Sunday, January 22, 2012

*278.NEILE ADAMS: The Kapampangan Side of Ex-Mrs. Steve McQueen

NEILE, MCQUEEN'S QUEEN. Neile Adams (aka Ruby Neilam Arrastia y Salvador), actress-singer and dancer, with the action star of the 60s, the late Steve McQueen. Neile's father, Jose, hails from the prominent Arrastia-Salgado family of Lubao. Ca. mid 60s.

Minda Feliciano and Isabel Preysler are two of the more high-profile beauties with Kapampangan blood to have relationships with international celebrities. Angeles-born Minda (b. 1 June 1931) had a celebrated romance with English actor Michael Caine in the late ‘60s, while Isabel Preysler, whose family comes from Lubao, is well-known as the former wife of Spanish crooner, Julio Iglesias, and the mother of Enrique Iglesias.

But before them was Ruby Neilam Salvador Arrastia, who came to be known in Hollywood as the actress-singer-dancer Neile Adams—and the first wife of actor, Steve McQueen, the hottest new male star of Hollywood back in the early ‘60s.

Ruby was born on 10 July 1932, the child of Jose (Pepe) Arrastia of Lubao and Carmen Salvador. Carmen came from a family of stage and movie performers of mixed German-Spanish-Filipino blood; she was a professional dancer herself, while a more famous brother became the noted character actor Lou Salvador Sr., who was active in show business from the 1930s-60s.

Her father, Jose or Pepe, was the eldest son of Valentin Roncal Arrastia, a Basque Spaniard, with Lubao native Francisca Serrano Salgado. Jose’s parents were the most prominent hacienderos of the town, and he grew up living the privileged life, together with siblings Carmen, Justo, Benito, Crispula, Juanita, Esteban, Francisco, Enrique and Sebastian. When he came of age, Pepe married Teodorica (Kika) Reinares of Orion, Bataan, with whom he had two children, Mercedes and Beatriz. A relationship with Carmen resulted in a third daughter—Ruby.

She spent her growing-up years in Manila, until the second World War. She and her family were incarcerated by the Japanese for 18 months, and after the War, she was whisked away to the U.S. The young Ruby took dancing lessons in school, and her terpsichorean skills, obviously inherited from her mother was soon being noticed in auditions. The pert and pretty Neile, as she now called herself, found herself being cast in shows and musicals, and one of her early appearances was in “Pajama Game”, staged at the Carnegie Hall. From the stage, she moved on to bit appearances on screen and on TV, with credits in the 1952 movie, “Grubstake” and as Patsy St. Claire in “This Could Be The Night” (1957).

Shortly after a dance rehearsal, Neile Adams met an up-and-coming young actor and a former member of the Marine Corps, Steve McQueen. McQueen had been bumming around in New York hoping to get an education, but he found his calling at the Actors Studio and decided to be a movie star. He found himself doing bit roles, playing second fiddle to Paul Newman’s “Somebody Up There Likes Me” and Ben Gazzara’s “A Hatful of Rain”, both produced in 1956. Upon Neile’s insistence, Steve accepted a role as a minister in the low budget movie “The Blob” . It proved to be one of the most successful films in 1957. That same year, Neile Adams and Steve McQueen were married and settled in Laurel Canyon, and then to Nichols Canyon, where they raised two children, Terry and Chad.

It was said that Adams’ influence with agents jumpstarted McQueen’s stellar career in Hollywood. Husband and wife appeared in a memorable episode in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. Separately, Neile accepted a recurring role in the TV series “Five Fingers” as Rita Juan in 1960, and went on to guest star in top TV shows like “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “Love American Style” and “Bob Hope Show”. But Steve’s career was on a major upswing: he was cast for 3 season in the hit TV series “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, and in 1960, the action film “Magnificent Seven” confirmed his big-screen star status.

In 1963, the McQueens built a grand retreat house in Brentwood with all the trappings of Hollywood glitz and glamour. They owned a fleet of cars like a Mustang, Porsche, Ferrari and Jaguar. Their Mediterranean stone house, set near the ocean side, could pass for a French castle, what with its huge stone courtyard, an expansive terrace and high oak gates.

The McQueens spent many years together in their fabulous enclave set in the hills of Brentwood. Steve’s insistence that Neile stop working started a friction that would culminate in 1972, when he made “The Getaway” in 1972 and fell in love with co-star Ali McGraw. Neile and Steve were divorced that same year. Steve married Ali in 1973, but that too, ended in divorce. He next married model Barbara Minty.

As for Neile, she continued to pursue her love for acting, frequently making guest appearances (sometimes billed as Neile McQueen) throughout the 70s and 80s in such popular shows as “The Bionic Woman”, “ The Rockford Files”, “Fantasy Island”, “Vega$” and “Hotel”. In 1986, she wrote “My Husband, My Friend”, a biography of her husband Steve, who, six years before, had died of cancer.

Neile Adams, now married to financial consultant Alvin Toffel, has expanded her interests to include horse-race breeding. She has also recently done a series of one-woman cabaret shows. Her son Chad as well as grandson Steven McQueen, are both actors. Neile’s half-sisters are also personalities in their own right. Mercedes (Mercy) Arrastia-Tuason is our Philippine ambassador to the Vatican, while Beatriz (Betty) married Carlos Preysler, the parents of the international socialite, Isabel Preysler.

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