," the boy toy of rich, aging women, two of whom were Joan Crawford and Lana Turner. When stardom finally came, the abused became the abuser, and sex was his weapon of choice. "The last thing I want is to fall in love with a broad," he said. The string of seductions that followed earned him an almost mythical status as a pansexual Love Machine. His A-list conquests included Jacqueline Bissett, Faye Dunaway, Lauren Hutton, Sharon Tate, Mamie Van Doren, Tuesday Weld, Natalie Wood, and Marilyn Monroe. He married one of them, Ali MacGraw, for whom he abandoned the mother of his two children (and wife of sixteen years), Filipino-born actress Neile Adams.


Publicly, he insisted that he loathed homosexuals (nice try!), yet he often went to bed with them, favoring bikers and race car drivers. To admit to any of this would have meant the end of his acting career. Nevertheless, he had a tumultuous sexual relationship with James Dean, and a longer love/hate affair with Paul Newman. Other sexual relations developed with Peter Lawford, Montgomery Clift, Sal Mineo, Rock Hudson, Chuck Connors, and George Peppard.

By all accounts McQueen was a difficult, prickly individual. He abused drugs, drank to excess, smoked three packs a day and was riddled with self-destructive urges . He landed bit parts in stage dramas and TV episodes, and his role on Dead or Alive made him a bona fide TV star. This led to the film role in The Magnificent Seven, and the rest is a lightning fast trajectory into Hollywood superstardom. Like his onscreen characters, McQueen went his own way and pretty much did what he wanted. He turned down the film Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid because he refused second billing to Paul Newman. He was an independent, sexy movie star whose sense of “cool” defined the era.


In his heyday, with a salary of $5 million a movie, Steve McQueen was the highest paid actor in the world. If you want to see him at his best, watch Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) or The Getaway (1972). In the former he is sexy and appealing; in the latter he is sexy, tough and violent (his costar was future wife Ali MacGraw). McQueen was a good actor and a true cinema icon.

McQueen lived life at top speed, like the machines he raced so famously. Always difficult on film sets, he became a diva, firing crew on a whim. In the end fewer scripts came his way, because he had burned too many bridges. He was well on his way out in Hollywood when he contracted cancer. His early death at age 50 in 1980 remains a source of speculation, all of it explored in a biography by celebrity chronicler Darwin Porter: Steve McQueen, King of Cool: Tales of a Lurid Life. Others were shocked by the sex and violence in this book; I was shocked to learn that he was a staunch Republican and evangelical Christian.

His actor grandson, Steven R. McQueen (Vampire Diaries), is doing his best to follow in the footsteps of his iconic Hollywood relative (finger at right).


Steve McQueen, as sexy as his car, is shown here with one of his signature muscle cars, a 1956 Jaguar XKSS Le Mans racer. Only 16 were produced. This Jaguar was powered by a straight six engine with triple Webers, packing 250 horsepower. It was said to be brain-meltingly loud at 6,000 RPM, and also very pretty – like its owner.

The film Bullitt (1968) contains one of the most influential car chase sequences in movie history. Screeching through the streets of San Francisco, McQueen, in a 1968 green Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback, chases a 1968 black Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum. When McQueen, an accomplished race car driver, overshot a turn and smoked the tires (around the 1:10 mark), it was decided to replace him with a stunt driver. The Mustang’s interior rear view mirror gives clues as to who is behind the wheel. When the mirror is up (visible) McQueen is behind the wheel, and when it is down (not visible) stuntman Ekins is driving. It took more than three weeks to shoot the footage that took up less than ten minutes of screen time in the final edit.




Other than acting, McQueen's great love was fast cars and motorcycles. He filmed a spectacular motorcycle jump in the 1963 film, The Great Escape. Worth checking out. Here he's riding with one hand behind his back.

3 comments:

  1. I LOVED THE GUY ALSO.

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  2. I love him to....I mean REALLY love him....

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  3. I love his Grandson...Steven R. McQueen from The Vampire Diaries

    ReplyDelete