For a period of time, the late duo of The Who’s Keith Moon and Hollywood’s Steve McQueen were two of the wildest men on the planet. When the two men were neighbours in Malibu, things were never going to be quiet. As the headline suggests, Moon and McQueen living in close proximity was an explosive experience and the human equivalent of dropping a pack of Mentos into a bottle of Coca-Cola.
In 1974, The Who were firmly established as one of the biggest bands on the planet and their drummer, Keith Moon, wanted to live the full rockstar experience out in California. He treated himself to a luxurious pad out in Malibu and he was hellbent on partying morning, noon and night there. While his neighbour, the one and only Steve McQueen, might have portrayed himself on screen as this all-action, true American hero, he wasn’t prepared to accept any of the bullshit that his new acquaintance had lined up for him.
Tony Fletcher’s biography of Keith Moon goes into detail about how Moon made the first impression from hell after trying to invite McQueen to his housewarming party. “Somewhere in the middle of arranging the event, Keith Moon walked the 50-odd yards next door to the McQueens’. The intention was apparently to issue an invitation,” Fletcher writes.
“But encountering only Chad, McQueen’s 16-year-old son from his previous marriage, Keith succeeded in antagonising the boy no end through offers of – or a request for – drink and drugs. There were reports that Keith pushed into the house, that a fight broke out, that the McQueens’ dog bit Keith and Keith bit it back. Certainly, a confrontation took place.”
Being bitten by the McQueen family dog wasn’t the end of the story, however, and the actor used his endless resources to recruit a former ex-FBI agent to nip the matter firmly in the bud before Moon could wreak any more havoc. McQueen, who had arranged a sitdown meeting with the authorities, was greeted by Moon who had bizarrely taken it upon himself to dress up in a fake Nazi uniform. The clothing choice, somehow, didn’t phase the actor as he had grown accustomed to seeing the drummer wear this offensive outfit on a regular basis. Despite the theatre, McQueen ended the meeting victorious as Moon agreed to leave him alone.
Although the Moon biography paints their relationship as somewhat cartoonish, McQueen’s widow, Barbara, recounted a version of events which proved to be far less entertaining. She wrote in her memoirs, Steve McQueen: The Last Mile, all about the difficult relationship with their percussionist neighbour: “Keith’s bathroom light shone directly into our bedroom and kept Steve awake at night. Steve repeatedly asked Keith to turn it off. After the fifth time, Steve just grabbed a shotgun, blew out the light and went back to bed. We never heard another word from Keith Moon.”
The truth, in reality, likely lies somewhere in the middle of these two stories. While it would be somewhat typically Steve McQueen behaviour to grab the shotgun and blow out Moon’s light to put an end to all the shenanigans, that’s precisely why it feels fabricated. The only clear conclusion from this story, evidently, is that Keith Moon and Steve McQueen were two personalities that should have never crossed paths.