It was 1974 and I was thirteen years old. My best friend Jacqui and I had recently gone to a screening of the classic 1969 movie “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid”. We spent some time debating afterward, who was dreamier; Paul Newman or Robert Redford. I believe it was a draw.
Not long after that, my grandparents were over for dinner and I was telling them about the movie I’d seen.
“Ya know,” my grandmother remarked casually, “We are actually related to Paul.”
I was awestruck.
“Do you know him? Have you met him?! How come I didn’t know this?!,” I demanded. I was thinking about my meager autograph collection, which included signatures from Aaron Copland, Carl Stokes and Charles M. Schulz.
“Oh, he’s just another human being, for crying out loud,” my grandfather muttered. (My collection also included a signed photo from Grandpa, just because he seemed rather put out when I hadn’t yet asked him for one.)
“Well your Aunt Bob (Babette Newman, my grandmother’s sister in law) is in touch with him all the time. Why don’t you ask her for his address and write him a letter? I bet he’ll write you back.” encouraged Grandma.
|Paul, Aunt Bob Newman & Joanne Woodward Tucson 1966|
So I did. Aunt Bob was happy to oblige, as long as I promised not to share the address with anyone. I wrote “cousin “ Paul a lengthy letter starting with a paragraph explaining how I got his address and what the connection was. I made sure to ask for a real signed photo because I had recently written to some famous people who’d responded by sending printed “signed” photos. (Valerie Harper, I am talking to YOU, Rhoda.)
I also remember asking him about whether he and Bob (hey, we were relatives, I could be informal, right?) used stunt doubles when they jumped off that cliff in Butch Cassidy. (Well heck YEAH, ya dumb kid!)
So I sent off my masterpiece and then kind of forgot about it.
I mean, I didn’t REALLY think THE Paul Newman was going to write me a letter, did I!?
Some time later an envelope arrived addressed to me.
Yep. He’d written. I didn’t get answers to my silly pages of questions. But I did get reassurance that the signature was real. I ran all the way to Jacqui’s house to show her my prize that afternoon.
In 1986, the year I got married, Paul won the Academy Award for best actor in “The Color of Money”. I wrote him another note. No questions or requests this time.
I just wanted to say, “Congrats, the family is proud of you. No need to write me back this time. Just want to let you know that you made a young girl so very happy when you wrote that nice note a few years back.”
I don’t think I have to tell you about Paul, and his great talent, or many accomplishments, his incredible blue blue eyes, or his work with The Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, or with Newman’s Own. (Who recently reached the amazing milestone of $300 million in charitable giving.) You know all about that stuff. If not, that’s what google is for.
Just wanted to share my little story.
Thanks Paul. Even though we never met, I do miss you.