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The Untold Truth Of The Most Interesting Man In The World, Jonathan Goldsmith

There have been many great advertising campaigns in the world of alcohol over the years, but The Most Interesting Man in the World is definitely among the most memorable. Beginning in 2007, the campaign (which is credited with a 34.8% boost in sales for Dos Equis) shared the exploits of a larger-than-life character with a lust for life and a charisma that made consumers gravitate to the ads. The commercials used dry humor and made the audience laugh when the dashing older gentleman, who was often surrounded by beautiful women, said, "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. Stay thirsty, my friends."

The ads not only boosted sales: Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor who portrayed the silver fox with an enviable life, couldn't walk down the street without being recognized by delighted fans. Goldsmith had worked in the film and television industry as a character actor since the 1960s, but it wasn't until his late 60s that he would get his big break and finally achieve fame and fortune as a brand ambassador for Dos Equis.

Goldsmith was replaced in 2016 with a younger actor and the ad campaign was discontinued shortly after the new guy took over. Still, Goldsmith continues to be associated with the iconic character and has used his notoriety for other ad campaigns, as well as causes he cares about. It turns out Goldsmith's life story is almost as fascinating as that of the character he portrayed for Dos Equis. Keep reading to learn the untold truth of The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Jonathan Goldsmith has Jewish heritage

Unlike The Most Interesting Man in the World, whose subtle Spanish accent suggests Latin descent, Jonathan Goldsmith has Jewish ancestry. He was born on September 26, 1938 in New York. As a boy, Goldsmith attended Hebrew school and took part in the bar mitzvah rite of passage. Although Goldsmith only observes High Holy Day services at the synagogue these days, he describes himself as "a Russian Jew from New York" and takes pride in the fact that his great-grandfather founded a yeshiva in Brooklyn.

Goldsmith's father, Milton Goldsmith, was a gym teacher and track coach at James Monroe High School, while his mother, Greta Roth, was a model represented by Harry Conover, who operated an elite modeling agency. When he was six years old his parents divorced and his mother later remarried. His mother's new husband officially adopted him, but Goldsmith has plenty of positive things to say about his birth father. "My father was my hero," he told Cigar Aficionado, sharing how his father taught him to fly fish.

Jonathan Goldsmith attended Boston University

Jonathan Goldsmith graduated from Boston University in 1958, but, by his own admission, he didn't take his education seriously. He was much more interested in being a student of life, something Goldsmith shares with his iconic character The Most Interesting Man in the World. Reflecting on his time as a BU student, Goldsmith revealed that he didn't really connect with his teachers — with one exception. "I was thrilled by one sociology professor who really made me think that I should become more serious and study," Goldsmith told Boston University. "But at the time, I didn't want to study, I wanted to live."

Becoming a student of life led him to a career in acting and his famous Dos Equis role. However, in later life, Goldsmith began to recognize the value in learning. He told the BU website that he's come to regret not taking his education more seriously when he was a student and that he now spends "a great deal of time trying to catch up." He added: "I can't read enough, I can't study enough, I can't experience enough in the world of art and literature, and I wish that I had started earlier."

Jonathan Goldsmith began his career on the stage

Jonathan Goldsmith discovered his love for acting due to a strange twist of fate. After being kicked out of New York University during his junior year and living a life of "too much hell raising," Goldsmith's father sent him to a therapist. He began studying acting at New York's Living Theatre after psychiatrist Fredric Wertham agreed to treat Goldsmith on the condition that he enrolled at the school. At the Living Theater, Goldsmith discovered he enjoyed performing. "The first time I ever did an improvisation was perhaps the first time in my life I ever got applause and a pat on the back," he told Boston University. "It was a wonderful feeling."

Goldsmith later landed a scholarship at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and before long he was treading the boards on Broadway. He often found himself competing with Dustin Hoffman for roles, and the pair "didn't get along," Goldsmith admitted to Cigar Aficionado, revealing how one day he "jumped up and said, 'Dustin, the reason you don't like me is I'm going to make it — and you're not!'" In his memoir, Goldsmith acknowledged how those words haunted him as he watched Hoffman's success from afar. "Over the next 40 years, I would have those words to eat," he wrote (via New York Post).

Jonathan Goldsmith moved to Los Angeles at 28

Goldsmith's role in the 1963 film "Act One" caught the attention of a Hollywood producer, who offered to help him find work in Tinseltown. After three years and a handful of roles on television, a 28-year-old Goldsmith moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. Like many struggling actors, he took odd jobs to pay the bills. "California did not receive me with open arms," Goldsmith told Cigar Aficionado. "I worked anything I could to survive job wise." He took construction gigs and drove a garbage truck to make ends meet.

After a while Goldsmith found himself landing TV work regularly, but it was one episode at a time and he never had that breakout role that actors dream of. "You can be so close to [success], and yet it's a million miles away," Goldsmith told News Center while reflecting on his many years in Hollywood before he became The Most Interesting Man in the World for Dos Equis. "You'd drive by those studios and see everything that you wanted."

Jonathan Goldsmith's early acting credits were under another name

A look at Goldsmith's IMDb page reveals that the actor's early acting credits are under the name Jonathan Lippe. That's because he took his step-father's last name when he adopted him. At the time, he went by the nickname "The Lip," he told Cigar Aficionado. However, the actor eventually felt guilty about the name change and decided to change back to his birth name.

"It always made me feel badly for my father, who never caused me any grief about it," Goldsmith told Cigar Aficionado. "As my career grew and my son was born, I changed my name back to my real name, Goldsmith, so my father could enjoy his son's success and have a grandson to carry his name as well."

During the mid-70s, he began using the name Goldsmith professionally, and by the 1980s, his acting credits were exclusively under his birth name. Although a name change could potentially derail an actor's career, it didn't really have a negative impact on Goldsmith, who is best known for his exploits as The Most Interesting Man in the World, not his given name.

Jonathan Goldsmith found work in Westerns

While Jonathan Goldsmith found work as an actor after moving to Hollywood, it was intermittent for a while. Eventually, he found steady work in Westerns. "It wasn't easy," Goldsmith told NPR. "Jewish boys that grow up in New York are not that adept at riding horses." Many of his television appearances were for a single episode, although he played numerous roles in 14 episodes of "Gunsmoke" between 1966 and 1974 after lying to get his foot in the door. When he was asked if he could ride a horse, he said, "Like the wind, sir," despite the fact that he had never even been on one.

Goldsmith was quickly typecast as a villain in Westerns and television shows. "I was usually carried off dead," Goldsmith told Cigar Aficionado. "I got killed all the time." His work as a villain in Westerns transitioned into guest appearances as villains in numerous television shows during the '70s and '80s, including "Hawaii Five-O," "The Rockford Files," "Charlie's Angels," "Dynasty," "T. J. Hooker," "Magnum, P.I.," "MacGyver," and "Dallas." If you watched television in the '70s and '80s, you probably saw him die on screen several times. Despite landing regular work as a bad guy, Goldsmith was still disheartened. "All I ever wanted to do was comedy, but that was not available to me," he told NPR.

Jonathan Goldsmith purchased an estate in the Sierra Nevada mountains

In his 50s, Goldsmith grew tired of the rejection that comes with working in Hollywood and considered leaving the entertainment industry altogether. Part of the issue is that he fell somewhere between leading man and supporting actor in terms of his appearance. Speaking to Boston University, he said that he got tired "of never being right for a role — too tall, too short, too good-looking, not good-looking enough." Plus, he wasn't getting any younger. His hair had gone gray, and he felt like "it was time for a new crop of actors to take over," Goldsmith told Forbes.

Leaving acting behind wasn't an easy decision for Goldsmith, but there was something missing from his life and deep down he knew it was time to move on. "I always knew I was a good person, but I never felt like I was a successful person," he explained to Mel Magazine. He left Hollywood and got involved in network marketing, selling a waterless carwash solution. The venture was very lucrative for a time, and Goldsmith bought an estate in the Sierra Nevada mountains. "I was going to spend the rest of my life fishing," he told Forbes. Unfortunately, his partner in the business "turned out to be...not kosher." The whole thing ended in a lawsuit and Goldsmith "lost a great deal of money" as a result.

Jonathan Goldsmith fell on hard times

After his business venture went belly-up, Jonathan Goldsmith's marriage fell apart, too. "I had no income and lots of bills — attorneys, mortgage, and more. I was looking at bankruptcy," Goldsmith told Mel Magazine. In desperation, Goldsmith returned to acting. However, there was a big problem. "I'd been out ten years, and out of sight really is out of mind in Hollywood," Goldsmith told Forbes. "Nobody knew who I was, nobody would take my calls. I had no money." Fortunately, an agent at the Morgan Agency named Barbara Buky (who would become his second wife) decided to take Goldsmith on as a client.

In 2006, Buky sent Goldsmith to a casting call with a Mexican beer company owned by Heineken. They were looking for "a Hemingway kind of guy," the actor told Forbes. At the time, he was sleeping in the back of his truck at a campground in Malibu. "I was in survival mode, conserving every dollar," Goldsmith wrote in his memoir (via Politico). "So instead of the comforts of a hotel before an audition, I had crashed in my pickup. I was living like a hobo. Maybe I really was a hobo, I thought, as I got dressed outside my truck for the audition." Of course, the audition went well and the rest is history.

Jonathan Goldsmith based The Most Interesting Man in the World on his friend

As Goldsmith shared in his memoir, when auditioning for the Dos Equis brand ambassador role, he had to improvise a tale ending with the line "...And that's how I came to arm-wrestle Fidel Castro." When Goldsmith went to the cattle call audition, hundreds of men decades younger than him were lined up around the block. The actor contemplated walking away, but he thought about what his agent would say if he didn't at least try. Inspiration struck Goldsmith at the perfect moment: He thought of his friend, the late Argentinian actor Fernando Lamas.

"I thought about him and how funny he was and how charming and a great raconteur, so I put on my best Fernando imitation," Goldsmith told NPR. "And they started laughing." Months later, Goldsmith's agent got a call from the casting director. They enjoyed Goldsmith's performance, but they were inclined to cast a younger man. "And in her infinite wisdom, she took a long pause, and she said, 'Joe, how can the most interesting man in the world be young?'" Goldsmith told NPR. "He said, 'I'll get back to you.'" The people making the call decided that she was right, and Goldsmith finally got his big break.

Jonathan Goldsmith lived on a sailboat

At one point, Goldsmith and his wife lived on a sailboat named Siempre (meaning "always" in Spanish) docked in Marina del Rey. It was a simple life, but one that he adored. "I don't need much," he told Cigar Aficionado. "There's very little room on the boat for a wardrobe, and our whole room is smaller than most people's walk-in closets." In a separate interview with Primer Magazine, Goldsmith went into more detail about his minimalist lifestyle and his love of solitude. "I prefer the sounds of nature to that of people, traffic, and hubbub," he said. "I try to be surrounded with things only that are important to me on many levels."

In 2013, Goldsmith put his boat up for sale for just shy of $200,000. The listing was picked up by TMZ, which revealed several details about the yacht. According to the gossip site, the vessel is a 2003 Beneteau comprising "a master room with en-suite bath, guest room with bath, kitchen, two flat screen TVs and a stereo system." It wasn't a sudden decision — Goldsmith revealed that he had been looking at buying a retirement property in Vermont during an interview conducted three years prior. The house was "Not to be used yet," he told Cigar Aficionado, but the time eventually came for him to relocate to dry land.

Jonathan Goldsmith was a guest at President Obama's 50th birthday party

After his time as a brand ambassador ended, Jonathan Goldsmith published his memoir "Stay Interesting," which proved that the actor's life story almost rivals the adventures of The Most Interesting Man in the World. The memoir explores his childhood and his many romantic relationships in Hollywood, as well as the unexpected friendships he made because of his role in the popular ad campaign.

Goldsmith met then-president Barack Obama at a fundraising event in Vermont during the early days of his second term. "My wife and I drove there to have a two-second photo op with a man I greatly admired, and still do, and miss desperately these days," Goldsmith told Boston University in 2018. "Before you know it, he was shaking my hand, giving me a hug. The Secret Service kept trying to move him along, and he just wanted to talk to me about my Dos Equis commercial. He loved it."

Six months later, Goldsmith got an interesting call that he wrote about in his memoir. It was from one of Obama's deputies, and they wanted to know if he would be interested in attending a surprise birthday party for the president's 50th birthday at Camp David. Of course, Goldsmith was delighted to be invited. "I spent a glorious weekend eating with him, playing games with him, chatting, smoking, drinking beer, and just having a wonderful, enchanting time," he told Boston University. "It was really one of the highlights of my life."

Jonathan Goldsmith is a lifelong dog lover

Goldsmith has done philanthropic work with numerous organizations, including S.A.B.R.E., Free Arts for Abused Children, and Stella Link Foundation. He has also used his celebrity status to raise funds for civilian landmine victims in Laos and for the Make-a-Wish Foundation in his home state of Vermont. But one particular cause is near and dear to his heart. "I've been a dog lover all of my life," Goldsmith told CBS. "I do everything I can to help in any way."

According to CBS, 25 percent of dogs over the age of two die of cancer in the United States. Goldsmith actually lost a canine companion of his own to osteosarcoma. Because of this, he partnered with The Orvis Company to promote a contest to raise funds for the Morris Animal Foundation, a Denver-based non-profit helping fund 150 canine cancer studies in 28 universities across the country.

"The very, very best part of the success that I've had is that it gives me a platform to draw attention to foundations that really give something back," Goldsmith told Forbes. "I truly resent people who have the brains and ability to make a difference, but all they do is take. I want to leave — in some way, any way — a better world." It seems fitting that The Most Interesting Man in the World would spend his retirement improving the lives of dogs through philanthropic work.