7th November 1980 The world of entertainment lost one of its “coolest” stars. 60s actor Steve Mcqueen died almost 40 years ago. He starred in several action thrillers during the 1960s and 1970s, such as The Towering Inferno. He was undergoing an experimental cure for cancer. Asbestos was the leading reason for his cancer. He started his experimental treatment in 1979 in Mexico.
He died there the next year. He had an affinity for car racing. Later, it was proposed that he may get asbestos exposure from there. He had Mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer that can be caused by asbestos exposure a long time.
Steve McQueen Early Life
24th March 1930, Terrence Steven McQueen was born. His hometown was Beech Grove, Indiana. His childhood days weren’t great. He had to fight his own demons and societal norms in his childhood. He was in a reform school. In the 1940s, he served in the US Marine corps. He had an interest in Motorcycle racing too. The acting was one of his passions.
He started to take that seriously and learned to act. In 1956, he debuted on the big screen with a short role. It was “Somebody up there likes me,” starring Paul Newman. He appeared in The Blob, a 1958 camp classic. He got famous by playing a bounty hunter in Wanted: Dead or alive (1958-1961). It originally aired on CBS.
He played lone wolf-type characters in the 60s. That gave him “cool” status. John Sturges directed The Magnificent Seven (1960), which a movie like that. In 1963, Steve played a US soldier during World War 2 in The Great Escape. In that movie, he escaped a german nazi camp on a motorcycle. He was nominated for the Oscar best actor award for his movie The Sand Pebbles (1966).
Steve played a detective in one of his famous movies Bullitt (1968). This movie had a famous car chase sequence through San Francisco. He also played a thief in The Thomas Crown Affair. This was elegant. In the 70s, he became one of the paid actors in Hollywood. He did The Gateway and famous movies like The Towering Inferno. He took a vacation in 1980 for declining health and went to Mexico.
Steve McQueen in the US Marine and Asbestos
Steve served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 40s. He spent most of his service time on naval ships and in shipyards. It’s predicted that he could have been exposed to asbestos during this time. In that era, marine used a lot of asbestos in their ships and shipyards.
Service aboard military ships posed one of the most dangerous threats of asbestos poisoning. Marines, sailors, and airmen came in contact with asbestos in almost every field of their work. Asbestos was present in the boiler room, storage room, sleeping cellar, navigation room, etc.
Also, these living rooms were so closed and lack of ventilation that asbestos concentration became high. Any damaged asbestos structure was deadly for the people in those areas. This declining living conditions of soldiers was also a result of US intervention in world politics just after world war 2.
Hollywood And The Use Of Asbestos
In that era, Hollywood heavily used asbestos in their productions. Asbestos was a cheap, easily affordable material. It was also fireproof. So, practical stunts could be easily performed using this material. Cheap alternative-seeking, profit-mongering-seeking Hollywood started using this material often. Hollywood even likened its appearance to snow.
People in production houses believed that asbestos is fire resistant so it would be a safer option than snow particles. This type of heavy use of this toxic substance made asbestos poisoning much more prevalent in Hollywood. Steve would again get massively exposed to this material, which made his condition far worse. As we know that most of his movies were action thrillers, so asbestos was heavily used in those scenes, which caused his cancer.
Steve’s Alternative Cancer Treatment
In his desperation, McQueen contacted Dr. William Kelly for his cancer treatment. Dr. Kelly was not an oncologist, and he was a dentist. He proposed an alternative medicine to cure Steve’s cancer. Steve chose alternative medicine. He was terrified as his Mesothelioma was getting worse and worse. Kelly started Person Therapy with Steve. This therapy was originally created for migraine issues.
But Kelly adopted it as a cancer treatment. Many doctors in the field of medical science called this quackery. Kelly believed that cancer is caused by a lack of enzymes. So, most of his treatment methods were diet-related, like coffee enema, shampooing, strict diet, etc.
He also used laetrile as a cancer prevention drug which was banned by FDA and National Cancer Institute. Steve couldn’t keep this alternative treatment a secret. He praised his treatment, even in his last days. He thought that this method of treatment would cause a revolution in cancer treatments.
He was so much in opposition to medical science that he couldn’t fathom the threat to his life. He later died in Mexico as his condition worsened. This teaches us the importance of examination-based medical science and how pseudoscience can take human lives. Rest in peace, Steve McQueen.