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Saturday, September 27, 2008

The day I met Paul Newman

Paul Newman died yesterday of cancer at age 83.

We all know Paul Newman from his many great roles in pictures like "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956) which was his breakthrough role playing boxer Rocky Graziano, and "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) where he plays a loser convict who can’t quite escape from a southern prison.

His other credits are numerous and well known. They are much more famous than the picture Paul made in 1989 in Kansas City with his wife Joanne Woodward. He was in his mid 60s by then and the juicy "sensitive young man" roles that he was so good at were long gone. He and Joanne were in Kansas City to make "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," the story of a couple in K. C. during the 1930s and 1940s and the changes in their lives that meet them during that period.

I read in the Kansas City Star one morning that the crew of the movie would be filming some scenes at a house in the wealthy Loose Park section of town. Being a movie guy, I thought I would go to that area and see what was going on. Maybe I could catch a glimpse of some of the stars.

When I arrived, there were trucks and old cars on the street to impersonate the era of the film and I could hear dialogue coming from within the house. I thought, "Drat the luck, they aren’t filming outside today." After about thirty minutes, my luck changed as Paul Newman himself walked outside dressed in full1940s clothing from his previous scene. There were many of us groupies standing by the curb on the street and Paul walked right up to us. In fact, he stopped in front of me! All I could think of was, "Damn! It’s Paul Newman and he is only about 5-8!" I felt I had to say something so I uttered, "How’s it going, Paul?" He answered, "O.K, how about you?" Nervously, I replied something like "Fine." So, there you have it, my brush with a famous movie star.

Newman had a long career making some great films with a few clunkers along the way. "Mr. And Mrs. Bridge" was released in 1990 and was not a huge financial success, but, I thought it was an interesting little film. It showed the versatility of a guy like Paul Newman who was able to adjust to his age and pull off a good performance.

I still laugh when I think of the hard boiled egg scene in "Cool hand Luke" and the way he swindled Robert Shaw in "The Sting."

I’ll miss Paul Newman.

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