Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Damme Words: My Husband, My Friend

I can't recall whose book it was I was reading on the ol' Kindle when an offer for My Husband, My Friend: A Memoir by Neile Adams McQueen popped up. It's running for a "can't not buy" price of $2.51 and was well worth the money. I'd seen Neile Adams in plenty of interviews about her late husband Steve and knew she was instrumental to his career and there from the start. The book gives you equal shares of biographical accounts of her and her world famous husband. She was doing quite well for herself as a dancer based out of New York City, making 10x what Steve was and got her agents to give the unconventionally handsome actor a shot. It's interesting to see how their lives changed as McQueen became more and more famous thanks to TV show Wanted: Dead or Alive and hit movies The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt among many more. From a small, cramped apartment to multiple homes around California, the two shared a crazy 15 years together.

Neile really highlights the not so glamorous side of being married to a movie star, especially one from a broken home with insecurity issues and a drug habit that included weed, LSD and cocaine. McQueen fell into the trappings of fame, feeling the need to prove his manhood and show the world that he was as sexy as they thought he was. Infidelity plagued the relationship but the one tryst Neile indulged in with Maximilian Schell nearly unraveled her philandering, movie star husband. Neile paints McQueen as funny, caring and adventurous but at the same time extremely insecure and vain as evidenced by his obsession with working out, staring in the mirror and keeping up with all the latest trends in youth culture and fashion. As the years went by and drug use continued, McQueen began to grow extremely paranoid, unable to keep many friends or get excited over movie projects.

References are made to co-star and neighbor James Garner as they were good social friends whose social relationship crumbled after Garner accepted a role McQueen passed on. It would take two years for McQueen to forgive Garner for the inane grudge. Paul Newman served as an early inspiration and mental rival to McQueen but the two eventually became friends over racing and cars then co-starred in mega hit The Towering Inferno after a team up in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid faltered due to McQueen's ego. Dustin Hoffman gets an interesting shout out as McQueen and Neile enjoyed The Graduate but McQueen couldn't believe such a non-handsome guy would ever challenge the dreamy ruggedness of himself or Newman. There's also several amusing references and examples of Steve McQueen's hippy speak that included quotes like "see where this kid's head's at" or "getting clean" as in making amends and personal favorite, "I needs mah time to howl, woman!". As Neile was with McQueen for Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape, it would have been nice to hear more about those sets or co-stars like Charles Bronson and James Coburn. Besides that, a quick and informative read with a somewhat sad behind the scenes look at living in the spotlight.

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