Updated: Sep 29, 2022
by Dan Price
Are you on TikTok? If you are, chances are you might have come across Old Man Steve having his morning coffee and cookie, telling a joke, his cooking show where he'd make a bowl of cereal or dancing a bit and always clad in his signature bucket hat. With over 1.7 million followers and 32.3 million likes on the TikTok platform, this 84-year-old Dallas native has become a bit of a celebrity.
When he goes out, he gets recognized, whether at the grocery store or out for breakfast. "I went to breakfast last week, one of my guilty pleasures… and as I walked in, this guy had a very loud voice and yelled, "Oh my God! It's Old Man Steve!'" Steve explained while the gentleman was very loud, he was also a fan. "He knew every video I made since I was 2, Steve laughed. Hey, the guy bought him breakfast! Not too shabby!
Before Steve was Old Man Steve, Young Man Steve went to New York in the 1960s to pursue his dreams of being involved with theater, working in various fields, including music publishing and the theater box office. He even went upstate to take part in productions at Summer Stock. During that time, he got to work with Carol Channing, Myrna Loy, Ethel Merman, and Kathryn Grayson. "Myrna Lloyd actually made me soup because I was sick with a cold. I learned to play bridge with Tab Hunter. I have a lot of stories I have from Stock," Steve explained. He started to laugh. "And a lot of stories I can't tell! Maybe someday I'll write a book."
Steve returned to Texas and worked for his father in a dental lab, took classes to become a dental technician, and eventually took over the business upon his father's retirement. In total, he did this for 25 years. He went to work for Dallas Summer Musicals in their box office for 20 years. Upon his retirement, Steve began his first foray into social media – YouTube.
"I've been on YouTube for 13 or 14 years. Almost from the beginning when YouTube started." Steve explained. "I have never had much of a following, and I never really did much of what everyone else was doing. I'd sit and talk or tell jokes and all that kind of stuff. I'd talk about my adventures in New York and events of the day."
And then Steve found his niche on social media. "Cell phones came along. Apps. And one app that caught my attention was Vine." Vine, for those of you who don't know, was an app where people could post 6-second videos. "You had to really be creative to do something in 6 seconds," Steve told me. "I had a pretty good following on Vine, but Vine went belly up."
He went to a few other platforms, but his nephew introduced him to TikTok. "So I investigated and started doing videos. And I liked it and was having some fun. Then, overnight, I went from having 50 followers to 25,000 followers, and I couldn't figure out why. I was acting silly and having fun."
And his followers keep growing. When he hit 500,000 followers, he started getting calls for interviews. "The Today Show called me. CNN. Local NBC Channel 5. At this point, I hadn't hit 1,000,000 followers yet." He was even on The Kelly Clarkson show! "It's been a real treat becoming an insta-celebrity at my age," Steve chuckled.
Something interesting happened recently; Steve ran out of coffee and cookies. His TikTok audience recommended he start an Amazon Wish List, so his followers could donate items to him since they loved his videos so much. So, Steve set up the Wish List and you will never guess what happened; his TikTok followers sent him coffee. And cookies. And I mean a lot of both! "I posted the link on my TikTok, and I got over 100 packages of cookies, and I have enough coffee to last me till the day I die," Steve laughed. "I gave away a lot of cookies to my neighbors in the complex. I am also a member of The Optimist Club. I donated more cookies to the East Side Ministry in Fort Worth."
Steve has a devoted fan base on TikTok and has given a lot of joy to them, and they have given a lot of joy (and cookies) to him. "If I make people, put a smile on their face, that's why I do it." And he does. Watch an Old Man Steve video on TikTok, I dare you because I guarantee that it will make your day a little better.
When I asked Steve what the benefits of social media, whether it be Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, are for seniors, Steve was quick with the answers.
"You connect with people. A lot of seniors live by themselves or they are away from their family... you are at least connected. I live alone. I have a cat... It's a way of not being alone. You're not really alone anymore; you can get on the internet. And if you don't know how to do all that, there are places where you can learn, including your local library or maybe your church," Steve explained. "If you have a grandchild, especially a grandchild, they know more than most. I would encourage anybody, especially seniors, to learn how to navigate (social media)."
Steve said he went to New York in the 1960s to live his dream. But as I listen to his stories from then and now, I think Steve is living his dream in a completely new way.
Follow Old Man Steve on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@omsteve or click on the QR Code with your phone.