Raise your hand if you know who Steve McQueen was.
I’m very much aware of the fact that there may be a generational thing at work here that could blunt the impact of this retrospective ride, but I won’t make a big deal about it if you won’t.
For you untutored (and hey, it’s no sin to be young) Steve McQueen was an actor/action hero/movie idol/cinematic icon — circa 1960-1980 – who imprinted himself in the adolescent psyches of boys and girls and men and women before Arnold or Harrison or Bruce or Jet or Harry arrived on the scene. He was a star…all the boys wanted to be him and all the girls wanted to be with him. He was cool. He was tough. He was magnetic. He road a horse, a motorcycle and a Mustang GT the way every guy dreamed of riding them.
Emerging into prominence with the screenings of The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Sand Pebbles and, of course, The Great Escape, Steve was THE MAN of my generation, regardless of the fact that the generations that have come after know him primarily as “that guy on the motorcycle in that big prison break movie.”
But that’s all in the nature of an introduction to what I really want to talk about and that is ghosts…and writers being haunted by them…and feelings that come from that occasional (?) yet troubling certainty that there are forces at work in this world that fall completely outside the realm of our understanding.
So I’m writing this story.
I know, we’re all writing a story, so what? Well, It’s a special story – special for a number of reasons, all of which don’t really matter at this point except that I spent a substantial part of the story channeling that hero of my lost youth, Steve McQueen.
After much hard work, sleepless nights, and considerable personal growth, I finished the first draft. Felt so good I took a little holiday – Palm Springs…heat, palm trees, heat, swimming pools, heat, golf courses, heat. Did I mention the heat? Anyway, out shopping one afternoon, I drop into the Home Base store more to get out of …yes, the heat… and I walked straight into a special on framed posters from The Great Escape – starring Steve McQueen! Interesting, yes. Unusual? Maybe a little. But there’s more.
That night I grab the newspaper to peruse the front page and there’s an article in Column One entitled “Being McQueen for a Day,” which discusses the auctioning off of the late actor’s 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso — 56,000 original miles, perfect condition, brown.
Little tiny hairs…standing up all over my body.
Get back home the next day, phone message from my mother on the answering machine. “Was cleaning out your old trunk. Found that photo poster of Steve McQueen on the motorcycle. It’s seen better days…can I throw it away?”
Not now you can’t, Ma. I’m not taking any chances.