March 24, 1930 - November 7, 1980: Age 50
Steve McQueen is one of those resilient people who survived a difficult childhood to become an intelligent, healthy, kind and decent man. Abandoned by his parents as a child, he was raised by an Uncle until his mother "reclaimed" him and took him to live in Los Angeles with a new, abusive stepfather. He ran with street gangs as a young teenager and ended up in reform school. At 17 he joined the Marines, and served for 3 years.
In 1952 he auditioned along with 2,000 others for Lee Strasbourg's prestigious acting school in New York. He was one of two people chosen (the other was Martin Landau). By the mid-50s he was was a working actor; by the early 1960s he was starring in films like The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven. In addition to considerable acting skills, he had the rare quality of being equally appealing to male and female audiences. Part of his appeal to male fans was his interest in racing cars and motorcycles; McQueen did most of his own stunts if they involved a vehicle.
He was diagnosed in December 1979 with mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. Advised by American doctors that conventional treatments would be ineffective, he travelled to Mexico to receive unconventional treatments that included coffee enemas and the drug laetrile, a "natural" drug not sanctioned by the USFDA. Following surgery to remove a tumour in his lung, McQueen had a heart attack and died on November 7, 1980.