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In Praise of the Gentle Masculinity of Sam Elliott

Here’s to the only man in the entire world who can pull off a ‘Moustache Rides’ T-shirt

One of the first times I found a man hot was when I watched the movie Mask on basic cable after its 1985 theatrical release. If you aren’t familiar with the Peter Bogdanovich film, it stars Cher as a biker chick whose son has a rare sclerotic bone disorder. The man in question is Cher’s biker boyfriend, Gar, who is played by Sam Elliott. To say my feelings for him were complicated is an understatement. He was like the men my mom dated, but in looks only. Because he also gave me something I hadn’t felt before: Hope that there were men in the world who would use their strength to protect me instead of causing me harm.

Basically, I had a crush on him, but I also wanted him to be my dad, a combination I find appealing to this day (see Ned Stark from Game of Thrones). Hey, we all have our things!

Beyond Mask, Elliott was frequently cast in Westerns like Gunsmoke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Tombstone. With his lanky body, slow drawl and Wild West mustache, you can see why: Elliott is tailor-made to play a cowboy.

Sam Elliott is a gentleman cowboy, a very rare archetype. There’s something courtly about his manners, and his voice is so soft. At the same time, he looks like sex-flavored beef jerky, so that contradiction is part of what’s appealing,” says critic/screenwriter Drew McWeeny. “The cowboy thing is authentic, too, which is why I think the masculinity is undeniable. I mean, just look at him.” 

And look at him I do. My Google search history is littered with horny Sam Elliott searches. Some visual proof:


“His early work in the 1970s clearly positioned him as eye candy for ladies, and he was very much objectified by some of those roles,” McWeeny continues. “But by the time he got to the 1980s, he started to find roles that defined him more clearly, and Mask was a big one. He and Cher are playing reversed roles from what we normally see in stereotypical biker pictures. She’s the trainwreck — the one who can’t help but do drugs and sleep around — and he wants to offer her something substantial. He won’t wait around and be disrespected or watch her hurt herself or her son, either. So he’s strong, while also being nurturing.”

Just four years later, Elliott starred in maybe his most iconic film, Road House, a “bad movies we love” all-time banger. Road House is basically the story of a bouncer who is hired to tame the roughest, toughest bar in a small Missouri town. Needless to say, it hits the violent aspects of masculinity hard (after all, it’s most famous for a throat-ripping scene). And yet, Elliott still somehow softens things whenever he’s around. 

“[Elliott is] the perfect mentor for [Patrick] Swayze and turns what could be a caveman slice of brutality into something absurd philosophical,” McWeeny says. “They beat the shit out of people, sure, but they do it for the right reasons, and they have feelings about it. And that’s not a knock! That’s actually what makes the film special. They’re up against the thing that we’re afraid they might be in the form of Ben Gazzara and his thugs, but they refuse to be that thing. Even if they have to kick that thing’s dong between its ears.”

But enough about Elliott and dongs (mostly because I can’t take it). He’s also known for his voice: a deep baritone that could make me to do anything. It’s authoritative yet soothing. He doesn’t need to raise it to be heard, and he doesn’t need to intimidate you to be respected. It was the combo of that voice and his cowboy vibe that got him cast in The Big Lebowski. McWeeny thinks the performance is flawless. “The Big Lebowski gets the most mileage ever from that whiskey-soaked voice of his. He also looks like the MAD magazine parody version of Sam Elliott in the film. It’s a nice nod to just how iconic he is.”

On a side note, even if you’ve never seen any of Elliott’s films, you’ve probably heard his voice in the classic “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” commercials, the only time an industry’s catchphrase has made me horny. 

More recently, Elliott’s voice served as inspiration for Bradley Cooper to play Jackson Maine in A Star Is Born. In the remake of a remake of a remake, Elliott also played Cooper’s brother, giving my man the chance yet again to exhibit the strength of vulnerability. In fact, in one of the movie’s most gut-wrenching moments, Elliott’s attempt to hold back tears made me snot cry.

“Elliott is such a taciturn, rangy old cuss,” McWeeny explains. “So to see him just break, you can feel how desperately he loves and hates his brother at the same time, and how afraid he is of exactly what happens at the end of the film. It’s a small role in terms of screen time, but he may be the reason you ultimately forgive Jackson for being such a shit. You see that even his brother can’t give up on him, and it matters to us because of how hard those tears are.” 

The performance gave Elliott his first Oscar nomination. Elliott, however, responded to the news with his signature rogue charm: “I think the thing off the top of my head might be, ‘It’s about f***ing time.’”  

IRL Elliott seems just as great, too (she says with fingers, toes and everything else that can possibly be crossed, too). He’s been married to actress Katharine Ross (i.e., the progeny of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate) for over 40 years, and they have a scandal-free existence — i.e., the only time I’ve seen him on TMZ was when he was caught by paparazzi buying cat litter and Coors Light. When asked by Vulture about the secret to his successful marriage, Elliott credited a down-to-earth life: “We shovel shit, man. That keeps you humble.” 


So much so that when I put out the word that I was looking to talk to women who love Elliott, I got a flood of responses within a matter of minutes. “I’ve yet to meet a woman my age or older who doesn’t find him sexy! It’s that voice,” Jennifer, a 48-year-old in Kansas City, tells me. Forty-one-year-old Holly from Tennessee agrees, “His voice is like a warm blanket wrapped around my soul!” 

But Jaclyn, a 39-year-old in Michigan, takes things to another level. “You just know if he whispered something in your ear, you’d cum right away and then he’d get that smirk on his face,” she says. 

Oh, that smirk on his face

I’m guilty of swooning for that smirk as well. Oh, and that “Mustache Rides” T-shirt he wore in Mask.

I wonder what this could mean?

That said, I cannot think of another man on Earth who could wear this shirt and not come off looking like a total fucking creep. So take “I love eating pussy” out of your social media bios, fellas. There’s only one Sam Elliott.