Sunday, September 28, 2008

Remembering Paul Newman

I never met Paul Newman, but I did brush by him in a concession line at an auto race in Watkins Glen, New York in the early 1980's. My brother took the picture above as Mr. Newman was leaving the area, ice cream cone in hand; don't ask me what flavor ice cream he had- I was so surprised to see him I never noticed.

And besides, he stood in line like the rest of us, no star treatment- he was a regular guy. There was no entourage, no hangers on, no goons brushing people away. He was just a guy from Ohio who happened to make movies for a living.

And this guy from Ohio who spent most of life in Connecticut made a surprising amount of westerns- he was Billy The Kid in The Left Handed Gun, the title character in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, the white man raised by Apaches in Hombre, the charismatic cad in the modern day western Hud, and of course Robert Leroy Parker,nee Butch Cassidy, in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

He became boxer Rocky Graziano, fictional detective Lew Harper, con artist Henry Gondorff, General Leslie Groves, and of course, pool shark Eddie Felson in both The Hustler and The Color of Money. He won an Oscar for his portrayal of the aging, wiser Eddie 25 years after his first turn.

The list of roles Newman had in a career that spanned more than 50 years was interesting in its variety, and contained realatively few clunkers. Newman rose above pedestrian material and made even the most mediocre movies worth seeing.

He was a humanitarian who raised $200 million from sales of his Newman's Own popcorn, sauces, and salad dressings, and founded the Hole In The Wall Camp for seriously ill children. And as great as his film career was, and as iconic a figure he became in life, it is his legacy as a philanthropist that will be remembered by future generations. He did it without fanfare and flashbulbs.

Because that was his way.

Someone very special has left us- and the world is a little better because of his 83 years spent with us.

Goodbye.....and God bless.

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