Thursday, November 7, 2013

The King of Cool

November 7th, 1980. The day the King of Cool died.

There has never been anyone like Steve McQueen. The coolest guy ever. Women loved him, and so did men. He was a rascal, and an original. He was straight up.

NOBODY ever had better style. Of course, Cary Grant, Noel Coward, the Duke of Windsor all had perfect taste, beautifully done, but they weren't cool.

Not like McQueen.

                                                       photo: William Claxton

I had a brief encounter with him once. It was at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. He was living there. I was staying for a week, visiting from New York. One of those lucky, unforgettable things, frozen  in time. He was beautiful. Incredibly so, actually. There was a game of cat and mouse, but the mouse shied away, and so it went. Or, didn't. Still, it was amazing to have him around for a time. He was the most charismatic person I have ever met. And, the most masculine. He was like a lion. He absolutely commanded the space around him, in a very cool, laid back way.

In terms of the style part of this blog, there is no beating Steve McQueen. From the Savile Row suits, to the desert boots, white t-shirts, cashmere sweaters and denim, he was unique in the way that Audrey Hepburn was unique. Totally different, much imitated. Clean lines, looked great in anything.

                                             Photo: John Dominis/LIFE magazine

 More LIFE photos- 

                                        Photo: The Thomas Crown Affair/ M-G-M

Photo: William Claxton

                                                       Photo: William Claxton

                                                           Photo: Harper's Bazaar

                                                      Photo: John Dominis/LIFE magazine

                                                      Photo: John Dominis/LIFE magazine

                                                  Photo: John Dominis/LIFE magazine

                                                        Photo: Bullitt/Warner Bros.

                                                    Photo: The Great Escape/United Artists

                                                          Photo: Bullitt/Warner Bros.

                                                Photo: The Thomas Crown Affair/M-G-M

                                                       Photo: Bullitt/Warner Bros.

I met Mr. McQueen's self-proclaimed illegitimate son, Fred Spiker aka "Spike", a couple of years ago, while designing the costumes for a Mitsubishi commercial he was in.

Opinions vary on his claim, but I can say that after spending some time with him, he is eerily similar to Steve McQueen, and it isn't just his face. He's very charismatic, smelled great, looked great. He is an ex-firefighter who smokes like a fiend, likes to tinker with things, especially fire engines, and has had a rough life. He says he is the result of a one night stand, never acknowledged by his father. He had a chip on his shoulder the size of Monaco. Can't say I blamed him. Sitting across from him at lunch a couple of times, I never mentioned any history, but it was very difficult not to think back, and wonder...

 On this day, I'd like to give a nod to that wonderfully wonderful man's and woman's man, who made so many of us smile. The crazy, charming, fabulous, difficult, daredevil, racing roustabout has never been replaced, (although Hollywood tries endlessly. Hello, Kevin Costner and Daniel Craig).

Colin Farrell, Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan and Bruce Willis have all listed McQueen as their hero and inspiration for being an actor. Countless others come into town every week.

Tom Ford did a good job trying to turn Daniel Craig into McQueen in Skyfall, and obviously looks to McQueen as a source in his men's clothing line.


Nobody comes close. 

                                              Photo: The Thomas Crown Affair/M-G-M

                                                                   Racing at Le Mans

                                             Photo: The Thomas Crown Affair/M-G-M

Thanks for the memories, and for your absolute determination to be yourself.

The book by William Claxton is gorgeous.

For more inspiration, here are a few other blogs celebrating the style of the magnificent McQ...

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Jan... McQueen will always be at the top of the man-heap.. love Paul Newman too. I don't know if men actually get to be that guy anymore - and everyone has their unsavory moments - don't they?

    Anyway... love your blog.. and love you!