An Interview with the Polo Bear

Today, I share my interview with a living legend, and a personal idol of mine. He's been around for ages, and while he's been showing up on camera for longer than I've been alive, he's never given an interview before. This is my interview with the Polo Bear.

An Interview with the Polo Bear

I've been maintaining this blog for a few years, now, and it's always hard to tell when you've really "made it." I've interviewed some awesome people over the years, but today, I really had a chance to speak to a living legend, and a personal idol of mine. This guy has been around for ages, and while he's been on camera for longer than I've been alive, he's never given an interview before.

We met in his Westchester home on a crisp autumn night, clear but for a waxing gibbous moon. He seemed as comfortable in his fine dressing gown, shirt, tie, trousers, and slippers as he was in his own fur.

Without further adieu, I'd like to present my interview with Andrew Hammond Steiff, also known as the Polo Bear.

The Polo Bear: In His Own Fashion

It kind of happened all at once

Daniel Hakimi: So, Mr. Steiff. Andrew. I know you need no introduction, but let's just pretend that some of our readers don't know who you are. Who are you?

Andrew Hammond Steiff (hereinafter "PB"): Well, my name is Andrew Hammond Steiff. My paternal grandfather was Richard Steiff, famous toymaker. I've been a model since 1963—back when I was just a cub—and while I worked with many major brands, including Ralph Lauren, and I was really very successful, for a while, but you mostly know me now, of course, as the Polo Bear.

DH: Tell me how you landed in that role.

PB: Well, Ralph Lauren had been using a lot of models through the 80s, and of course, we all know them for world building, but... some time in the early 90s, I dressed up as Jerry Lauren for a... Halloween Party, Purim party, whatever it was. So one thing leads to another, and they decided they wanted to launch this new campaign. They started putting me in more and more ads, sold two hundred stuffed "Preppy Bears" in my likeness—seriously, those things looked just like me—they put out sweaters knit to look like my classic photos... It kind of happened all at once, where I basically became a model-in-residence for the brand, and I gotta tell you, I've never looked back.

I love the clothes.

DH: Wow. Can I ask why you made the transition? I mean, you really did well for yourself in the 70s, didn't you date Twi—

PB: Hey, we can get to that later. But yeah, I was... I was about 34 at the time, and thinking, well, modeling is a young bear's game, and most bears don't even make it past 20. So I was considering retirement, but I still loved it, so it was a little bit of serendipity—I found a role where I could spend most of my time in New York, not have to worry where my next gig was coming from, and, well... they cut me in on the sales, so I've been, you know...

DH: Yeah, I can imagine. Alright, let's talk about the modeling. What do you love about it?

PB: Well, obviously, the lifestyle was fun. I loved meeting new people. I don't know, I grew up doing it, so it's always hard to compare to anything else. But I love the clothes. I love tartans, I love sportswear, I love a navy blazer, I love ties, I love loafers, and I really always love a good eveningwear shoot.

DH: Of course! So many of my favorite old-school eveningwear looks are you in a tux, you in tartan trousers, you in... whatever, but tell me about it, did any shoots really stick with you?

PB: Well, yes, I always liked, you know, those crested velvet slippers. Well, actually, these crested velvet slippers, I'm wearing a pair now, hah. Ralph put me in a tux, with a pair of slippers, a well-proportioned bowtie, a red carnation in my lapel—

DH: Oh, I know the one. You're holding a martini.

PB: Yes, well...

The Polo Bear Restarts the Fantasy

DH: You drink them a lot, huh? Do you have a recipe you prefer?

PB: Well, for a while, I just went with a Vesper martini. But then, in the 80s, they stopped making Kina Lilet, and I wasn't sure what else to do. I tried a few other variations. I tried Lillet Blanc, the [Polo] bar still uses that... I was drinking Gibsons at some point, that was a weird time. But I didn't really settle on anything until I met, actually, it was Tyson Beckford.

DH: Oh?

PB: Yes, so, he brought sarsaparilla to a shoot one day, and, I don't know what it is, I loved it. I started buying more. And at some point, another friend mentioned that they made sarsaparilla bitters. So I played around a bit, and landed on a pretty classic recipe. Four parts gin, one part dry vermouth, and two dashes of sarsaparilla bitters. Stirred, because I'm not a lightweight. And of course, an olive.

DH: Huh. Sarsaparilla bitters. I'd love to try that some time.

PB: Actually, I have some on hand, I could make you—

DH: Really? Oh, for sure, let's do this.

It was here that Andrew and I paused the recording while he made me a martini... and then another.

That Polo Bear Feeling

DH: What was it like when you first blew up in the '70s? Must have been crazy, right?

PB: Oh, I don't like to talk too much about—

DH: Awww, come on, give us one quick story.

PB: Alright, alright, well I do have... So, you know I gave Fozzie [Bear] his start, right?

DH: Actually, I didn't know that.

PB: Yeah, yeah, kid from my home town, we played ball in the same park. Actually, I think his mother, Emily, used to babysit me. So, anyway, he calls me up, says he's trying to make it in Hollywood, poor kid doesn't have any real talent at the time, but I make some introductions, he gets his gig on the Muppet Show. And he wants to pay me back, so he flies me out to Hollywood. And you know who lives a little north of there? Smokey.

DH: Smokey Robinson, or—

PB: Bear.

DH: Gotcha.

PB: Yeah, so we're all out to this party, and, well, you know Smokey doesn't smoke. It's in his contract. He doesn't really drink either, actually. But he's not exactly straight edge, he has his vices. So one thing leads to another, we had some lively fun... you know, it was Hollywood in the '70s.

DH: are you saying...

PB: That's the night Fozzie coined the term "wokka wokka."

DH: Wow, that line is actually kind of funny, now that I know where it came from...

PB: Yeah.

The Polo Bear Knows Everyone Wants to be The Polo Bear

There's not that much to tell, really.

DH: Alright, so you told me we could talk about this later. The Dame Lesley Lawson. I'm told you dated for a few—

PB: Oh, I don't want to talk about this, you know a gentleman doesn't kiss and—

DH: People are dying to hear just a little bit.

PB: There's not that much to tell, really. Yeah, okay, Twiggy and I dated for a bit. I don't know if you could even call it that, we were both traveling so much at the time, constant shoots, you know. If we were in the same city, I'd call her hotel, we'd find some time, try some new restaurant. But we never spent too long in the same city, and it just kind of... You know, nothing came of it. She's a lovely lady. We still keep in touch. Actually, I saw her the last time I wore white tie. That was a good night. And that's all I'll say about her.

DH: That's plenty, thank you.

Alright, so one last question: what's next for the Polo Bear?

PB: I'm an old bear. I'll keep popping my head up here and there, but I've experienced so much... Everybody wants to be me, and I know it, and it'd be weird to have ambitions at that point. I'm happy to just spend time at home, with my family and take things easy in my semi-retirement.

DH: You've earned it!

I hae to say, this has been an honor. I really hope my readers have enjoyed this as much as I did, and have gotten to know the bear behind the bear. Thank you, really!

PB: It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.