Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Class Act

I'm a little late to the show on this one. Paul Lanier Newman has left the world, and I feel we've lost someone, something special and aren't aware of it yet. I've always liked Paul Newman. The first movie of his I remember seeing was The Sting. Most of his others followed.

Even in his less than popular movies, I always loved how Paul threw all he had into it. The characters he played were part of him somewhere, and you saw it. My father said once "any other actor could be half as talented and still be great", and it applied to to other facets of Paul's life.

Unless you've been under a rock since the precambrian era, you probably have heard of Newman's Own dressings and sauces. I remember the first time I heard about it, and the first commercials aired where I grew up. In fact, he did commercials for Nissan encouraging people to use seatbelts. The local Albany and NYC stations aired them all the time, and sometimes, Paul would be wearing the same thing in both.

The reason was that he was at Lime Rock Park raceway, a tough road racing track in northwest CT near Lakeville. Many commercials were shot between heats or after races. It was neat to see him in his driving suit with cars going by in the background.

The fact that Paul was racing cars made him cool to me, but the fact he won a national championship driving a supposedly obsolete Triumph TR6 and beat the new model TR7, well, that made him a hero to me. That's because my father raced a Triumph, and later on I raced them, too.

But the biggest thing that tells me the class Paul Newman had was the fact he never called attention to his achievements. When he won the national championship in 1977 he said "screw the Oscars, this is better", or something to that effect, depending on who you ask. How many of us truly know how many children and adults his programs have helped? What is the impact on society?

Paul Newman was like a black tux. Always classy, elegant, stylish. Quiet dignity. The world needs more like him.

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