Paul Newman, 1925-2008
But I loved that screen presence. I loved the candor and undiluted veracity with which he spoke to the press: the barbs of self-deprecation were genuine, not ploys for applause or mere pretenses of unpretentiousness, and they only seemed to make the cerulean eyes glint with more mischief as he humorously deflected praise and veneration. I loved the unexpected contradictions of his nature - this man, this lean and laconic sex symbol whose celluloid sensuality set an exorbitant precedent for American men to live up to (and for American women to find for themselves), spoke openly of his love for and fidelity to wife Joanne Woodward, to whom he was married for fifty years. I was endlessly delighted at the various veins of interests he pursued, from producing to sailing to founding his lucrative charity organization, not to mention a typical Newman-esque foray into Formula 1 racing as he entered his 70s. And I must admit to crying openly each time I read of his continued efforts to sustain and expand his line of food products, Newman's Own (started in his own Connecticut home), that generated and funneled an astonishing amount of money and resources - currently estimated at over $250 million - to charitable organizations worldwide, including his personally-established Hole in the Wall Gang camps, which provide summer-camp experiences for terminally ill children and their families.
I loved Paul Newman. I didn't know him, it's true - but a good man so devoid of detectable artifice, one whose accessible personability and humanitarian efforts rivaled his fame as an Oscar-winning actor over the span of nearly six decades, one who, as he put it, saw "shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good" as a most worthy aspiration and business philosophy, he is a rarity, particularly when his fame and wealth afforded him the luxury of security and sedentariness. But that was not his nature. His altruistic approach to life and the inventiveness and tenacity with which he applied it was disarming, is disarming, as it will undoubtedly live on, evident as it is, this redoubtable humanity of his, even in his various onscreen personas.
I love Paul Newman. I loved discovering, at just sixteen, his delicious sixties sex appeal, all appreciative glances, subtle touches, and double entendres thinly veiling an undeniable masculinity; I still love reveling in the smoldering exchanges he and Joanne share in films like The Long, Hot Summer and A New Kind of Love. I loved the bits of his authentic self that made his Cool Hand Luke so compelling, his Butch Cassidy so lovably redeemable, his Ben Quick so scandalously stimulating. But it's undeniable that he would shake his head at such references, so I will refine my remembrance of Paul Newman to be just as he was: simple, joyous, and kind. And surely I can, in the name of this good man, set aside these still-intact affections of mine and afford him that.
Thank you, Paul.