April 21, 2021

Paul Newman and Erik Satie

Speaking of Paul Newman, he takes my top honor for a celebrity who still tried to be just a plain old human being. While shooting “The Color of Money” in Chicago, Newman came in the first time to Convito Italiano with Tom Cruise. The hostess was like a deer in the headlights as Newman lowered his sunglasses to flash his baby blues. When she discovered Cruise standing next to him, it became debatable whether we should have instigated CPR. This was the first of many visits for Newman, being an aficionado of interesting Italian food and in the midst of building his business featuring spaghetti sauce and salad dressing.

My shining moment came when Mr. Newman tipped me to play Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie” and I actually knew the piece from memory (along with “Clair de Lune.”) Another evening, Gene Siskel interviewed Newman over dinner and I again played the Satie piece. As a result, Newman’s love of classical music made it into the article.

One incident stuck with me. Newman was sitting at the bar when a middle-aged lady asked for his autograph. He said in a very polite manner, “I’m sorry, but I don’t give autographs.” She was initially silent, then let him know in no uncertain terms that she thought he was arrogant and huffed off. Having just finished the engaging memoir of A. E. Hotchner, “Paul and Me” about his decades long friendship with Newman, I was reminded of that autograph scene.

Paul believed that he was just a regular guy who had gotten incredibly lucky and giving autographs gave the impression that he was somehow different and better than other people. Whenever possible, he tried to take off the cloak of celebrity and don a race car jacket or a T-shirt. The book is a fascinating account of his acting career, his car-racing, his accidental food empire and his charitable giving including the creation of the “Hole In the Wall Gang” camps across the globe. A heartily recommended book about a really stand-up guy.


  1. daniel b german says

    Very interesting.


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