Jonathan Goldsmith is an actor best known for his role as the “Most Interesting Man in the World,” an advertising campaign character created by the Dos Equis beer company that experienced unbelievable success on television and the internet, achieving meme fame like no other. Yet, every story comes to an end, and for the Most Interesting Man in the World that meant a fictional retirement to Mars in March 2016, when Dos Equis decided to end the campaign.
Goldsmith now lives in Vermont with his wife and dog, and his newfound freedom has given him a chance to look more closely at his legacy, and write it down in the form of a memoir.
Stay Interesting: I Don’t Always Tell Stories About My Life, but When I Do They’re True and Amazing, seems tongue-in-cheek at first, but after a careful read, one will discover Goldsmith’s story, sandwiched between frisky sexcapades, life lessons, and good humor, is actually quite sad.
There are moments detailing romantic encounters with women — lots of them — like his extramarital affair with Tina Louise, also known as Ginger Grant, the sultry redhead from Gilligan's Island. And to be sure, he’s had his fair share of Interesting Man adventures, like climbing Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States, where he says he managed to save another man’s life with his bare hands and brute strength. Moments like these abound in Stay Interesting.
Men’s Journal had the chance to speak at length with Goldsmith, what it means to break away from one’s past, follow one’s dreams, and to learn to love.
Why did you decide to write a memoir?
I’m a saver, and I was cleaning out and going through stuff I’ve saved for years and years. I have five children and 12 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I wanted to leave things behind for them. I found that one thought led me to another experience, and I thought they were rather interesting.
What’s the book about?
It’s kind of a love story… certainly with the love of a man, me, for his father, who was so responsible for so many of the good things that happened to me. It’s about reinvention, surviving, disappointment, difficulties, having a dream and going for it, and never giving up.
And it’s a love story with life. Life is an endless celebration of possibilities. It’s about establishing one’s worth, rather than being told what you’re worth. It’s about reinvention, perseverance, attitude. That’s all.
What life lessons have you learned along the way that you were able to write down for your children?
I’ve learned many, and some the hard way. Some I wouldn’t want to say to my children, but overall, the theme is to keep going, keep your chin up. And as the old adage goes, it’s not how many times you’re knocked down, it’s how many you get up.
The writing [in Stay Interesting] is very poetic and descriptive; as an actor with a lifelong interest in the theater, do you have any background in writing?
Not professionally, but I’ve always loved writing poetry. I used to write love letters for some of my friends on their behalf.
How much of the Most Interesting Man in the World is in the book?
How much of me is in the character? It’s me, it’s my story. I hope I achieve the same success and reaction as the [Dos Equis] campaign did. That was overwhelming, and I’m constantly hearing from people about it… I have a stack of correspondence from people all over the world… I get more fan mail now than I did even then.
How much of you is in that character?
Some of the characteristics. I love beautiful things, certainly beautiful women, romantic settings. You have to read further into the book. It went beyond the campaign. Every important part of my life involves women... great times, romance, escapes, and close calls.
How many romantic partners have you had?
Oh, quite a few. Wilt Chamberlain [an American basketball player] has me beat, though, he was 25,000. But I did well. I’ve had wonderful times and met lovely ladies, many of whom I’ve stayed friends with for 50 years.
Tell me one of your favorite romantic stories or escapades.
A woman I found to be the most beautiful and sophisticated and gracious and glamorous I had ever met was a movie star named Joan Fontaine. We never had an affair, we had a wonderful friendship that lasted a long time. I loved her as a person… that was a very meaningful thing to me, because it points out that one can have a tremendous love for somebody that does not have to have sexual overtones or involvements. There [are] different types of love.
The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. Erich Fromm wrote a wonderful book called the Art of Loving that gave a definition that true love is “I love you because I want you,” not “I love you because I need you.”
I’ve had relationships that weren’t the healthiest, and I think we really have to look within ourselves and examine the truth within us and within the relationship.
Any tips for the guys out there on how to have relationships with women?
My advice is to always be honest and to always be kind.
When I was a young man, one of my relationships got so complicated that I had guilt about it. One time, I almost apologized for burdening myself on a young lady because I thought, she doesn’t need my emotional stuff I laid on her... it was not kind of me to do that.
With such a troubled past, where did you find your confidence?
One of the most important lines I ever read was in a book by Gerry Spence, a country lawyer who has never lost a case, and he does it all pro bono. [The line is] “A healthy man becomes his own mother.”
It caused me no end of grief as a child growing up feeling inadequate, that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t a good son. It caused and colored relationships that I had… that’s not the way it is.
We love our parents, ideally, because they are worthy. Just because a parent is a parent doesn’t automatically mean a child has to love them and is duty bound to love them. A lot of conflict and a lot of guilt. Love has to be earned on every level.
Would you hold while I re-light my cigar? One second. It’s a good cigar. I was out fishing this morning, and it was so good, I brought home the stub and I’m relighting it now.
I feel sorry for people who don’t smoke cigars. What a pleasure.
So, about the confidence thing…
It helps in life to have good friends and a good therapist or two. If one carries the baggage of childhood with them, it can be an ongoing source of difficulty for an adult.
The way I see it, the things we go through are seen through the prism of a child. A child understands things emotionally, it does not understand things intellectually. Gradually, in time, if one is a searcher and seeker and needer of truth, you start to find out that you don’t have much of a chance to be a healthy person until you can understand a little bit about the world, about other people. If one carries anger, whether entitled to it or not, it only separates you from yourself.
I was considerably older when I came to terms with my mother and realized she didn’t set out to make life miserable for me, she had her own problems, and we have to sift through these things. My mother had a very, very difficult life. As I started to examine myself and my past and my angers and disappointments and weaknesses, things started to stand out as time was going on... I don’t even buy green bananas anymore.
What’s your cigar of choice?
I don’t smoke them very often, because I smoke one a day, and they’re expensive: Hoyo de Monterrey. Cuban, particularly. Ashton, Romeo y Julieta. I love them. Since my mid-20s. And I also smoke a pipe. It’s a wonderful experience.
Do you drink beer?
Well, I don’t always drink beer… [laughs]
I also like rum, mescal, and also a gin martini, when it’s kind of warm. In winter, I like whiskey. I do like to drink, and I drink in moderation, but I have a cocktail every night, which I look forward to, and a nice glass of wine after that.
What would be your beer of choice on a hot day?
Labatt, St Pauli Girl, Blue Moon.
What about craft beers?
In Vermont, I have Otter Creek, Long Trail… [he hasn’t heard of Hill Farmstead]
So, I guess you don’t have to say “Dos Equis” anymore.
No, Dos Equis is not at the top of my list. I can drink whatever I want.
I wanted to ask you about this chapter title: “Everyone Needs to be Haunted Once in their Life.”
That’s about a lovely interlude I had — a beautiful, touching brief affair in a ghost town with a lady that was kind of on the run. She was disfigured, and it was an interesting story. It’s a lovely story.
You seem like someone who has fallen in love a lot.
When I used to fall in love, I knew I was in love when my thoughts were in poetry. A lot? I don’t know what a lot is, but certainly my share, five or six times.
What do you hope people will get out of the book?
I hope they will smile, enjoy it, identify with some of the problems I had… and say, “Gee, me too," and see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, as long as you keep your eye on your goals and your dreams. They’re yours. They go fast. Some people dream about their future; others wake up and do something about it. So, wake up! Wake up! It’s a short journey, in the scheme of things. I’m looking out my window, in my backyard. The stars are incredible. I look up at the stars with my dog and cigar, and realize I’m looking at stars that no longer exist. Yesterday, I was a child. How quickly our life goes… make the most of it, it’s not a dress rehearsal. It’s your life, it’s your journey.
[Life is] like a parade. A lot of people watch it go by, and some get in it and enjoy the journey and enjoy the parade. Life is an endless celebration of possibilities, and the sun will come up no matter how miserable the storm is. The sun will come up. While there’s life, there’s hope. Never stop dreaming.