The Original Action Man

First things first, I was actually going to leave posting for the rest of the week, as the show is on Friday and I’m in rehearsals most days.

However, a cheery blog called We Heart Vintage, posted this picture of the King of Cool, Steve McQueen, and whilst I don’t normally do “vintage men” or in this case, eye candy – this picture did make me smile.

Steve McQueen, making tea, John Dominis, Life Magazine 1963

It also reminded of a great post that the Selvedge Yard did – and I love the way Jon Patrick writes (it’s all vintage, but from a man’s perspective) so I thought I would share it with you.

The story is true rags to riches and the pictures, well they’re just rather delicious – is there anything this man couldn’t do?

Deep sigh everyone…….

Steve McQueen, American Flag

“I live for myself and I answer to nobody.”– Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen personified the “anti-hero” in Hollywood at a time when the emerging counterculture in America was challenging the very definition of what a true “hero” is.  Maybe a better way to look at it is– heroism is an act.  To live an idealistic, heroic life without fault is ultimately impossible.  We all struggle with aligning our beliefs and goals in life with what is truly right.  The fact is there are grey areas that we have to be honest about.  We saw the good and bad in McQueen, and loved him anyway– in fact, we loved him for it.  He was honest about who he was.

Steve McQueen, racing bike, Sports Illustrated

We all know McQueen raced cars and motorcycles, but his story goes a lot deeper than that.  His father abandoned him and his alcoholic mother when he was just six-months-old.  Steve locked horns with his new stepfather, whom he called “a prime son of a bitch”.  He struggled with dyslexia in school and was partially deaf.  

The young McQueen soon fell in with a street gang, and ran away from home at 14, joining the circus for a short time, and was eventually turned over to the California Junior Boys Republic in Chino Hills, California.  McQueen later worked in a brothel, on an oil rigger– and was even a lumberjack. When he was old enough he enlisted in the U.S.M.C., went AWOL and spent 41 days in the brig.  McQueen decided then and there to embrace the Marines’ discipline and beliefs and better himself. He did just that and later saved the lives of five other Marines during an Arctic exercise, pulling them from a tank before it broke through ice into the sea.  In 1950, McQueen was eventually honorably discharged.

Steve McQueen playing basketball

After the Marines, McQueen used his G.I. Bill to study acting at Sanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse. He brought home extra dough by competing in weekend motorcycle races at Long Island City Raceway.  His big break came in 1958 when he landed the role of the bounty hunter, Josh Randall, in Wanted: Dead or Alive.  Steve McQueen became a household name, and his image as the anti-hero was forged through his character’s detached, mysterious, and unconventional ways– like carrying a sawed-off Winchester rifle, the “Mare’s Leg”, instead of typical six-gun carried by other gunslingers. Hollywood soon came calling, and the rest is history.

All this from a kid born into what many would consider a throw-away life. The Selvedge Yard

Steve McQueen shooting at home, John Dominis, Life Magazine

Steve McQueen back of a truck, John Dominis, Life Magazine

Last but definitely not least…(sorry, couldn’t resist it!)

Steve McQueen, John Dominis, Life Magazine, naked in the back yard

I must say my brother’s action man looked incredibly similar to the King of Cool, he had the blonde one, of course.

My Sindy doll was one lucky lady!

“When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it.”– Steve McQueen

(Last three images taken by Jon Dominis for Life Magazine 1963)


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