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Steve McQueen, Warren Zevon, and Your Loved Ones: Mesothelioma Can Strike Everyone

I cringe when I hear the word asbestosIt's everywhere - in our schools, homes, buildings…My husband’s death was a long – painful ordeal – I can readily identify with [others] who have been exposed to asbestos as well as their [family].

  • Barbara McQueen, widow of actor Steve McQueen

Asbestos cancer (mesothelioma) does not discriminate. It does not matter if you are a famous movie star, a world-renown physicist, or a construction worker. The strongest of athletes and the smartest of scientists have been brought down by mesothelioma cancer. Weitz & Luxenberg would like to give respect to the people who have achieved great success in their careers, but just like you have heard the immobilizing words, “I’m sorry, it’s mesothelioma.”

On this page, you will find information on people you may already know. Like you, these people have battled mesothelioma. The cancer affects a moving songwriter (Warren Zevon), a celebrated actor (Steve McQueen), an inspirational activist (Bob Bellear), a groundbreaking scientist (Stephen Jay Gould), a great American athlete (Merlin Olsen), and others.

Anyone who has been stricken with this dreadful disease has the right to pursue financial compensation. We can help you in this pursuit. If you, or your father, mother, grandparents, aunt or uncle has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, Weitz & Luxenberg can help you pursue compensation against the companies responsible for your illness. Contact us for a free legal consultation.

Warren Zevon (January 24th, 1947 – September 7th, 2003)

Multiple Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Warren Zevon died a year after his diagnosis with mesothelioma. Zevon has been compared to Bruce Springstein, Jackson Browne, and Bob Dylan in his eclectic and classic rock and roll song styles (Slant Magazine). Warren’s own brand of darkly absurdist lyrics comes across in his popular songs, “Werewolves of London” and “Excitable Boy”.

At the time of his diagnosis, Warren’s physician stated that the cancer was inoperable. Other treatment options were available, but Warren chose not to pursue them for fear they would incapacitate him. Instead, the diligent songwriter decided to focus his last reminding year on another album. Zevon’s last album, entitled The Wind, was released to critical acclaim August 2003. One month later, Warren Zevon passed away.

Warren Zevon was also a frequent guest on David Letterman’s talk shows. David Letterman recalls the last appearance Warren Zevon made on his show:

“After the show, it was heartbreaking —he was in his dressing room, and we were talking and this and that. Here's a guy who had months to live and we're making small talk. And as we're talking, he's taking his guitar strap and hooking it, wrapping it around, then he puts the guitar into the case and he flips the snaps on the case and says, "Here, I want you to have this, take good care of it." And I just started sobbing. He was giving me the guitar that he always used on the show. I felt like, "I can't be in this movie, I didn't get my lines." That was very tough.” (

The track “Keep Me In Your Heart” of his album The Wind, mentions briefly his feelings about death and his receding breath due to mesothelioma.

Steve McQueen (March 24th, 1930 – November 7th, 1980)

When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it.

  • Steve McQueen

Nicknamed “The King of Cool,” Steve McQueen starred in such classic films as The Towering Inferno, The Great Escape, and Bullitt. Known for his attractive, anti-hero roles, McQueen was considered a teen heartthrob in the late sixties despite being almost forty-years old.

In his early years, he worked briefly in the Marines where he was exposed to asbestos. The King of Cool wore asbestos-insulated suits when he raced cars. He was also a heavy smoker, which contributes to the development of mesothelioma after asbestos exposure.

December 22, 1979, Steve McQueen was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He kept his illness a secret until October of the following year. In early November of 1980, he died of a heart attack after receiving surgery. A doctor present at the surgery remarked that his right lung was completely full of cancer (IMDB).

Bob Bellear (June 27th, 1944 – March 15th, 2005)

Bob Bellear was a pioneer, a man of great compassion, and he developed his consciousness at a time in Sydney of rising Aboriginal consciousness about civil rights. It was in the 1970s when the use of the hated Summary Offences Act on Aboriginal people in Redfern became a type of police sport. Bellear watched with horror as friends suffered, not for being criminal but for being black. The overt racism of the police actions every Friday and Saturday night appalled him.

  • Ian Cohen, Australian social activist

Bob Bellear was the first Australian aborigine appointed to the position of judge of the District Court of New South Wales, Australia. This was in a time when aborigines in Australia were not treated with equality. Many aborigines were forced to relocate and often ended up in slums. Bob Bellear was a symbol of hope for many because of his great success.

In his youth, even though Bellear graduated school early, he was not given any job offers. This he attributed to racism. So, he turned to the Marines. It was there that he was most likely exposed to asbestos.

In 1972, Bob Bellear established the Aboriginal Housing Company where he helped aborigines of Redfern (a large aboriginal population) from getting evicted by their landlords. That year, he became a lawyer after completing his HSC at Sydney Technical College. In 1996, he was appointed to the position of judge.

He died in his home in March of 2005 of mesothelioma (

Stephen Jay Gould (September 10th, 1941 – May 20th, 2002)

The swords of battle are numerous, and none more effective than humor.

  • Stephen Jay Gould from his essay The Median Isn’t The Message (

Stephen Jay Gould was one of the most prominent paleontologists of his time. He was awarded the Schuchert Award by the Paleontological Society in 1975, and his work helped answer questions raised by Charles Darwin’s research on evolution.

He worked as an assistant professor at Harvard University starting in 1967, and began research on the evolution of snails in the West Indies. He is the author of several books including The Panda’s Thumb, and The Mismeasure of Man – both of which received awards and critical acclaim.

In 1982, Gould was diagnosed with mesothelioma. After receiving the diagnosis, he published an essay called The Median Isn’t The Message, about how statistics should not be used to discourage hope.

“A politician in power might say with pride, "The mean income of our citizens is $15,000 per year." The leader of the opposition might retort, "But half our citizens make less than $10,000 per year." Both are right, but neither cites a statistic with impassive objectivity…mesothelioma is incurable, with a median mortality of only eight months after discovery…This is a personal story of statistics, properly interpreted, as profoundly nurturant and life-giving. It declares holy war on the downgrading of intellect by telling a small story about the utility of dry, academic knowledge about science. Heart and head are focal points of one body, one personality,” an excerpt from The Median Isn’t The Message.

Gould calculated that he had a good chance at beating his cancer given the early detection of the cancer, his health, and his positive attitude. He was correct. Stephen’s mesothelioma went into remission after treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery.

Stephen Jay Gould died of an unrelated cancer in May of 2002 (Notable Biographies).

Merlin Olsen (September 15th, 1940 – March 11th, 2010)

Merlin Olsen was star on two planes: on the field, and on the screen. On the field he was an NFL defensive tackle and member of the Los Angeles Rams’ “fearsome foursome”. On the screen, he was gentle giant Jonathan Garvey on the show Little House on the Prairie.

Before playing football professionally, Olsen excelled academically – graduating summa cum laude at Utah State. He was offered positions at prominent companies such as IBM and Xerox, but he ended up playing for the LA Rams 1962. He was hailed the 25thbest football player of all time in 1999 (DailyNews).

Merlin claimed that he was exposed to asbestos early in his life while he worked in drywall construction, and then again during his career when he worked with on television. Olsen and his wife filed suit against Universal, 20thCentury Fox, and other studios for negligently exposing him to asbestos (TMZ).

Merlin Olsen died in March of 2010 from mesothelioma.

Your story

We care about your story just as much as any of these others. Anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma is important in the sense that they have been unjustly poisoned by the negligence of a company. Weitz & Luxenberg wants to make those companies – which have hurt so many by willingly exposing people to asbestos – know your story. The story of how and why you developed mesothelioma is a story that needs to be told.

Other notable people diagnosed with mesothelioma

  • Bruce Vento – United States Congressman.
  • Paul Gleason– American actor known for his role as Principal Richard Vernon in the film The Breakfast Club.
  • Hamilton Jordan – Politician, Cancer activist, and Chief of Staff for President Jimmy Carter.
  • Terrence McCann – American wrestler and Olympic gold medalist.
  • Malcolm McLaren– Music performer and manager of the Sex Pistols.
  • Christie Hennessy– singer-songwriter.
  • Mickie Most– Record producer.
  • Billy Vaughn– American songwriter.
  • Richard J. Herrnstein– American psychologist and co-author ofthe controversial book The Bell Curve.
  • Paul Rudolph– Architect.
  • John William MacDougall – Labor politician from Scottland.
  • Bernie Banton– workers’ rights activist from Australian.
  • Peter LeonardAustralian journalist.
  • Paul Kraus – Long-time survivor of mesothelioma and author of the book Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient's Guide.
  • Michael G. Coney– Prolific science fiction writer.

Weitz & Luxenberg helps those with mesothelioma

Weitz & Luxenberg has been helping people file lawsuits against the companies responsible for giving them mesothelioma for over two decades. We are team of experienced litigators with an assortment of resources at our disposal. If you or a family member one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, compensation is available.

For a free, no obligation, legal consultation simply fill out the form on this page. After submitting the form, a representative will be in touch with you within 24 hours.


The Mirror:

Bitten and Bound:

Slant Magazine:


Daily News:


Notable Biographies:

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