Tuesday, August 28, 2012

From the Archives: I'll See Steve McQueen in Heaven Someday


"I live for myself and answer to nobody." (Photo Via Fashion's Most Wanted)


A superstar's remarkable conversion story

(originally posted 10/4/2010)

I'm not even sure if I've even seen an entire movie starring the late actor Steve McQueen. I knew that he had been called "The King of Cool" for his performance in movies like "The Getaway," "The Magnificent Seven," "The Thomas Crown Affair," and "Papillon," among many others.


I also knew that he had been married to three beautiful women (actresses Neile Adams and Ali MacGraw and supermodel Barbara Minty), but I didn't know much else.

However, this tribute post about him recently sparked my interest. When something sparks my interest, I have to read about it...so I checked out a book about Steve McQueen from the library.

While Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel, by Marshall Terrill, is largely a sympathetic portrait of the actor, it's also painfully honest about his faults and failures.




My heart went out to the actor when I read about the horrific childhood that colored his actions for the rest of his life.

Despite his undisputed success as an actor, McQueen's life was in many ways a big mess. Although he dearly loved and was happily married to his first wife, Neile, he cheated on her not just repeatedly, but continually.

In fact, throughout his life his reputation was that of an incurable womanizer.

He wildly over-indulged in drinking and regularly took drugs ranging from marijuana to LSD and cocaine. He exasperated fellow actors, producers and directors with his erratic and unreasonable behavior.




McQueen with first wife Neile and daughter Terry (via Classic Forever)

He earned megastardom and respect for his acting talent, and the loyalty and love of his closest friends. Since he'd never had a loving father, he determined to be a good father to his children, Terry and Chad, and by all accounts, he was that.

Ten years before his 1980 death, McQueen was asked if he believed in God. His reply: "I believe in me. God'll be number one as long as I'm number one."


With son Chad McQueen, who went on to act (Karate Kid, Karate Kid 2), produce, and drive race cars like his dad
1971 Sports Illustrated photo by Heinz Kluetmeier (via
A Continuous Lean)
Reading this unflinchingly honest book, I wasn't prepared for the stunning conclusion.

A few months before he found out he had cancer, Steve McQueen became a Christian. By all accounts, he was what my Baptist preacher dad used to call "gloriously saved."

It was not a deathbed conversion. McQueen didn't know he would soon be dead when he accepted Christ.

As evangelist Billy Graham (who met with him for several hours before he died) relates it:

"Apparently, he had been led to Christ by a pilot whom he had hired to teach him to fly an old vintage airplane. He apparently saw something in this pilot, Sammy Mason, that he admired and liked, and asked what made the difference in his life. Sammy Mason sat down and carefully explained how Christ had changed his life. Steve later learned that he had a fast-moving and possibly incurable cancer. While this was a shattering blow, his new faith in Christ became a resource for extra strength."


While this isn't a "Christian" book, it recounts how friends and colleagues saw the difference McQueen's faith made in his life. Steve began attending church every Sunday, reading his Bible and praying.

While he was undergoing experimental treatments for his cancer, McQueen met with some doctors who practiced visualization techniques to encourage healing.

In his interview with them, McQueen repeatedly talked about his faith and how he wanted to share it with others.

He told the doctors:

"...you mentioned earlier about finding a cure in my life. Well, that cure was finding the Lord in my life.

...I really believe that I have...something to give to the world as far as my relationship with the Lord. Something that I can teach to other people. Something about a message that I can give."

You can totally see traces of his grandfather in actor Steven R. McQueen

Later in the interview, he talked about his dreams of getting well, going back to his favorite home in Ketchum, Idaho, flying his beloved planes and "...to try to be able to change some people's lives. To tell people that I know the Lord, what I have to offer, what's happened to me."

In the book, Marshall Terrill relates the passing of the superstar when all the treatments failed and he ultimately died after developing an embolism.

Terrill says he died "painlessly and quietly."

Immediately, his son Chad said he wanted to be alone with his father.

"Upon entering the room, Chad turned on the light...Steve's eyes were still open. Chad sat on the bed beside him. As he looked at Steve, he noticed something odd. His eyes, which had been gray the past six months, had returned to their bright blue color. Chad also noticed the Bible that the Reverend Billy Graham had given to Steve. It now rested on his chest, opened to Steve's favorite verse, John 3:16."


"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Satisfied that his dad had died in peace, Chad closed his father's eyes, bent down and kissed him on the forehead. "So long, Pop. I love you."

After reading the book, I was sad that McQueen never got the chance to fulfill his dream of telling the world about his faith in Christ.

But then I realized, yes, he did. Everyone who reads this best-selling book (or this blog post, for that matter) will read, sometimes in his own words, about his faith and how it changed his life.

Rest in peace, Steve McQueen. Someday I'll see you in heaven.




Steve McQueen
1930-1980

1 comment:

julie hermiz said...

I respect Steve McQueen even more knowing that he believed in God and made his peace with him and himself.
Rest In Sweet Perfect Piece 'Mr Cool'

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