The Most Interesting Man In The World

Remember The Most Interesting Man In The World campaign for Dos Equis Beer? Turns out he’s a sailor in real life. Who’d a thunk it…

Meet The Most Interesting Man In The World

By Ann Dermody
Published: October/November 2014

Does Jonathan Goldsmith have the most interesting quiet life in the world?

Photo of Jonathan Goldsmith on his boat
Photo: Bobby Quillard
Not just for show: Jonathan Goldsmith has been a tried-and-true sailor for many decades.

When you play The Most Interesting Man in the World on TV, I guess it’s your prerogative to stand up reporters. That’s what happened the first time I was set to talk to Jonathan Goldsmith (for the record, I’ve been stood up by much less intriguing individuals), and to be fair, he did have something far more remarkable to do than talk to me. He was on his way back from the White House Correspondents’ dinner, where he was mobbed with requests for photos, despite the fact the room was filled with some of the world’s best-recognized faces. Such fawning and fandom have become the norm for Jonathan Goldsmith, much to his surprise, given that he’s been in the acting business for most of his life, racking up roles in older classics such as “Hang ‘Em High.” Yet it’s the debonair gentleman he plays in a TV ad campaign for Dos Equis beer, showing him in various Hemingway-meets-James Bond-style exploits, that has catapulted him into mainstream imaginations.

Photo of the most interesting man in the world
Photo: Bobby Quillard
In character playing The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Some of those adventures, at least the boating ones where he’s looking all dashing and competent on a yacht, aren’t that far removed from his real-life experiences. “I actually lived on sailboats on and off for 38 years,” says Goldsmith when we finally connected by phone when he was at his Vermont farm. Though he didn’t grow up boating, he has 40-odd years of sailing under his belt, thanks to a movie he was working on in the ’70s. “I was doing a picture shot at sea. An odd one I hope no one ever sees, called ‘Blood Voyage,’ with one of the original Lone Rangers, John Hart. As part of the movie, we spent seven days on a Force 50, and it just became a love affair with me.”

Back in California, a friend taught him how to sail on a Hudson 50. “There were a number of boats at the time they called Taiwan Turkeys. Beautiful boats that sailed like bathtubs because they were so heavy. But they were very forgiving because they were ponderous and everything happened very slowly.”

Goldsmith soon bought his first boat, a Catalina 30, and after that a Seawolf 41. Then came a 48-footer, and his last boat before leaving California, a 473 Beneteau, which he recently sold because he moved to Vermont. Between the 48 and 473, Goldsmith left acting and started a network-marketing business promoting products that cleaned without water. Business was good, and that resulted in a 60-foot Gulfstar. “It was a magnificent boat,” he says. “I kept it in the Caribbean and would take distributors sailing on it as a bonus.”

Photo of Jonathan Goldsmith at the captains wheel
Aboard one of his previous boats.

Like his doppelgänger on TV, Goldsmith’s adventures have become a little less wide-ranging. He still has a boat, albeit a somewhat smaller model. “I have a 40-year-old Grumman aluminum boat sitting on a trailer with the motor from my dinghy on it. I use it to go fishing. All around me here in Vermont are the most beautiful lakes filled with great northern pike and bass and walleye.”

Born in the Bronx in 1938, Goldsmith’s father was a retired teacher who moved to a small farm in upstate New York. His stepmother was a potter involved in the arts scene, and as a younger man Goldsmith would go to Vermont with his father to fish trout. “I had wonderful memories of it. When my father passed, I scattered his ashes on a river close to here, not knowing that 10 years later I’d be living just up the road.”

Ironically, the success of the Dos Equis campaign and a growing lack of privacy were what compelled him to leave Los Angeles. Before the TV ads, “no one really knew who I was,” he says. “I had my share of fans, I suppose, but I was a working actor. People would recognize me, but not know from where. It’s incredible now. I usually have to get security. I threw out the first pitch at a Dodgers-Angels game in 2010, and I couldn’t get out of the stadium. It’s been a wonderful blessing for me at a time when most actors are in the twilight of their careers.” It’s also resulted in him being offered other roles. “Constantly,” he says, “which is really nice. Like most actors, I never really enjoyed that. You go from job to job and don’t really know when you’re going to work again. This has been a dream and a nice position to be in.”

So why does he think the Most Interesting Man in the World character is so popular? “Easy. Every man, including myself, would like to be him,” he says.

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