September 27, 2008

Reader, I saw him.

Paul Newman with Joanne Woodward in 2002 outside the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Conn. Photo by Sara Krulwich for the The New York Times.

One day many years ago, in the time before paparazzi, I was waiting for my sister's flight to arrive at LAX when a car pulled up to the curb, and a man in the passenger seat rolled down his window and said something to me. I couldn't understand him. He tried again — no luck. And then the woman in the driver's seat leaned across him and shouted, "DO YOU WANT TO SEE PAUL NEWMAN! He's in there." She pointed over her shoulder towards Baggage Claim and drove away.

How about that? So I sprinted strolled down the sidewalk to Baggage Claim and of course he was impossible to miss, because everyone in the building was making a great effort not to look at him. I stood by the door and looked around for my sister, if you know what I mean.

The entire Newman clan seemed to be present. There were even small Newman dogs in crates, and he stood directly opposite me with Joanne Woodward, waiting for the rest of their luggage. Then he walked out the door: my door. We were shoulder to shoulder. Then he walked back into Baggage Claim for something or other and walked out right past me again.

This. Close.

Were his eyes very blue? I couldn't tell — he was wearing dark glasses. He was smiling and comfortable in his skin, as they say in France, and impossibly good-looking, although of course I didn't stare because I was busy looking for my sister, as I've mentioned.

He came to our town for a wedding once. "He was very nice," the minister said, "and his eyes are very blue."

From the NY Times:
[H]e remained fulfilled by his charitable work, saying it was his greatest legacy, particularly in giving ailing children a camp at which to play.

“We are such spendthrifts with our lives,” Mr. Newman once told a reporter. “The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”


Bill Fosher said...

I saw him twice in my life. Once, as a cub reporter, fresh out of college, working for the Lakeville Journal in northwestern Connecticut. I landed an assignment doing a feature about a race at Lime Rock. My boss told me to say hello to Paul Newman for his wife. I laughed, and he said, "No, seriously." That's the kind of place northwestern Connecticut was, and I presume still is.

I did see Newman on that assignment, but was either unable to speak with him or too wierded out to deliver my boss's wife's message.

Another time was right here in Southwestern New Hampshire, where Newman bought a home a few years ago. There was some sort of big public gathering, and he made a cameo appearance. All the blue hairs swooned, and he went on his way.

My poor sainted mother, who would have given up her first born (which would be, um, me) for either opportunity, never did lay eyes on the man in person.

Shane said...

He led an exceptional life and I'll miss him.