Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P.: Paul Newman

My sophomore year in college, I was entering the cafeteria with my friends Frank and Carolyn when our friend Jason bumped into us, lunch tray in hand, all excited about the news he was going to share:

"Paul Newman's here! He's talking by the salad bar with Father Kelley!"

Our eyes widened. "Paul Newman, really?" I asked.

"The real Paul Newman?" Frank queried.

Only Carolyn was puzzled by our excitement.

"Who's Paul Newman?" she asked.

It wouldn't take her long to find out. Paul Newman had donated $10 million to the Charles F. Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University. We all knew he lived in Westport, the next town over, and was a huge supporter of the Westport Country Playhouse.

And as we were getting lunch, there he was, in the flesh, chatting with Father Kelley, who was, at the time, our college's president.

He didn't attract too much attention, nor did he seek it. The hungry college students were so focused on their next meal that they didn't take the time to say hello. Then again, not many Fairfield students took time out of their day to talk to Father Kelley during one of his on-campus appearances, either.

Paul Newman looked good. He wore half rimmed glasses, which were laying low, near the tip of his nose, a white oxford shirt, and a beige cardigan with black dress pants and shoes. He was laughing with Father Kelley, and even from a distance, you could see the piercing blue eyes which helped make him so famous.

I must confess that I never have seen a Paul Newman movie, but I am more of a fan for his humanitarian efforts than anything else. He did so much for kids with cancer through his Hole in the Wall Gang charity, and all of the profits from his Newman's Own line went to charity.

Even though I didn't get closer to the man than five feet, I feel that I can say that I met a Hollywood legend in person.

I wonder how the Connecticut media will respond to this one.

My thoughts go out to Joanne Woodward, his widow, and their family.

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