27 September 2008

Paul Newman Dead

One day I'd flown into Provo, UT, and was eating lunch with a guy who told me this story about a woman who worked for him, someone we'll call Jennifer (because that was her name).

Jennifer took the day off from work to ski Sundance, Robert Redford's ski resort. She was alone and joined by a man on one ride up the lift. As she rode, she glanced back at the chair behind them and was startled to see Robert Redford.

One of the reasons that Redford enjoys that part of Utah is that the locals give him room and don't cluster around him requesting autographs, photographs or even phonographs.

"Oh," Jennifer said the man beside her. "Isn't that Robert Redford?"

The man beside her looked back and said, "Yes, I think it is."

"Oh, this is so exciting," Jennifer said. "I have never seen him before."

"Yes," the man said. "That is exciting."

"Do you think that I should wait for him at the top and say 'Hello?'" she asked.

"You could," said the man with a smile.

"I don't know," she said. And she fretted aloud for a time before deciding to just ski down rather than wait. "I don't even know what I would say," Jennifer confessed.

The man wished her a good day as she skied away and as she waved to him, she began to wonder where she had seen him before. He looked familiar but she couldn't quite place it.

About halfway down the hill, it hit her. She had just ridden the ski lift with Paul Newman, who waited at the top for his friend Bob. I can only imagine that Redford and Newman got a great laugh out of the fact that she recognized Redford from 50 feet away and yet did not recognize Newman, whose face was only inches from hers.

Paul Newman died today, at 83. He seemed like a class act, turning his fame into a wildly successful non-profit business, a man who did not see a conflict between being an international icon and family man. That's sad news for Hollywood - and the rest of the world.

6 comments:

slouching mom said...

a class act, indeed.

i find myself surprisingly saddened today.

Jennifer H said...

The news left me sad, too.

That woman, Jennifer? Lucky, lucky girl. I like to think that I wouldn't have made the same mistake, shared name aside.

It's sad to know that we won't see those blue eyes again on film. But what a legacy.

LET'S TALK said...

Pauls death was a shock, we or all headed in the same direction at some time.

David said...

One of the great regrets of my youth was sitting next to Fred Astaire at a bar in Hollywood, talking with him for a half an hour and not recognizing him (he was bald) nor his voice until the bartender, using his name, asked him if he wanted another drink. Maybe it was for the best. I obviously knew little of his work and did not appreciate his true genius. What would I have said? "Gee, Fred Astaire. You and Ginger were really good together." Jennifer was probably better off not realizing who the great soul was sitting next to her.

Ron Davison said...

s mom,
it is surprising how much we feel for strangers in this info age, but there we go.

Jennifer,
this was not your story? Oh. Of course, for all we know, we've sat down beside Thomas Pynchon at the lunch counter or any number of celebrities. If we did not recognize them, we wouldn't know.

LT,
Paul hadn't seemed to age as much on the salad dressing bottles and such as he apparently had in real life.

Davos,
You are full of the great stories. But you are right wondering how that might have just inhibited the conversation. Maybe the way to approach it is as if everyone you talk to is a unrecognized celebrity.

movie fan said...

it's hard not to admire Paul Newman for putting his money to work in such productive ways