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A conversation with the most interesting man in the world

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In the above image, Jonathan Goldsmith appears in a video: The Critique - for the Orvis Cover Dog Contest to help fund research for the Fight To End Dog Cancer. ) In the above image, Jonathan Goldsmith appears in a video: The Critique - for the Orvis Cover Dog Contest to help fund research for the Fight To End Dog Cancer. ) (Photo Courtesy of Youtube/Orvis

From 2006 to 2016, we knew actor Jonathan Goldsmith as the spokesman for Dos Equis beer, where he appeared as “The most interesting man in the world.” Goldsmith’s new memoir “Stay Interesting: I Don’t Always Tell Stories About My Life But When I Do, They’re True and Amazing” (Penguin Random House, $27) makes a strong case for that title’s veracity.

A veteran of more than 350 television and film appearances, Goldsmith says that his acting career began in Maine in the early 1950s.

“I have wonderful feelings for Maine and great memories of going to two summer camps there,” Goldsmith told me in a recent interview from his farmhouse in Manchester, Vermont.

Goldsmith’s boyhood experiences during summer productions in Androscoggin and Quahog Bay sparked his love for performing which led to later roles in “Perry Mason,” “Adam-12,” “Gunsmoke,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Murder She Wrote,” “Dallas,” “Dynasty” and dozens of other popular series.

“I loved the constant change involved with being on all of those different shows and it took me all over the world as an actor,” Goldsmith says. “But I would have preferred to have a steady income. It was exciting but it was also depressing to get so close to that brass ring only to find it elusive time and time again.”

In 1968, Goldsmith appeared with Clint Eastwood in the movie “Hang ‘em High,” where he says he spent a “lovely and memorable evening” with a woman who turned out to be Eastwood’s girlfriend at the time. “Whether he found out about that, I have no idea. He knows now but that was 50 years ago,” Goldsmith says with a chuckle.

Few people can say that they were shot by John Wayne, but Goldsmith’s experience on the set of the Duke’s final film left him with a pounding headache and seven bloody welts across the top of his head.

“It was in ‘The Shootist’ where I played a bad guy where I was going to make my reputation by taking out the legend,” Goldsmith remembers. “He shot me as I crashed through the window. I wasn’t dead so he came over to give me the coup de gras, which meant that when he pulled the trigger, a prop-man off camera would shoot me between the eyes with a blood pellet.”

Goldsmith says that when he was lying on the floor covered with welts, the film’s director looked down at him and asked “Kid, what are they paying you?” When told the amount, the director doubled it and said “If it’s a consolation, everyone who is shot by the Duke becomes a star.”

“30-some years later he was right,” Goldsmith says.

In the 1980s, the job offers slowed, “as my hair became grayer,” Goldsmith says. He later became vice president for an international company specializing in waterless car-care products.

“After a number of years, that fell apart and I found myself living in the High Sierras on a beautiful piece of property, but slowly going broke,” Goldsmith told me. “Hollywood is very much an out of sight, out of mind town and I was a stranger to them.”

Still, there was a lady who remembered Goldsmith from his acting days and she wanted to represent him.

“She called one day and said she had a commercial she wanted me to audition for,” Goldsmith says. “It required me to improvise a story and end with the line, ‘And that’s how I arm-wrestled Fidel Castro.’”

Goldsmith was 68 years old and nervous about the prospect of further rejection and disappointment.

“I went to the audition and, being a camper, I decided to sleep in the back of my truck. After a listless night, I walked in to see about 500 people there all looking like they were auditioning to be the next Juan Valdez. I wanted to quit so I called my agent, Barbara.”

When Goldsmith told her that he was going to bail on the audition, she changed his mind by saying ‘You’re a good actor. Go in. You’ll never forgive yourself if you walk away.”

Then Goldsmith thought of a friend, actor and director Fernando Lamas.

“He was a dear friend of mine and had been dead for 10 years by this time,” Goldsmith recalls his moment of inspiration. “He was the greatest storyteller, raconteur and lothario I had ever met. I channeled him and walked into that audition.”

Goldsmith started telling a wild, stream of consciousness story, and the room filled with laughter. “The more they laughed, the wilder my story became,” he says.

“The casting director was a wonderful guy named Joe Blake. He called Barbara and told her that he thought they were going to go with someone younger. She stopped him and said ‘Joe, how could the most interesting man in the world be young? You need to be older to have life experience.’ That did it and that’s just one of the reasons why I married her,” Goldsmith told me.

Goldsmith finally had a starring role which provided both a steady income and global recognition for a decade.

Dos Equis dropped Goldsmith as their spokesman in 2016 but he can be seen now in a new campaign for Astral Tequila.

“They sent me to Mars and I came back with the greatest tequila. It’s going to shake up the whole industry,” Goldsmith says.

As part of his book tour, Goldsmith says he is coming to Maine and would love to connect with readers of The Maine Edge. For updates, keep an eye on his Instagram handle @Stay_Interesting. 

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