Steve McQueen As He Was…
Sic transit gloria mundi…
Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Gregory Peck, Steve McQueen–these were the actors of my mother’s generation that I grew up to appreciate. In modern parlance, McQueen could be called a bit of a thug. He once ran with a street gang. He engaged in petty theft. But he stopped short of becoming a full-time criminal or never-do-well, channeling his rebellion against society (and his alcoholic mother) into acting, and fast and faster motorcycles and cars.
Granted, in real life, McQueen was less appealing. He was hot-tempered and volatile. He was super sexist, and his first wife, the Filipino American actress Neile Adams, could testify to that, but I can ascribe that to what happened when he was a child and as a youth. He was a conservative Republican who supported the Vietnam War–and that was his bow to the Marines that helped to straighten him out. That jazz theme music to some of his films? Not just an accident of film composers like Lalo Schiffrin. It was real: McQueen mainlined the likes of Miles, Sonny Rollins, Basie and all the swingers and be-boppers ’till the day he died, cementing his white hipster cred and those black turtlenecks. And yet he blew weed, and later sported hippie beards. He became a born-again Christian before mesothelioma and cigarettes took his life. Who knows what kind of sh*t he would have stirred up if he had lived.
I almost forgot. In a “what might have been,” substitute Kevin Costner’s performance in The Bodyguard for Stevie Mac’s. For it was in the Seventies that McQueen had been chosen to play a bodyguard to diva Diana Ross, whose acting career had begun at that time. In a homage to McQueen, Costner had his hair cut and shaped just like McQueen’s and adopted his sharp, cool, dead stare and demeanor. Costner, though, stopped short of adopting the shoulder holster like McQueen sported in Bullitt for his gun. (I think that it might have gotten in the way of the suspenders Costner wore.) The film with McQueen and Ross, for one reason or another, never got made.
Who can forget McQueen on TV in Wanted: Dead or Alive? Or on the big screen in Bullitt, The Sand Pebbles or The Great Escape? Even in some of the comedic duds like The Honeymoon Machine, he looked good. Real good. Wiry and tough. Mister White Cool. The King of Cool.
John Dominis was commissioned by LIFE magazine in the Sixties to chronicle McQueen in 1963. These twenty photos, including the booty pictures, have never been released until now.
Enjoy ladies. And gentlemen…;D