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Cold Beer and Hot Times
In this excerpt from Marshall Terrill's new book, A Tribute to the King of Cool,
martial arts expert Sam Allred shares his memories of fun times spent with Steve.
Steve McQueen loved the simple things in life: cold beer, spicy Mexican food, nice cars and the high volume of automatic gunfire.

I met Steve through his friend and martial arts instructor, Pat Johnson, who was the chief referee at several of my championship karate tournaments. Pat was so exceptional that his development and enforcement of tournament rules set the bar and were accepted nationally for most tournaments.

Sometime in the late 1970s, Pat invited me to one of his private training sessions with Steve. Steve apparently had been told by Pat that I was not a person who might take advantage of knowing him, and was exceptionally friendly and open. He was athletic, could hit the heavy bag very hard and was not afraid to work up a sweat. We visited during occasional breaks in his workout, but the training was mostly all business. Steve told me that he would be coming to Albuquerque, New Mexico soon to visit his wife, Ali MacGraw, who was shooting Convoy with Sam Peckinpah. Steve promised he would look me up, and surprised me when he did.
Steve and Sam firing off a few rounds in the desert.

© Sam Allred
Steve and Sam
Steve and Sam
© Sam Allred
The first order of business, according to Steve, was locating a case of Carling's Black Label beer. I suppose that brand was not available in Los Angeles. After Steve found his beloved suds, I took him  to a public flea market.  He had long hair and sported a beard at the time.  Because I was a weathercaster on television, lots of people recognized me and stopped to chat.  Not many paid attention to my bearded companion, save one lady friend, who asked me a week later if I had been escorting Steve McQueen around town.  I was astounded that she recognized him and asked her how she knew.  She told me she had spotted him immediately from a mole on his cheek, then checked his eyes and knew...I guess women pay attention to those sorts of details.

We drove all around Albuquerque and the countryside, later stopping for Mexican food at my friend's restaurant called El Comedor De Julia. Steve feasted on enchiladas with red chili, and chased it down with his Black Label beer, which was usually within arm's reach. We had such a good time that Steve visited me again two other times – one visit centered around a gun collector and the other a car collector.  In both instances, the case of Black Label beer was iced down in the trunk when I greeted him.  He liked that.
 My good friend Don Pakinham had almost every kind of gun conceivable, including a few rare Thompson submachine guns.  Steve had never fired a real Tommygun before and was excited about the prospect squeezing off approximately 800 rounds per minute.  We decided to shoot in a large non-populated desert area, a short drive behind Don’s house, at the base of the Sandia Mountains.  Steve asked Don lots of questions about the machine guns, and guns in general.  Don supplied several other exotic weapons for our entertainment, and it was a fun afternoon for us all.  I was working at Albuquerque’s Ch 13 T.V. at the time and asked a friend, a photographer, to come shoot a bit of video, a few seconds of which may be seen on the Internet at Before we shot up the desert, we went for breakfast.  While eating, Steve, who was wearing jeans, explained almost apologetically, that he loved wearing jeans – but that “they were clean.”

The last time I saw Steve, I took him to visit a warehouse, where a casual friend, Phil Coors of the Coors beer empire, maintained some 300 cars.  Steve, who kept his collection to around fifty for insurance reasons, was quite impressed by the quantity and quality of the many rare and historic vehicles.  When we left, approximately 200 Coors employees had lined up around the building to get a glimpse of Steve.  Not a word, not any noise at all.  We just got into the car and left.

I seldom spoke to Steve after I moved to Washington D.C. in late 1977 to take another broadcasting job. I did tell him of a large car collectors show in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and he said he wanted to visit me and attend.  However, all communication between us suddenly ceased, and I eventually found out about Steve's heartbreaking condition.

I'll never forget my time with Steve and I cherish the moments we shared.  He was just a “regular” guy and anything but a “star.” It was like hanging around with a long-time buddy. I'll bet Steve would grin as only he could, if he knew that time spent with him more than 30 years earlier was now contributing, in my post retirement years, to my “15 minutes of fame.”

Sam Allred is the founder of the martial art Jukensa Kajukenbo and the internet domain, Allred is also the author of seven published self-defense books in Spanish and is a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame.  He resides in Mexico.