Paul Newman – R.I.P.

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 2nd, 2008 by MadDog
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My wife and I have always been fans of Paul Newman. I have a strange order of ranking for the things that I admire about the late Paul Newman. They go as follows:

Automobile Racer
Poor Man’s Chef *

Commencing with the production of the filming of Winning in 1969, his training for the production revealed that he had a true talent for the sport. He raced professionally beginning in 1972 and also competed in Sports Car Club of America events for which he won several championships. He even won a Second in the 24-hour race at Le Mans in 1979.

Near the end of his racing career he won his class in the 24 Hours of Daytona at the venerable age of 70. His last major races appear to have been the Baja 1000 in 2004 and the Daytona 24 again in 2005. I calculate that he was 79 years old when he did that Baja 1000. To me that seems impressive!

Here is my favourite image of Paul Newman. It’s by the absolutely wonderful caricaturist Sebastian Krüger:

Paul Newman as seen by Sebastian Krüger

Auto racing was my number one fantasy (okay, my number two fantasy) when I was in high school. I was fascinated by British sports cars. I had to have one. I worked two jobs to make the payments on my 1959 Austin Healey Sprite. It cost me $1,900 brand new.

In the summer before I went to college, I had it painted Ferrari Red. Eunie still claims that it was the car that attracted her. Later on, she warmed up to me.

This is me in about 1963 sitting in my Sprite in front of my grandparents’ run-down house. It was a dirt-poor neighborhood. I still remember the car and that burnt-orange suede jacket that I worked many extra hours to buy:

Me in my 1959 Austin Healey Sprite

Hey, but this is supposed to be about Paul Newman.

Another thing I appreciate is his brand of what I call ‘cooking aids’. I’d hate to think of how many salads and pasta dishes I’ve gobbled and enjoyed immensely with little fuss in the kitchen. Granted, Eunie usually does the cooking. Given time, she knock the hat off of any chef. But, when time is precious, she would bring out Newman’s Own something or other and use it for a base on which to build. I haven’t researched the history, but my recollection is that the myth describes how he started mixing up stuff in his basement or something like that. Everybody liked the goodies that he made so much that he soon had a business on his hands:

Me in my 1959 Austin Healey Sprite

And, of course, he was a terrific actor.

This is from The Hustler. Jackie Gleason played Minnesota Fats – one of his best roles, I think:

Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in The Hustler

If you only know one movie starring Paul Newman, it’s probably Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I’ve lost my taste for movies that make thugs and thieves seem like heroes. It’s the old sow’s ears to silk purse thing. I enjoyed the movie the first time I saw it with Eunie in a theatre. When I watch it now, it seems stupid and pointless. I guess that reflects the lives led by the characters – stupid and pointless:

Newman and Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

I suppose that if I had to choose my all-time favourite photo of Paul Newman it would be this one:

Paul Newman

I wonder why.

* UPDATE:  My FaceBook Friend Steven Goodheart pointed out that I omittted a very important aspect of Paul Newman’s life. He was a generous philanthropist. All of the profits from the Newman’s Own brand went to charities and other good works.

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