I know Sinatra is known as Old Blue Eyes. But Paul Newman was MY Old Blue Eyes. I came within six feet of him - TWICE!!! Both times were at racing events. Back when the Indy style race car was governed under one body called CART - I was a big fan. I even managed to cajole my husband (who at the time didn't care for racing) to go with me to the annual race held at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Basically they created a course through the roads and parking lots of Giants Stadium and what was the Brendan Byrne Arena (where the Nets play). Well, Norm put up with this for the first year. (He wasn't too thrilled when I got us there at 9:30 in the morning for a 4:00 p.m. race.)
The following year Norm couldn't go for some reason, so I asked my brother, Brion if he wanted to drive over from Long Island and go. He said sure, we agreed to meet in front of Giant Stadium at the main ticket entrance. As usual, I was there early and I wandered around the area where they park the haulers to see if I could catch a driver or two for an autograph and just see the cars. I walked over to the ticket entrance where CART had a trailer for officials and stuff and just as I was going to cross the street I noticed a Volvo station wagon parked in front with a blonde woman sitting in the front seat knitting. I did a double take and realized it was Joanne Woodward. I started getting giddily (I know, not a word - deal) excited. I wanted to go over and say hello - or something, but I was tongue tied and pretty much frozen to the spot. After a few minutes the door to the trailer opened and a man came out with one of those sloped racing caps on. You know, the kind men wear when driving a convertible, and I did another double take because he had a beard and I almost didn't recognize him. It was Paul Newman. You couldn't have blasted me out of my spot. In my head I was screaming and jumping up and down, waving my hands, calling out "Paaauuuulll". In reality, I just stood there and gave them both their privacy. I watched him get in the car, say something to his wife and drive out of my life, ahhhh...
I was still a basket case and couldn't wait for my brother to show up so I could become a babbling idiot to him - "Do you know who I just saw?? Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, Paul Newman - PAUL NEWMAN!!!!"
My brother must have been the charm because the next time I saw Paul and Joanne Newman was at the Nazareth CART race. Again, I was with Brion and one of his friends. We were walking through the garage area and a convertible was trying to navigate through the crowds. Again, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. I was much cooler this time and just gaped as they drove by, trying not to look like a total idiot.
I had seen several of his movies on TV when NBC had 'Saturday Night at the Movies' back in the late sixties, and seventies. I remember going to the movies and seeing 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' and 'The Sting' one of my favorites. I saw him with Jackie Gleason in the 'Hustler' and 'Cool Hand Luke' another one of my favorites. Lately, he was the voice of the old car in 'Cars'. But those blue eyes, oh, those blue eyes - piercing, warm, funny, seductive, charming, roguish, intelligent, soulful, and just plain gorgeous.
He was a good American, a good actor and a great human being. He bucked the Hollywood norm and lived a honest, meaningful life. He didn't just show up and give a sound bite. He put his actions and his money and power to meaningful and good use, giving back to society. Newman's Own, started on a lark - a bet between two friends has given over $175 million dollars to charity and the 'Hole in the Wall' camps, established for children with serious illnesses are two of the most public examples of his generosity.
He was a good man and will be missed by many for many reasons, but I personally will miss those wonderful blue eyes.