In my line of work I’ve had the pleasure (and in a few cases, the misfortune) to meet some famous people, actor’s mostly, but some musicians and director’s as well. I’ve been invited to the homes of some, been on a first name basis with many and played cards and had drinks with more than a few. The upshot is that I don’t get starstruck easily. These people and I work in the same business and we are colleagues, just like any other line of work.
That being said, when I met Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward a few years ago right here in my little corner of Massachusetts, all of that went out the window. Here was Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Brick, Butch, Fast Eddie, for God’s sake, standing right in front of me and I was struck dumb.
It didn’t last long. Mr. Newman and Ms. Woodward were kind, generous and put everyone at ease. Joanne was like a kindly grandmother and Paul the slightly gruff Grandfather that you know is bursting with joy just under the surface.
There was a moment where it was just the two of us backstage, me and Paul Newman. He and Joanne had arrived at the theatre with a pizza they had picked up at Village. (I can’t help but wonder if anyone there knew who it was buying that small veggie to go). After eating only 2 pieces they offered the rest up to the staff. We had all just returned from lunch, so there were no takers at that moment. (As Joanne said, quite truthfully, “Who ever heard of stagehands turning down free food?”)
A while later, standing there, just the two of us, Paul looked in the pizza box and saw that, in fact, the pizza had been eaten in the intervening 2 hours since the first offer. He grunted in satisfacion, saying, “Good. Someone ate it.” I answered back, “Well, you know stagehands. Leave anything sitting around long enough and they’ll eat it or smoke it.” He walked by me on his way to the stage as I was speaking, stopped next to me, lowered the sunglasses he had been wearing all day and said with a twinkle in those famous blue eyes that could knock you off your feet, “Or fuck it.”
Up went the glasses and with a smirk and a chuckle he went onstage.
Thank you, Mr. Newman, for all the movies, the charitable work, the car racing, the popcorn, the salad dressing and mostly for sharing a moment with me in the world in which, for one afternoon, we both lived and worked.