"When you're racing, it's life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting." "The King of Cool," on the set of Le Mans, 1971. (1)
In 1980, at the tender age of 50, after pursuing "alternative remedies"
south of the border, McQueen died from malignant mesothelioma. Steve McQueen
is easily the most famous person whose life was cut short by asbestos-induced
mesothelioma. However, 25 years after his death, few people outside "Club
Meso" associate the rare cancer with the "King of Cool."
Neither Steve, nor his wife Barbara, were eager to invite the world into
their hospital or living room during their ordeal. A lawsuit was never
filed. As a result, questions like: what cancer did he die from (was it
"lung cancer" or "mesothelioma") and what caused his
cancer (was it asbestos? And if so, where was he exposed?), have continued
to both evade easy answers and stimulate ponderous speculation.
Last year, to commemorate the 25
th anniversary of Steve McQueen's passing, I made a donation to mesothelioma
medical research in Steve's name. It made sense. My wife and I allowed
a Hollywood movie production to film a few scenes of a soon-to-be released
movie at our house in Dana Point. Out of curiosity, I asked several of
the producers and actors whether they knew that Steve McQueen died from
mesothelioma. Nobody knew it. All of them thought it was your garden variety
lung cancer caused by smoking. We decided to donate the "location
rental fee" to mesothelioma research, partly to help clear the record
that it was asbestos, not cigarettes, that claimed Steve McQueen's life.
A few days later, out of the blue I got a call from Barbara McQueen. I
had heard that the former model was something of a recluse, who essentially
split from the Hollywood scene after her husband died. Barbara called
to thank me. Over the next several months, somewhat reluctantly at first,
Barbara and I talked over the telephone about her experience with Steve
in the final months of his life. Barbara had never granted an interview
before, with the exception of an interview she gave to a Japanese television
station, which aired a documentary about Steve on the 25
th anniversary of his death.
Barbara did not call me because she wanted publicity. Far from it. Even
before she married Steve she preferred the quiet of the desert to the
hustle and bustle of Hollywood. Then and now, she prefers to be left alone.
She certainly does not think of herself as a "do-gooder" or
"crusader," but I'm guessing she decided to speak up because
she genuinely was both incredulous and angry that so little has been done
since her husband died 26 years ago to prevent, treat, and cure mesothelioma.
What follows is our interview, pasted together from several conversations.
The written words do not do justice to the snap, crackle, and pop of Barbara's
delivery. She loves to laugh and wax wacky (her answering machine message
manages to reference both Elvis and her abduction by space aliens). She
tends to look at the bright if not goofy side of life, but when the subject
turned to the last few months of Steve's life, there's a sense
of dread in her voice, like she's having to dredge up memories that
she's tried very hard to suppress for the last 26 years.
RW: It's now been over 25 years since Steve McQueen died from malignant
mesothelioma. Take us back to the time before his diagnosis in late 1979.
What was his health like?
BM: Uggh. That was a long time ago. It was like a blur. I try not to think
about it much. It was such a bewildering time. Actually it was awful.
He was always such a hunk. He took care of his body religiously. We first
met in 1977. He'd get up early and do his martial arts-he was a black
belt in karate. He was supposed to keep that secret from the movie people.
They were always worried he'd hurt himself.
RW: So what prompted Steve to seek medical care in 1979?
Barbara and Steve behind the scenes.
BM: Well, during the shooting of
Tom Horn, we noticed he wasn't feeling as perky. Sort of lethargic. Normally,
Steve was a high energy guy, always busy with his motorcycles, planes,
martial arts or whatever. Then he started getting tired and short of breath.
That was in early 1979. He started having night sweats during
The Hunter, his last movie.
RW: What did he do about it? Did he see a doctor?
BM: Steve was a tough guy. He had a high tolerance for pain. He didn't
talk about it. Finally, his breathing got so bad he went to a doctor in
Santa Paula who took chest films and found some spots.
RW: Did you or Steve suspect anything serious, like cancer?
BM: Not in a million years. He was young, healthy, and full of vigor.
Hunky (laughs). By the way, when I first met Steve, I didn't even know who
he was. I never thought of Steve as the actor. He was a regular guy, deep
down, not a big conceited Hollywood idol.
RW: What do you remember about the day he was diagnosed, which I've
read was around December 22, 1979?
BM: We had been referred to Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. They
wanted to take a look under the hood, so to speak. I was in the waiting
room with friends. The surgeon, Dr. Gold, came out and told me they found
a bunch of tumor in his right lung. At first I was in shock. How could
this happen? Then I started crying my eyes out.
RW: Did Dr. Gold tell you the tumor was "
BM: Yes, then or sometime later. I had no clue what that was. I asked him
whether it was curable. He said it wasn't curable and really not even
treatable. We were stunned.
RW: Did the doctors talk about Steve's prognosis?
BM: They split us apart on that. They told me that Steve had at least 4
to 5 years to live. But they told Steve, I learned later, he only had
a few months. Later on, I saw Dr. Gold and I asked the SOB why he told
me Steve had years to live. He said he didn't want to "freak
RW: There's a lot of mythology surrounding Steve's diagnosis. One
rumor is that Steve's mesothelioma started in his stomach linings.
Was that the case?
BM: Not that I'm aware of. They found it first around his lung. It
wasn't until a few months later that the tumor spread to the stomach.
He also had a bump on his neck, which was the cancer.
RW: Did the doctors ever ask Steve whether he worked around asbestos?
BM: Sure they did. Steve talked about his racing suits, which were insulated
with asbestos. He didn't go into any detail back then. But over time,
with all the books written about him, I've learned more about it.
In the 1940's, when he was only 16, Steve joined the merchant marines-actually
somebody got him drunk and he woke up on a ship already out at sea. They
made him swab the decks and clean up the pipes. He was probably exposed
there. And then there was the Marine Corps. He blew up a can of beans
and they punished him by making him strip the asbestos off the pipes of
a ship. That was in the late 1940s. Steve did not talk about it much but
I have a tape recording in which he was asked just before he died what
caused his mesothelioma. He said: "asbestos."
From Barbara's private collection, Steve in Santa Paula.
RW: Did you think about filing a claim with anyone for any compensation?
BM: Not that I remember. We were very private. I had no clue about the
law. I'm sure Steve didn't want to answer a bunch of questions
about his private life. We were focused on getting well.
RW: What medical options were you given by the Cedar Sinai doctors back
in late 1979?
BM: The doctors in LA basically told us to enjoy the time we had left.
I don't remember exactly what they said about options. All I recall
is that the doctors said surgery was out of the question and chemo didn't
really work. It was a rare cancer and all their patients had died. Steve
asked me what I wanted to do--should we find some doctors who would fight
this thing or just go to the desert until the clock runs out? We decided
to fight back. Steve was going to try chemotherapy but walked out when
the nurse said the stuff was so toxic it would burn his skin if it got
on him. I mean, if it would burn your skin, imagine what it would do to
your insides? It sort of scared the daylights out of him.
We went home and Steve went on a huge vitamin regimen. Friends started
telling us about various doctors who were offering all sorts of home remedies
Since the mainstream doctors were not offering any hope, Steve figured
it wouldn't do any harm to look at alternatives. We heard about a
guy--I don't know if he was a doctor or not--in San Fernando who was
offering mega-vitamins through an IV. Steve decided to try it. I learned
to open up a vein for him. The program was sort of shady. We'd sit
in a van in the back of a building, in a parking lot in San Fernando Valley,
and Steve would get his vitamin chelation, I think they called it. If
Steve believed in something, he wasn't going to let the fact that
it was not approved by the government stop him.
RW: What was Steve's state of mind like then?
BM: It was good. He had support pouring in from everywhere. Everybody it
seemed had the magic cure. He was open to whatever sounded good. He still
looked good and wasn't in bad pain. He kept thinking about getting
back on his dirt bikes, getting back out in the desert. You know, he was
sort of a legend, and there was almost a pressure on him to do something
crazy, that whole "live hard, drive fast, and die young" thing.
He wasn't a conventional guy who followed the herd and did what he was told.
RW: After Steve's diagnosis, and three years after you first met, on
January 16, 1980, you and Steve were married. What was your vision of
the future at that time?
BM: We knew about the diagnosis, but we were both optimistic. Steve prayed
very hard he could fix the problem. His body was breaking, but his heart
and his hope, were strong. From the outside you really wouldn't even
know his insides were breaking. He didn't like to talk about his pain,
and he didn't like painkillers. We thought he'd get well. We talked
about moving to Ketchum [Idaho], having a couple of kids, horses, a ranch.
You know, the storybook picture of the wife pregnant in the kitchen, the
husband sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, drinking an Old Milwaukee.
BM: Yes (laughs). Steve wasn't a beer snob. He preferred your basic
working man's beer. As long as it was cold. Anyway, we had 480 acres
in Ketchum with a creek running through it. We planned to build a ranch
house. And an airplane runway. Steve loved flying, and he owned a few
RW: When the press started reporting that Steve had "lung cancer,"
did you or Steve ever want to issue a correction that Steve actually had
mesothelioma, which was caused by
asbestos, not smoking?
BM: We kept everything under wraps as long as we could. Towards the end,
Steve's body didn't look good. His belly started bloating out.
He lost weight. We needed privacy--it wasn't a Hollywood vanity thing:
he had already started retiring from the movie business, and so he wasn't
absorbed about his public image. He just didn't want his kids to know
how bad things were. He worshipped his kids; he wanted to protect them.
As a Hollywood star, he'd been burned by the tabloids before, and
he just didn't want anything to do with the media circus. As far as
the difference between lung cancer and meso, we really were not clued
in to the differences. Cancer was cancer. We were focused on staying alive.
RW: Steve McQueen is remembered for many things, including his decision
to seek non-FDA approved treatments in Mexico by a questionable doctor
named Dr. William Kelly. We know that Dr. Kelly was in fact a dentist
who had his license pulled in 1976. What was Steve's frame of mind
when, despite all the black marks in Dr. Kelly's record, he hired
BM: That's a tough one. I was 26 years old at the time. Steve was 49.
I thought Steve would live forever. I never delved into Dr. Kelly's
background. We'd heard that Dr. Kelly had cured cancer in a few patients,
and he was something of a rebel. We went to Spokane to interview him.
What he said seemed to make sense, but most importantly he gave Steve
hope. I think, looking back, as anyone with cancer knows, you reach a
point of desperation and start grasping for whatever sounds best. Dr.
Kelly tested Steve's blood to determine what nutrients and vitamins
he needed. His theory sounded good: detoxing the body and boosting the
immune system to fight the tumors naturally. Who can argue with that?
We decided to go to Dr. Kelly's clinic in Plaza Santa Maria, Mexico.
RW: What was that like? And what were the treatments?
BM: The clinic was in a remote area. We flew down in Steve's plane.
As for treatments, I haven't thought about it much. I remember the
veggie juice he was always drinking and the calf liver blood
. Yuck. I'm sure you know about the coffee enemas. I don't remember him
ever taking laetrile, like some people reported. There was other stuff, too.
The nurses were very nice but Steve drove them crazy. He demanded sweets,
which they wouldn't let him have. Finally, Steve convinced them to
let him have a chocolate cake, and of course Steve threw a big party.
We had a friend fly a cake down every Wednesday. All the patients broke
their diets and gorged on cake and ice cream for about an hour. Steve
was a big hit with the other patients. That was his "happy thing."
But it was a stressful time and we were a little stir crazy.
"Keep your nerve Sam, 'cause I'm gonna keep mine." Steve
Tom Horn, released 1980
RW: Did Steve think the treatments were helping?
BM: Steve tried to stay upbeat. He wanted to believe he would get better.
And he was a little sick of all the Dr. Kelly bashing in the press. I
remember after a month or so we took films which showed the tumor in the
neck was shrinking, or so we thought. His belly kept getting bigger, but
the rest of him was getting skinnier. The pain was getting worse, the poor guy.
RW: Did Dr. Kelly ever tell Steve that the "non-specific metabolic
therapy" treatments were shrinking his tumors.
BM: Dr. Kelly did tell him the treatments were working. God it burns me.
I was a young bride, full of hope. Steve was my first true love. Sometimes
now I think back that maybe we should've just gone to the desert.
Getting eaten by rattlesnakes would've been better. Steve got cheated, royally.
RW: On October 6, 1980, when you were down in Mexico, you read a statement
to the public that read: "
Steve's great wish is that the
United States would allow the medical treatment he is undergoing in this
country so we could go home and Steve could continue his program among
the people and surroundings he loves."
BM: Yes. The media was hounding us and we wanted our privacy. We wanted
to go home. I wrote a letter to Ronald Reagan, the President. I asked
him to cut us some slack, let us take the treatments in Santa Paula. I
didn't know why it should be illegal for Steve to take holistic medicines. I mean,
c'mon, the doctors in Los Angeles wrote him off, told him he had 2 months to
live. Rosarita was a beautiful, magical place, but we were living in a
trailer and we wanted to go home. I was angry. Steve was suffering. Seven
days a week for a solid month, he was taking coffee enemas and the calf
liver. He wanted to go home.
RW: Did Reagan reply?
BM: No. I guess he didn't like Steve's movies. (laughs). P.S. I'm
RW: How about you? Did you believe the "non-specific metabolic therapy"
BM: I held out hope. I wanted to return home to be around friends and family,
but there was nothing for us treatment-wise in the U.S. We kept hoping
it would work, that we would wake up from this nightmare, and he'd
be strong again, back on his motorcycle.
RW: After Steve went public with his cancer on October 6, 1980, Dr. Kelly
issued a press release a few days later, in which he stated his belief
that, "Mr. McQueen can fully recover and return to a normal lifestyle."
Did you believe that?
BM: No. I wanted to believe it. But by then I was coming around to the
reality that Kelly was a nutcase. I'm not slamming holistic medicine--I'm
a vegetarian for the most part--and I'd never look down on somebody
who went outside the U.S. for any treatment. I'm sure there are places
where cancer patients can get help. But Kelly's clinic was a sham.
His optimism was pure bullcorn.
RW: I've read that Steve paid William Kelly at least $375,000. Looking
back, 25 years later, do you believe that William Kelly exploited Steve?
BM: $375,000? I don't know if it was that much. But it was all about
money for Kelly - Steve McQueen was a big paycheck to him, a celebrity.
A bank account. Now it's more easy to see it, but then we were along
for the ride. The nurses down there were caring, loving people--fabulous
people, and I truly think they wanted to help. But Kelly was better at
promoting himself than curing anyone. At the time, like most cancer patients,
we would've paid anything for a cure. We were happy to be alive and
we wanted more.
RW: By later October, I've read that Steve started a downward spiral.
His belly began to distend, he was wasting away and in chronic pain. It's
clear from the records I've seen that the mesothelioma had spread
to his abdominal cavity. What options did Steve have, if any?
BM: We took a film in late October back at Cedars Sinai. It showed a huge
tumor in his stomach. The doctors said they couldn't do anything or
operate because Steve was so weak. They were worried about his heart.
But Steve couldn't handle it. He wanted to get rid of this,
this beast in his belly. We flew to Juarez, Mexico where there was a surgeon who
said he would operate.
RW: This is a tough question. I've read that a CT taken just before
the surgery in Juarez showed metastatic tumor in Steve's lung linings,
inside his lungs, around his abdominal cavity, and there were tumors in
his liver and in his pelvis. What was Steve's mindset when he decided
to go forward with the surgery?
Barbara and Steve, 1979. Cover of soon to be published book (Dalton Watson
BM: (Pause) The doctors had washed their hands of him. He wanted to help
himself. He wasn't a "poor pitiful me" person. He was either
going to sit in bed and die or try something. That's what he wanted to do.
RW: We know that Steve died a day after his surgery in Juarez, Mexico on
November 7, 1980. Looking back, are there any parts of the Kelly program
that you would recommend to mesothelioma patients (coffee enemas, strict
veggie diet, vitamin loading, massage, chelation, detoxification, etc.)?
BM: It's a personal thing. I believe in a veggie diet. Vitamins are
great. Granted, I eat a juicy burger now and then. Coffee enemas I never
got. I don't know if they ever cleaned anything out, seems like that
would just jack you up all night (laughs). I'm for alternative medicines,
but that Kelly was just an odd one. There may have been people who came
out of there [Plaza Santa Maria] ok, but I'm not sure.
RW: This is sort of a corny question, and I'm not sure you have any
answer. But what was your opinion, if any, at the time, of the government's
interest in mesothelioma cancer research? Did you have any trouble believing
that in our great country, no treatment was available and a cure was simply
a pipe dream?
BM: Back then I was too innocent. I had no clue about the government's
role. I was always told it was such a new disease that nobody survived
and nothing could be done about it.
RW: Let's talk about where we are today, more than 25 years later.
This is a long "speechy-type" question so bear with me.
Every year, about 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with meso. About 62,000
Americans have died from mesothelioma since Steve passed away in 1980.
Now, about 1/3 of all Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed
to asbestos while serving their country in the military, just like Steve
did. Congress has appropriated over $1.5 billion to the Department of
Defense to run a medical research program for breast and prostate cancer,
neither of which is a "service connected disability." Asbestos-related
mesothelioma certainly is a service connected disability, but today, 25
years after Steve McQueen's death, the DOD still doesn't have
a program for mesothelioma research. Mesothelioma research continues to
be under-funded when compared to other cancers. Meanwhile, the incidence
of mesothelioma is not expected to peak in this country until 2025.
That's a load of numbers and statistics. But how do you feel about
that? How do you feel about the fact that 25 years after Steve McQueen's
death this government still doesn't have any interest in curing mesothelioma,
a cancer that's plagued many of our veterans?
BM: I'm angry about it. The government doesn't care. It's outrageous.
I know a lot of veterans. They need help.
RW: Let me amplify the point a little more, and bring it full circle.
Steve was exposed to asbestos while in the merchants marines which, during
World War II, was a subset of the U.S. Navy. And then he was exposed in
the 1950s during his stint in the U.S. Marine Corp when he was forced
to strip asbestos lagging off of steam pipes on a Navy troop carrier.
Our government has known about the scourge of mesothelioma and its relationship
to asbestos since the early 1950s. But the Veterans Administration even
today doesn't have a program to treat Navy vets with mesothelioma.
Do you think the government has a duty to serve those who served our country
by funding research to find a cure?
BM: Absolutely. It's hard to believe that the Government has turned
its back on veterans. I never thought about Steve as a "veteran,"
but I guess he was.
RW: One final "speech-question." It's well known that by
1920 the asbestos companies knew that asbestos fibers could cause disease
and death. They knew asbestos could cause cancer by at least 1940, but
they continued to produce millions of tons of it through the mid 1970s.
Now, it's estimated that every year 10,000 Americans die from asbestos-related
pulmonary diseases and cancer. Do you have a message to the companies
who made the poison that killed your husband?
BM: [Pause] I really don't want to think about it. It's disgusting!
It comes down to money, money, money. I don't know what to say--money
can't buy life, love or happiness, but it sure can drive some companies
to do terrible things to people.
RW: When you hear the word "asbestos," what comes to mind?
BM: I cringe when I hear the word. In the past few years, I've learned
it's everywhere, in our schools, homes, in buildings. Everyone's
exposed, not just construction workers. When I bought a house in Montana,
I made double sure there was no asbestos in it. We have a place in Montana.
I've read there's a huge rash of asbestos disease in a town called
Libby. That's where they mined it.
RW: I have a poster of Steve McQueen we made up for a mesothelioma foundation
that I helped create [MARF]. The tagline is "
asbestos does not respect fame or fortune." The idea is that asbestos fibers do not respect the color of your
collar; they'll take down a famous movie star as well as a young girl
in her twenties.
BM: That's true. That's about right. I never thought of Steve as
a guy heavily exposed to asbestos. But I guess it doesn't take much.
RW: Did you know that today, in 2006, asbestos has not been banned in the
BM: Good lord you're kidding me! What's wrong with our government?
How many more have to die before the government wakes up?
RW: It's been nice talking to you Barbara. I want to let you know that
things are getting better. In Los Angeles, we've set up the Punch
Worthington lab, headed up by Dr. Robert Cameron, who's the Chief
of Thoracic Surgery at UCLA Medical School. Dr. Cameron has some great
ideas for not only treating mesothelioma but also for reducing the risk
for heavily exposed people. It's sort of fitting - 25 years ago, surgeons
in LA told you and Steve that nothing could be done. Now, we've got
doctors who are ready, willing, and able to grab mesothelioma by the tail
and give patients a fighting chance.
BM: That's great. Count me in. Whatever I can do to help.
When Barbara and Steve began dating seriously in the late 1970s, she cut
a deal with Steve that wherever she went, so did her camera. Barbara,
a model by trade, was also a photographer by hobby. Over the course of
the next three to four years, she snapped hundreds of photographs. For
all these years she has kept her photographs private. Now, Barbara is
ready to make many of her photographs public. Together with her good friend
and confidante, the author Marshall Terrill, she is soon to publish her
Steve McQueen: The Last Mile. According to their website (click here), the publisher plans to run a limited edition of 2,000 books, which will
be signed by both Barbara and Marshall (who in 1993 wrote the excellent
Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel).
The release date coincides with the 26
th anniversary of Steve McQueen's death. According to the website, the book
"chronicles Barbara's early history and modeling career; her years
with McQueen at Trancas Beach and Santa Paula as well as behind-the-scene
photos on the sets of
Hunter. The book is written in passage form, weaving Barbara McQueen's personal
history, her relationship with her famous husband and the stories behind
the hundreds of candid pictures she took."
To reserve a limited edition copy of
Steve McQueen: The Last Mile, go to
www.daltonwatson.com (I have not yet seen the book).
One Tiny Spark Becomes A Night Of Blazing Suspense! Steve McQueen as Chief
Michael O' Hallorhan in
The Towering Inferno.(6)
As a lawyer, myself and others have long speculated over where and how
Steve McQueen was exposed to asbestos. Steve never testified in a deposition,
but he did tell numerous reporters and friends about his asbestos exposure.
Before he died, he was asked by a friend, who tape recorded the conversation,
how he got his cancer. Steve's blunt answer spoke for itself: "asbestos
poisoning in my lungs, which is rare." (Interview with Burgh Joy,
clinical professor at UCLA, personal archives of Barbara McQueen, 1980).
The following sources further elucidate the details of where and when
McQueen was exposed:
1: Sandford, Christopher,
McQueen: The Biography, Taylor Trade Publishing, New York (2003).
"Besides the fighting and gambling, Steve's only other long-term
legacy from the military was his cancer. The exact illness that led him
to Dr. Kelly was mesothelioma, an acute form of asbestos poisoning. In
those days the stuff was everywhere, including in the tanks he drove at
Camp Lejeune. It was also used for such insulation as there was in his
barracks. In one sorry incident (part of a punishment for his exploding
a can of baked beans) McQueen was ordered to strip and refit a troop ship's
boiler room. Most of the pipes there were lagged with asbestos. The air
was so heavy with it, Steve would say, 'You could actually
see the shit as you breathed it.'" (page 42).
2. Terrill, Marshall,
Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel, Donald I. Fine, Inc. (1993).
"The cancer is usually caused by asbestos inhalation. Steve recalled
later on that his stint in the merchant marines had him swabbing the inside
of the ship where the ceiling was lined with asbestos." (page 364).
I spoke to Mr. Terrill about the source of this revelation. He advised
that in 1991 he had spoken to John Sturgis, the director (
Magnificent Seven and
The Great Escape), who recalled a conversation he had with McQueen just after his diagnosis.
3. Spiegel, Penina.
McQueen: The Untold Story of a Bad Boy in
Hollywood, Doubleday and Co., New York (1986). Excerpt:
"Steve had been peculiarly surrounded by asbestos all his life. It
was often present in his place of work during his itinerant years when
he picked up odd jobs--at construction sites, for example. Asbestos was
used in the insulation of every modern ship built before 1976; it is found
on sound stages, in brake linings of race cars, and in the protective
helmets and suits worn by race car drivers." John Sturges remembers
Steve telling him about an incident that occurred while he was stationed
in the Aleutian Island during his stint in the Marine Corps. "Steve
had been sentenced to six weeks in the brig. He spent the time assigned
to a work detail in the hold of a ship, cleaning the engine room. The
pipes were covered with asbestos linings, which the men ripped out and
replaced." The air was so thick with asbestos particles, Steve told
John Sturges, that the men could hardly breathe.
4. Conversations with Jim Hart, age 63, Northwestern, Arizona, a pleural
mesothelioma survivor. Mr. Hart was a prop-maker and special effects production
designer in Hollywood from 1971 to 1999. Mr. Hart worked with and around
asbestos fibers during the creation of movie sets (joint compounds and
plaster). Asbestos was also used in Hollywood for theatre curtains, artificial
snow, ceiling acoustics, and fire retardant clothing (worn in particular
by stunt men). Mr. Hart worked on several studio sets with Steve McQueen.
While working as a prop-maker, Mr. Hart enjoys telling the story about
the time in 1974 he "shared a couple of brews" with McQueen
during the filming of
The Towering Inferno at the "Fox Ranch" facility in Malibu Canyon. McQueen was on
the set with a clutch of his buddies, and being the "man's man"
that he was, he had a galvanized tub packed with ice and beer. Mr. Hart
and his crewmates were working where McQueen and his friends were drinking.
McQueen, renown for his rugged self-reliance and rebelliousness, invited
Jim and his crew over to have a brew and yuk it up. Mr. Hart recalls that
unlike a lot of Hollywood "A" actors, McQueen didn't mind
getting his hands dirty. He noticed that McQueen was every bit as dusty
and dirty as he and his crew were.Mr. Hart speculates that McQueen was
likely exposed to many of the same asbestos materials he worked with and
October 27, 2006
(1) de Lourmel, Lion Andre, photographer.
Le Mans. Lee H. Katzin, Director. 197
Woman's Own. March 29 1980.
(3) Photograph courtesy of Barbara McQueen.
(4) Friedman, Dave, photographer.
Tom Horn. Wiard, William, Director. 1980.
(5) McQueen, Barbara and Marshall Terril.
Steve McQueen: The Last Mile. Dalton Watson Fine Books. Deerfield, IL. 2007.
The Towering Inferno. John Guillermin and Irwin Allen, Directors. 1974.
*** POSTED ON OCTOBER 31, 2006 ***