Pardon me for veering only slightly off subject for just a few moments. But you will notice the music connection here in just a moment.
I’ll leave proper artistic remarks to the arts and film pros regarding the passing of Paul Newman over the weekend. But i feel compelled to offer my two cents on an artist who was, quite simply, a class act, onscreen, onstage and especially off.
I remember seeing Cool Hand Luke as a kid and being mortified that if I did something wrong I too would “spend a night in the box.” I remember laughing myself silly in college at Slapshot, a seemingly rudimentary 1977 film about an aging hockey pro. And of the many fine films he made over the last 25 years, there was a stark, forgotten work from 1994 called Nobody’s Fool that remains a personal favorite. It’s a story of confronting personal demons and mending family ties set in possibly the loneliest place and time on earth – Northwest New York just after Christmas. It’s one of Newman’s most subtle portrayals. And like most every performance he gave, it was rich in dignity.
Over the past 15 years, Newman became a regular on The Late Show with David Letterman. Sometimes he would talk about home life and charity work. Sometimes it would be about car racing. Sometimes Newman would just sit and stare at Letterman with mock indifference. But my favorite memory is of his surprise appearance on Letterman’s first CBS broadcast in 1993 from his new performance home at the Ed Sullivan Theatre on Broadway.
After “conjuring” the ghost of Sullivan, Newman stood up in the middle of the audience and asked Letterman, “Where the hell are the singing cats?” Letterman replied that he wasn’t in the theatre where the musical Cats was playing. Newman then pulled two tickets from his coat pocket, stared at them curiously and left. The crowd, as they say, went crazy. That memory emerged full blown when I heard of Newman’s passing on Saturday.
So, having provided Hollywood with the kind of character and class few actors could hope to match, we say adieu Mr. Newman. Here’s hoping he’s being serenaded by the singing cats as we speak.