One of the most remarkable faces and screen presences in Hollywood of all times, Steve McQueen escaped the murder by Charles Manson’s followers because he “ran into a chickie.”
Born María Ruby Neilam Arrastia y Salvador in the capital of the Philippines, Neile Adams came to America in 1948 after three years in a concentration camp in a Japanese-occupied Manila.
After studying dance in New York and changed her name to Neide Adams — her father’s maiden name — she was cast as a dancer in "Kismet" in 1953 and in the “Pajama Game,” both Broadway successes in the ‘50s.
When McQueen and her met, she shared with the National Post, it was love at first sight. The connection was almost instantaneous, so the couple couldn't wait and decided to tie the knot four months later.
They both came from similar backgrounds regarding family affairs. Neither of them had known their fathers and both had a distant relationship with their mothers. Adams, however, had healed and dealt with her past better than her late husband.
Adams revealed that McQueen had never actually overcome his feelings of abandonment. The actor was sent to a reformatory at 14 years old by his abusive stepfather.
When they met and got married, Adams was the star, and McQueen was just a struggling actor. Things changed after they wed, however, and Adams became a staying-home wife and mom. She dropped her career to take care of their two children, Terry and Chad.
His first main role was in the low-budget horror movie “The Blob.” The actor’s quick rise to stardom came with the 1960 film “The Magnificent Seven,” in which he drew all the attention from the main movie star due to his strong presence on screen.
McQueen became a Hollywood sensation also with the following list of films: “The Great Escape (1963)”, “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968), and “Bullitt” (1968).
With a tough, sexy, and unique personality and deep gravelly voice on screens, often with a cigarette dangling on the side of his mouth, McQueen caused a stir in Hollywood.
Soon, he and Adams became A-listers, including a party threw in the honor of Princess Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowdon, in Los Angeles in 1965. The couple shared the guest list with no other than Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Adams risked saying that the Princess could’ve had a crush on him, after all, according to her, “everyone else did”. She said, laughing:
“She didn’t speak to me the rest of the night, but she did talk to Steve. Did the princess hold a torch for him? I don’t know – probably.”
Speaking of which, McQueen’s astronomical success also triggered his unfaithful side. Just four months after getting married to Adams, the actor embarked on an affair with his “Never Love a Stranger" co-star Lita Milan.
He even boasted of sleeping with several other leading actresses as well. The problem, however, didn’t stop there. McQueen’s drug addiction worsened and after the incident on the night of 1969, the end was near.
McQueen was meant to attend a dinner with his friend and hairdresser Jay Sebring, at the home of actress Sharon Tate. Instead, the actor “ran into a chickie and decided to go off with her.” Adams revealed to the National Post:
“Going off with that girl saved his life. After that, he became more paranoid and wouldn’t let me go anywhere without a gun.”
Tate, Sebring, and four other friends were brutally murdered by Manson’s cult followers that night. Adams and McQueen's marriage came to an end in 1970, when McQueen flew to France for a movie project and informed his former wife that ladies “from all over the world would come to see him.”
Fueled by jealousy for some reason, Hollywood’s iconic star asked Adams if she’d ever been unfaithful to him. She shared the details of her brief fling with him, but McQueen couldn’t withstand the idea of being cheated on.
He took a gun and held it against Adams’ head and asked her to name her lover. McQueen couldn’t bear the idea of a betrayal, even though he was the one with numerous extramarital affairs.
Adams shared that it was related to his childhood traumas of abandonment:
“He had trusted me as much as he could trust anyone and put me on such a high pedestal that when I fell, I fell with a big thud.”
After the divorce in 1971, McQueen remarried twice, and ironically, Adams became his mistress. It didn’t last long, although it “felt comfortable but weird” to Adams. Later, McQueen wed again just a week before Adams’ wedding.
McQueen died in November 1980 at the age of 50, before the early demise of his daughter Terry in 1988. The Hollywood star lost his battle with cancer even though the surgery was said to be successful.
Terry McQueen passed away at just 38-year-old after complications in a kidney transplant surgery. Adams opened up that his death prior to his daughter's was a blessing:
“He was absolutely crazy about her and seeing our daughter die would have destroyed him. It almost destroyed me.”
Adams’ second husband, Alvin Toffel, died in March 2005. She said she doesn’t want to get married again because she doesn’t want to take care of anyone else besides her children and grandchildren.
The former Broadway dancer shared that she still thinks of McQueen every day and on his birthday, she usually goes to the church and lights a candle for him.
McQueen is eternal and his legacies live on. He is remembered for his iconic roles, and played a part in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” played by actor Damian Lewis. In the movie, he is seen at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion meeting his late friend Tate.
Regarding McQueen's enduring status, when Adams was asked about McQueen’s status of “legend” and enduring popularity, she isn’t surprised, because he “was the real deal.”
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