It wasn’t just the Aegean-blue eyes you could drown in, or the perfect torso that made women swoon. It wasn’t even the crooked little smile or the cynical, sexy voice saying things like, “Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?” (as he once commented when asked about the possibility of his cheating on wife of a half-century, Joanne Woodward.)
For some of us who admired Paul Newman, what we most appreciated was humanity that transcended his physical appeal and made him the man we’d love to have known bet-ter.
When Newman mourned his son Scott, who died tragically of a drug overdose, and when he donned overalls to work on his beloved racing cars and speed around the track, we fell in love all over again with the same Hud who had captured our hearts long ago.
Men joined us in admiring his business skills. He turned out millions of dollars in profits from his Newman’s Own brand of salad dressings, cookies, popcorn and other products, giving the
money to children’s camps and other good causes.
Newman was beautiful inside and out, as they say. News outlets around the world honored him with obituaries recalling his life well lived. His glow reached beyond the lights of Hollywood, a town he avoided in favor of the rolling hills and quiet farms of his beloved Connecticut.
Newman made the right choices in life, and he seemed to make them effortlessly. Those gift-shoppy phrases stamped onto souvenir ashtrays — family first, doing unto others, making lemonade from the lemons, stop to smell the roses, tell it like it is, and so forth — define how Newman lived and why we love him.
Newman hated being thought of as a sex symbol, and why wouldn’t he? He was so much more than the ultimately attractive man. He embraced his work, often choosing roles designed to flatten the vapid “pretty boy” label. He funneled his personal grief and rage into constructive works to help others and right what he saw as wrong. He worked hard and played harder. He kept his private life private when doing that is nearly impossible.
He had the perfect life partner in Woodward. She was his professional peer and personal colleague. The walked the same walk and talked the same talk — in a barely audible, highly effective, chiaroscuro way.
Paul Newman didn’t need more statuettes or plaques in his study. He didn’t do things for recognition from the outside, but, more likely, to satisfy his own inner drive — not for per-fection, which he doubtless understood as elusive — but for an outcome that would be the best humanly possible for him to achieve.
Whatever the picture in our mind’s eye, the world will remember Paul Newman for much more than his physique, his famous blue eyes, or even his acting skills. His memory will live on as a man capable of deep feelings and profound concern for, and a genuine commitment to, everyone and everything he touched along the way.