Steve McQueen, “The King of Cool”, was the ultimate man’s man. From humble beginnings and a troubled childhood, McQueen rose to heights of fame that few others have achieved. His Hollywood career began with bit parts in westerns and eventually led to his being the most famous and highest paid actor of his time. He parlayed an early fascination with cars and motorcycles into a career as a champion racer, and later as perhaps the most famous collector of vintage automotive machines in the world. Throughout his public life, McQueen exhibited a cool demeanor and style that made him a cultural icon, admired by men, loved by famous and beautiful women, and captured for eternity by the world’s top photographers.
© Sunset Boulevard/Corbis
A television-turned-movie star, McQueen was the sexiest and toughest leading man of his day. Starring in films such as The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt, and The Great Escape, he became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. McQueen was nominated for an Oscar and four Golden Globe awards, and received a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
Although he died in 1980, McQueen continues to be a cultural icon. With his effortlessly cool attitude and style, he is frequently cited by today’s celebrities as the inspiration for their fashion choices and he still graces the covers of top magazines and is seen in major advertising campaigns around the world.
© Sid Avery / mptvimages.com
© Mel Traxel / mptvimages.com
McQueen’s love for anything on wheels was evident. If he wasn’t filming, he could be found cruising Mulholland Drive or doing wheelies in the Mojave Desert. His love for speed made it into most of his films, in which he can be seen doing many of his own stunts. With a long list of races on his resume, one couldn’t be sure if he was more an actor or a racer.
Among Steve McQueen’s many passions was his desire to give back to the community. Often while on a film location, he came across people in need and would always try to find a way to help; whether it meant a financial donation, a visit to a hospital or an orphanage, or buying athletic equipment for a poverty-stricken neighborhood. As a young boy, he lived for several years at the Boys Republic, a school for troubled youth, and he often later credited the institution for helping to get him off the streets and become a productive member of society. For the rest of his life, he continued to donate clothing, money, and time to the Boys Republic. To this day, the McQueen family, along with supporters of the Boys Republic, continue his legacy, and hold the Steve McQueen Car Show every year to support the needs of the school.
“Somewhere, right now, there are kids going through what I went through. Maybe if they know I survived, they can find hope. I can’t promise they’ll ever forget what happened to them. But if they hold out, they’ll get through okay and learn to live with the bad memories…and still learn to love.”
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