Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman, No Failure To Communicate With Me

Warning: If you feel as I do about Paul Newman, this will make you cry.

No one can deny the timeless appeal of Paul Newman. No one will ever replace his precise blend of sex appeal, sensibility, intelligence and rare grace. As an actor, as a human being.

He was my first movie star crush, and no one's come close to this day. Not only because he was also undeniably gorgeous, but because of his reality and humanity, his unwavering devotion to his wife, his family, those less fortunate in the world.

Few celebrities genuinely fit the label Uses Power for Good, Not Evil. Paul Newman defined that concept. And lived life his way, with brio, bravery, honesty, commitment and even modesty.

I had the honor and--oh yeah--the thrill of meeting Paul Newman in 1979 at the Daytona 500. Pure. Magic. I was a guest of friends who owned part interest in Newman's race car company. (It's a business, believe me). They had a big deluxe RV parked in a prime spot inside the track. It was like a luxurious home inside, plenty of refreshments and facilities. We watched the races from swivel chairs bolted to the roof.

Newman didn't sit around and chat. He came and went, focused on the cars, his crew, the preliminary races. His presence was calm and electrifying at the same time. Not that tall, not a loud voice, dressed like all the other drivers. But there was something special about him, a supreme self-confidence and a charisma that pulled you into his orbit.

When we were introduced, he shook my hand with both of his, gave me his full attention, asked a few questions ... for a few brief golden moments making me feel important and yet totally at ease, as if we were old friends. I wish. Wow factor squared. And oh those extraordinary piercing blue eyes, as another friend once described, you could see from the back of his head.

My sister and I were just talking about him yesterday and I said, Is he sick? I've been having this feeling he's going to die. (I'm like that, get premonitions good and bad, always correctly predict the sex of my niece's babies, know when I'm going to hear from someone, stuff like that. My grandmother had it too.)

I so wish I'd been wrong this time. And I feel humbled too. Here I've been, whining about my stupid shoulder surgery, while I bet anything Paul Newman was dying as he lived, with dignity, grace, humor, bravery and love.

My heart goes out to his family and to all of us, his family of faithful fans.

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