MY HUSBAND, MY FRIEND by Neile McQueen Toffel


Email this review


Steve McQueen's ex-wife and mother of his two children tells the nightmarish love story of their 14-year marriage. Neile and McQueen both grew up fatherless and with alcoholic mothers. Neile's mother had been a famed exotic dancer in the Philippines and a very close friend of her sometime houseguest Douglas MacArthur. Neile herself lived under Japanese rule during the war, then in a Japanese concentration camp. When she came to the States, she found herself drawn to the stage quite early, especially to dancing. She determined to become more famous than her mother, and indeed was earning $50,000 yearly as a musical-comedy star during her first year of marriage to not-so-rising young actor McQueen (who was making $4000). Bitter as Steve was about his wife footing the bills, he nonetheless enjoyed a series of new foreign sports cars and fancy motorcycles, paid for by Neile. She knew his ship would come in--or she hoped it would. And it did, at last, with his role as bounty hunter Josh Randall in TV's Wanted--Dead or Alive series. Before that, Steve had left home early, worked in a Mexican cathouse as towel boy, a waiter in a Texas whorehouse, joined the merchant marine, then the Marine Corps (twice in the brig for AWOLs), then headed for Greenwich Village and an acting career. He also had been in a home for wayward boys for stealing hubcaps; lifelong felt deserted by his mother for placing him there. Neile's love of him filled his bottomless need for secure affection. But nothing could make Steve ""keep my pecker in my pants"" and their marriage was waffled with infidelities (Lee Remick, among other costars, wanted a piece of his magnetism). Worse, Steve's coke addiction and heavy use of pot drove him around the bend regularly, and just as regularly found him in the depths of remorse and begging forgiveness. When after a dozen years of abuse Neile herself had an affair with a nameless European Oscar-winner, Steve went violently Jekyll-Hyde for the rest of their embittered marriage. One toke or snort or beer and he blew up, slapping and bopping her, her infidelity equal to his mother's abandonment. His final days in a Mexican cancer clinic are moving, although Steve's egomania can still billow (according to newspapers at the time he was being allowed beer on his diet, though Neile doesn't mention this). Some gripping moments and pathos here. It shows the hero's backside, and this is one monosyllabic hero whose backside is devastating.

Pub Date: Jan. 16th, 1985
ISBN: 1425918182
Publisher: Atheneum