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A Conversation With The Most Interesting Man In The World

First Posted: 10/31/2011 4:23 pm EDT Updated: 11/29/2012 4:28 pm EST

When I tell my editor about the conversation I've just had with Jonathan Goldsmith, Dos Equis pitchman and "The Most Interesting Man In The World" (TMIMITW), she just shakes her head.

I've told her that during the course of the interview, Willy, Goldsmith's 110-pound Anatolian shepherd, caught a squirrel and placed it on the pile of wood his septuagenarian master has been chopping and stacking behind his home at the foot of a mountain in rural Vermont. This turn of events is not exactly unbelievable -- Goldsmith's love of dogs is as well-documented as canines' predilection for squirrels -- but it does strain credulity: Goldsmith's job is to embody a lived-in masculinity so hyperbolic that his off-screen persona should disappoint. His private manliness is shocking precisely because he is publicly a Madison Avenue creation.

Talking to Goldsmith is like receiving unsolicited advice on insurance from a passing duck.

Here are a few facts about the man behind TMIMITW, the well-traveled actor who plays the world's best-traveled pitchman: He has "weathered a few gales while sailing in the Caribbean;" he has gotten "a bit lost at sea;" he has "saved a hiker's life during a blizzard on Mount Whitney;" he enjoys "building stone walls in my spare time;" he has "supported the same charity for decades;" he wishes he'd "killed Muammar Ghadafi or Idi Amin maybe."

Goldsmith's wife posed him a question when he expressed concerns after being offered the Dos Equis gig, which put him in the fraternity of handsome young men who hawk beer on television.

"How can you be the most interesting man in the world if you haven't lived for a long time?"

Unlike characters in other commercials, TMIMITW has earned his self-assurance through experience. Consumers aren't meant to find him relate-able or even approachable. He's not someone you can be, but someone you can be with.

"People want to hang out with this guy," says Goldsmith, a former character actor whose accent in the ads is an imitation of his old friend Fernando Llamas.

Of course they do. TMIMITW has amazing stories, is frequently surrounded by very attractive women and knows how to order a drink. This is a man who is often a traveler and never been a tourist.

Goldsmith puts it this way: "Most people are safe in their own world and don't experience the total spectrum of life. Life is like a parade most people are watching."

TMIMITW is an advertisement not just for Dos Equis (their profits soared after his arrival, by the way), but for a certain immersive approach to the world. That the clips in Goldsmith's advertisements frequently resemble Jacques Cousteau films is no coincidence. The character is something not dissimilar to an explorer: He's a discoverer.

In an age when everyone strives to be intriguing, TMIMITW can't help it. He is unselfconscious yet profoundly self-aware, hard-nosed but friendly. He "lives vicariously through himself."

When I list the adventures documented in the ads to Goldsmith, asking him to tell me if he'd emulate his character's behavior in each situation, he says, "Yeah, I'd do that," a lot before annoyance creeps into his voice.

I inquire if he'd "live in the hills of the Serengeti for a summer after being gifted a wife by local tribesmen," and his reaction is telling: "Is she Catherine Deneuve beautiful or does she look like Snooki?" If it was the former situation, he'd probably do it.

"I'm pretty open to anything," he says. "If there is any reason to do it and the results won't be harmful, I'm probably in."

This is when Willy starts barking and Goldsmith laughs the same laugh that is barely audible in some of his commercials, the baritone honk of air escaping lungs filled with whiskey fumes, cigars smoke and fresh air.

Stay thirsty my friend.

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