UNION COUNTY, NJ — His name may elude you at first, but that ruggedly handsome – yet elegantly bearded – face, wrapped in a dashing air of sophistication, is nearly unmistakable to anyone who owns a television, smartphone or computer. Jonathan Goldsmith has just arrived for a promotional event in downtown Cranford and a large crowd of his devotees is instantly going crazy from the mere sight of him entering the building.
A reliable veteran character actor for more than half a century, Goldsmith’s career credentials are long and impressive. He has appeared in more than two dozen Westerns, alongside such Hollywood heavyweights as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. His list of television show credits includes more than 40 of the most beloved and popular series of all time — “Hawaii Five-O,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Rockford Files,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “CHiPs,” “Knots Landing,” “T.J. Hooker,” “The Fall Guy” and “The A-Team,” just to name a few.
But it wasn’t until April 2007 when the journeyman actor began an almost decade-long run as Dos Equis beer’s “Most Interesting Man In The World” that Goldsmith became an internationally recognized pop culture icon; a household face, if not exactly a household name to most viewers. The outlandishly tongue-in-cheek media campaign, documenting the globe-trekking exploits of a charismatic, aging-yet-dynamic man of adventure, was an instant hit with both male and female viewers alike, increasing sales and brand awareness while simultaneously transforming Goldsmith into a bona fide celebrity before his 70th birthday. Loosely based on a famous acting buddy, Fernando Lamas, he imbued the fictional character with the perfect blend of worldly gravitas and understated swagger to create something unforgettable and unique, in a vapid age of nearly extinct attention spans.
Goldsmith’s final commercial for Dos Equis aired in 2016, depicting the suave ladies man rocketing towards Mars, which coincided with his real life departure from the beer company and his signature character. One year later, he is back with a new product, a new yet undeniably familiar advertising theme and a new promotional tour for the Astral Tequila company. Goldsmith’s hectic itinerary included a highly publicized stop at the River and Rail Mexican Cantina in Cranford on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 4, with the intent of meeting and greeting fans on behalf of Astral. As promised by his lovely public relations representative, Persia, Goldsmith graciously made his way from the noisy dining area to the more atmospheric and quieter outdoor patio area for our interview. Sporting a dark blazer, tapered jeans, sunglasses, smoldering cigar and a cup of coffee, as a stone wall of mini-firepit flames flickered around him, the man looked as if he had just stepped out of one of his own exotic commercials. What follows are excerpts from our brief conversation spanning the actor’s past, present and future activities:
DV: This is a real thrill to meet you in person! You have had quite a varied and fascinating career, within and outside of Hollywood. Is there any actor or motion picture you were involved with that stands out as being your most memorable?
JG: I would have to say my time spent filming with (Academy Award-winning legend) Burt Lancaster while making “Go Tell The Spartans” way back in 1978, is something I will never forget. He was an amazing person as well as an incredible actor.
DV: What was the best acting advice that you ever received from a big-name co-star?
JG: That would be from Glenn Ford. He was a firm believer in starting a scene before the director yells “Action!” to make it feel more fluid and believable.
DV: Of the countless television series you appeared on over the decades, which gig meant the most to you?
JG: Hmm … I had a really fun time working on “Dallas.” That was a great group of people. (Goldsmith was featured on 17 episodes of the long-running prime-time soap opera.)
DV: My “Star Trek” pals will shoot me if I don’t ask you what it was like working with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy on one episode of the original 1960s series?
JG: (Laughing) I never appeared on Star Trek! That’s just an old rumor that has taken on a life of its own. But I was never on the show.
DV: A million internet memes have been created that showcase your Dos Equis character. Do you have a favorite meme? A favorite Dos Equis commercial?
JG: I get a laugh out of all of the memes. And the Dos Equis commercial that I filmed with the dogs has always been a personal favorite of mine. They were such beautiful creatures. (The actor is associated with several charities, including Therapy Dogs, in which he takes the animals to visit and comfort military veterans struggling with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)
DV: Your stellar nine-year affiliation with Dos Equis ended with your “Most Interesting Man In The World” character taking a one-way trip to Mars last year. Any regrets over being replaced by a younger actor in the current reboot?
JG: No. (Slowly exhaling his cigar) The timing was just right. I’m back from Mars and making appearances for Astral Tequila. We will be leaving for Mexico City in a few weeks, to begin filming new Astral commercials for 2018. It’s an exciting time for me.
DV: Why Astral?
JG: It’s a fine product created by (award-winning master sommelier) Richard Betts. Richard is someone who takes great pride in what he does and, more importantly, he cares about this planet. The tequila is made in Mexico, with all-natural ingredients and no chemicals. The production process doesn’t hurt the environment and it’s fantastic.
DV: You strike me as someone very similar to the larger-than-life character you currently portray in the public arena. Do you have any advice, for the rest of us mere mortals, as to what it takes to become the most interesting man in our own worlds?
JG: Yes, and it’s quite simple. It’s not enough just to be attractive or charming. To become interesting, you have to become interested. Interested in what you do; interested in life. And I believe that reading is a big part of that. We now have a younger generation addicted to their electronic devices who are rapidly losing the ability to read and to understand anything, to comprehend the world around them. This is something that I discuss at great length in my new book.
DV: Is this a memoir of sorts?
JG: Yes. It’s called “Stay Interesting” and it is basically a long look back at my life. All of my triumphs and tragedies along the way. It’s the story of how I went from being a struggling garbageman to being a requested guest at President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday party at Camp David. And much more.
DV: I’m sorry if my questions are a bit scattered. The place is packed and I honestly didn’t think I would have you all to myself for this long. But the less I prepare for an assignment the better the night usually goes for me and this has been wonderful.
JG: Don’t worry … I am enjoying this. And it’s also giving me a chance to finish my cigar and my coffee before I have to go back inside. (Laughs)
And just like that, our interview was over. Persia had returned to our table, informing us it was finally time for Jonathan’s appearance to officially commence. Under the blanket of a crisp New Jersey autumn sky, fantasy was once again becoming the actor’s reality for the next few hours, as it has so many other times in his past. The River and Rail security team led the actor away and, as the dining room doors parted, a packed house of delighted fans, patrons and well-wishers bathed him in a loud roar of unbridled excitement. As if they were greeting a cherished, long lost friend…
Almost as if they were meeting the most interesting man in the world.
David VanDeventer provides entertainment event coverage for Worrall Media and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.