Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman (1925-2008)

"I'd like to be remembered as the guy who tried -- tried to be a part of his times, tried to help people communicate with one another, tried to find some decency in his own life, tried to extend himself as a human being." Paul Newman

I knew this was coming, but I was hoping for a miracle.

I've seen almost all of Paul Newman's movies, but I can't remember which one I saw first. Was it The Verdict? Or, was it Absence of Malice? I was already hooked by the time my dad directed me back further to Hombre, Hud, and Cool Hand Luke. I was hopelessly devoted by the time I saw a younger Paul in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Long Hot Summer, and The Hustler. Yet, I rushed out to the theaters to see his later films -- Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, The Hudsucker Proxy, Nobody's Fool -- and fell just as much in love with the cranky old man. (Cars counts too!) Discovering an old Paul Newman movie was like finding a gift that was just for me. Waiting for a new Paul Newman movie was like anticipating a visit from an old friend. Imagine how elated I was to catch him in 2003's Broadway run of Our Town! Oh, to be in the same room with The Man!

I don't remember how I became so loyal to Paul Newman, but how can one not be? For me it had little to do with his films or the pretty face. Reading and seeing him in interviews just made my admiration grow: the intelligence, the well-spoken thoughtfulness, the kindness and generosity, the eagerness and joy for life, the biting sense of humor -- The Whole Package. His talent -- displayed in his entire body of character-driven projects -- is a happy bonus.

When Newman's Own products hit the grocery store shelves, I'd plead with my mom to buy them -- or sneak them in the cart myself. If confronted regarding my selections, my arguments were always chock-full with simple facts: "It's Paul Newman's: it's good." And, if that didn't work, "He donates all the proceeds to charity!" The Hole in the Wall Camps are his gift to children worldwide, and he has raised more than $250 million to it and other charitable causes over the last 25+ years. Who can argue with that?

Paul Newman is it: the guy everyone should aspire to. Good luck. He was one of a kind. His wife and family are lucky, and we are lucky to have known him too.

The kitties and I wanted to pay tribute, of course, but being such a brilliant character actor made it difficult for us to whittle down distinct movie moments that lend themselves to illustration. Norman offered to eat 50 hard-boiled eggs in one sitting, but I thought that'd be unhealthy for him, nor did it quite sum up The Greatness that is Paul Newman. But how do you draw such broad traits as exceptional, genuine, decent, good, inspirational, or wonderful?

So, we decided to take the easy way out: load up on the comfort food and have an open-ended Paul Newman Film Festival until the sun comes back out. Many thanks and farewell, dear friend; you have made a difference and are missed.

Paul Newman (1925-2008)

We are all sad, but we are surrounded by a few of our favorite things: We have two of our favorite books (the inspiring Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good by Paul and his friend A.E. Hotchner and Paul Newman: A Life in Pictures, my favorite Christmas gift from last year.) We have our favorite anytime dinner (spaghetti with Newman's Own Sockarooni "Sock-it-to-'em" spaghetti sauce). We have our favorite movie snacks (Newman's Own Organics Pop's Corn microwave buttered popcorn and/or Mint-Creme-Filled Newman-O's).

[All of these yummy products should be available at your local grocery store. If not, check the Newman's Own website when it gets back to normal. Remember, It's Paul Newman's: it's good! And, all the proceeds go to charity! Oh, Comet also wants me to point out that, while you're at it, you can donate to the Hole in the Wall Camps.]

Lastly -- and thankfully -- we have a large supply of Paul Newman Movies. (B.J. and Norman have apparently chosen Hombre to start us off.) Settle in and enjoy!

Note: Be sure to catch TCM's 24-hour tribute to Paul Sunday, October 12. Yay!

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