Sunday, September 28, 2008
Our Paul Newman
I didn't think we'd ever lose Paul Newman.
It sounds crazy to say that, but for some reason I thought we'd have him forever. I know everybody dies, but, come on--Paul Newman?
I know he was old; I know he was sick. I know he was just a human being and not the supernatural spirit that we like to think certain movie stars are, but I'm greedy. I don't want to let him go.
One time when my father was talking about Joe Louis and other fighters of that day, he paused and said with deep conviction "you thought these guys would never grow old."
That sounded so odd to me back then, so ridiculous, but when I heard about Paul Newman's death on the radio yesterday, my father's words came back to me. I didn't think Paul Newman would ever die.
My mother, like several million other women on earth, had the most incredible crush on Paul Newman. In fact, whenever she spoke about him, she always tacked on the singular possessive, saying "my Paul Newman" each and every time she mentioned his name.
She said it so often that in my mind they're kind of a couple actually--no offense to Joanne Woodward.
I would have loved to see the two of them get together. Maybe now since they're both gone, my mother is finally getting a chance to meet her Paul Newman. That would certainly be her idea of paradise.
Newman was such fine actor and, I believe, a fine human being, even though I obviously never met the man. He always delivered the goods, even if the material he was working with was sub-standard.
Of course I loved his politics and the fact that he irritated a whole bunch of people that I didn't like.
The guy seemed real, so real that I can't accept the grim reality that all of us, no matter who we are, only have a short time on this earth, that we all grow old and die. Even Joe Louis and Paul Newman.
My sister and I once saw Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward--really. It was several years ago and we had gone to see some incredibly forgettable play. We saw them during the intermission, in one of the front rows.
He was older then, with a full beard that tacked on a few more years. But he was still Paul Newman.
I've been trying to pick my favorite Paul Newman film, but I honestly don't know if I have one in particular. I just liked watching the guy work.
There's a scene in The Hustler when he's marveling at Jackie Gleason's pool playing skills. That's how I watched Paul Newman on the screen. I sat back and thought, "look at the guy go."
I saw The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean at the Alpine Theater on 69th Street some 30-odd years ago (oh, God...) and even though it was a turkey, I liked it.
My favorite came at the end, when Bean returns from a long self-imposed vanishing act and faces down a crew of Industrial Age hoodlums who have invaded his once-small town.
"Who are you?" one thug asks.
"Justice, you sons-of-bitches!" Bean shouts before unleashing holy hell.
Like a lot of things, it sounded great when Paul Newman said it.