September 27, 2008

Paul Newman dies.


“Nobody gets out of life alive.” ~ Hud (Paul Newman)

Paul Newman was more than just another actor. He was a great, iconic actor—infamously nominated for the Oscar 10 times, winning once and receiving two honorary Oscars. He was a natural foods entrepreneur who gave 100% of profits to charity. And he was a good man, and active liberal—and most importantly of all (if only personally-speaking) a father figure.

I grew up without my old man being around much—so Paul Newman and his Sundance Kid, Robert Redford—along with Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Toshior Mifune, Basil Rathbone, Magic Johnson—taught me how a man should be. Strong, but gentle. March to the beat of your own drummer. Charismatic, but caring. Of course, those were all the stars I lit my stumbling walk by, and I’ve never myself approached such brilliance. Still, Paul and Co did teach me that the great men are meek, strong enough not to have to show off. It’s a lesson I’m still working on, every day.

If you’re a businessperson, read Paul Newman’s Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good. If you’re a consumer, buy Newman’s Own and his daughter’s Newman’s Own Organics—you’ll be supporting great quality food and great charities. If you’re a boy, watch Hud, as I did, three times in a row over the course of a weekend—pause and rewind scenes just to capture his strut, as I did in A Long, Hot Summer (based on Faulkner stories, and co-starring Paul’s wife of six decades, Joanne Woodward). There’s many other flicks, of course—The Hustler, Absence of Malice…but I’ll leave the details to the NY Times. Click here for article and slideshow.

Mentors–from afar or in our life–walk the noblest path of service. They are vital to the next generation, particularly for those without a parent or who want to move in station.

And here’s a nice snippet via the London Free Press, by Liz Braun, on why he was one actor we could respect:

…Newman was always very outspoken, particularly about politics — he was in Richard Nixon’s bad books — and you could just tell he didn’t suffer fools gladly.

There was so much to admire about him.

The legendary screen actor was not the only movie star who took himself lightly, or who was happily married, or who had an interest in car racing, but he was certainly the only actor who could say he’d contributed up to $250 million to various good causes in his lifetime.

You read that correctly: One quarter of a BILLION dollars. When it came to giving back and contributing to charity, Newman has had no equal in his profession.

He consistently put his money where his mouth is, most notably with the founding of the Newman’s Own Foundation in 1982, an outfit that donates all profits and royalties (after taxes) for educational and charitable purposes.

And it won’t stop now. Newman may have left the building, but the Newman’s Own Foundation is still around to continue giving.

“This is not about celebrity, this is a political issue,” he said about giving through Newman’s Own. “The concept that a person who has a lot holds his hand out to someone who has less is still a human trait. I am confounded by the stinginess of some institutions and some people. You can only put away so much stuff in your closet. In 1987, the average CEO earned 70 times more than someone working in his factory. It’s now 410 times. I don’t think there’s anything odd about philanthropy. It’s the other stance that confounds me.”

Newman and his friend author A.E. Hotchner (Papa Hemingway, King Of The Hill, Everyone Comes To Elaine’s) started Newman’s Own as a bit of a lark.

For years, the two men had been making salad dressing and giving it away as Christmas gifts when they went caroling in their Connecticut neighbourhood.

They decided to try to market the salad dressing, starting out by placing it in local shops, and after getting friends to do taste tests they settled on a single product: an oil-and-vinegar salad dressing. Newman put his picture on the label, apparently as a joke, and then he convinced a friend in the grocery business to get the ball rolling by taking a few thousands cases.

Various grocery consultants and marketing experts were all very happy to warn Newman that he could only lose money, and lots of it, with his tiny new business, but Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar Salad Dressing made a profit its first year out. The company then grew in leaps and bounds, and as Newman food fans know, the single salad dressing was joined by other dressings, spaghetti sauces, salsa and lemonade, among other products. (We recommend the Newman’s Own grape juice.)

About 15 years ago, Newman’s daughter Nell helped the company branch out with a new line of organic products that includes organic dog and cat food.

Newman has given money to various children’s charities and health centres, to a group that helps the homeless become self-reliant, to refugee groups, to humane societies and animal hospitals and to all manner of educational outlets. He co-sponsors the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, a $25,000 reward designed to recognize those who protect the U,S. First Amendment as it applies to the written word.

His most famous charity, of course, is the Hole In The Wall Gang summer camps, which Newman established in 1988. These camps let sick children take part in all the usual camp activities — boating, overnight trips, arts and crafts, horseback riding, performing arts, fishing, archery, etc. — while they get free, 24-hour medical care. It’s all free for the children, and the camps have helped kids from all over Canada and the U.S. and 40 other countries…



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