Thursday, July 14, 2022

Paul Newman’s A Life Book Review

As How can one Adequately Chronicle His life?


I first “Read,” Err listened to the very enjoyable Biography of Paul Newman on ‘Ol School CD Audiobook format Wayback’ in February, 2020, and actually wrote Hand written notes for a future No Fenders story. But Alas, Due to my continually faltering eyesight, Have I mentioned I’m Blind lately? I can No longer read my own “Chicken Scratchings.”


As the following Book review of Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy isn’t intended to be a complete year-by-year recanting, just some of the portions of what I found most interesting in what I found to be a great book after re-reading it a second time early 2022. Beginning just a week before Indy Cars went racing at St Pete, and had intended posting during the Month ‘O May…


This is Your life…

Paul Newman’s life in Films lasts some 50 years, with just some of the films I can remember being listed in the book’s beginning as Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Sting, towering Inferno, The Color of Money, Absence of Malice, The Verdict and Cars.


Yet for Mwah, it’s Newman’s second career that I’m most aware of, and draws me to Him. That being first a racing driver, and then team owner. As Newman won four SCCA Amateur National championships and two professional SCCA Pro Racing Trans AM series races. Runner-up in the 1979 24 Heurs du Mans and Oldest winner ever at age 70, winning the IMSA 24 Hours of Daytona’s GTO Class!


While his imponomous Newman Haas Racing Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) IndyCar Team won a prestigious eight Championships and 107 IndyCar races.


As I began re-listening to the CD Audiobook some two years later, it completely nagged at me that somebody else famous was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, musing that I thought it was whom I prefer calling el Capitano’, nee Roger Penske, who indeed was born there on February 20, 1937…


Paul Leonard Newman was born on January 26, 1925, presumably in cleveland, Ohio. Since contrary to everythingy’ I can find on Ye Good ‘Ol Intrawoods’, nee Zed Internets, Paul wasn’t Born in Shaker Heights. As the Newman family moved there  in 1927 when Art Jr., Paul’s older brother was three, and Paul was two. As Shaker Heights was an affluent suburb of Cleveland, and at the time, just a Trolley ride away.


Paul’s father Art was the younger of the two Newman Brothers who made up two thirds of the Newman Stern Sporting goods store, the most successful Sporting goods store of Cleveland during it’s time.


Paul’s older brother Art Jr. was quite rough upon Paul. As both played all types of popular sports, for which Paul was never very good. Although Paul played Center for his Junior High School and was a ferocious “Hitter.” He needed a waiver at 5-foot 3-inches and 98lbs in order to not be kept playing with the Sixth Graders!


Just shy of his 18th Birthday, Paul enlisted with the U.S. Navy, as his brother Art had opted for the Army. Awaiting “call Up” from the Navy, Paul enrolled at Ohio University, where He jokingly claims his major was Beer Drinking! But He auditioned for a part in a play called the Milky Way and landed a lead role. As Paul’s Mother had first enrolled Paul in Theater School at age 11, along with a few singing and acting roles between 5-7 years old. And then in January , 1943, Paul was told to report to the Navy’s Air corps.


As Newman like most young men wished to be an Airplane Pilot. But upon taking the routine eye exam, Paul was diagnosed of being colour blind, which in part gave him those esquisite emerald blue eyes He later became famous for. As Newman’s Dream’s of being A Flyboy’ were over, and the Navy didn’t know what to do with him. So they tried putting him into Officer Candidate training but that didn’t wash either! So they ultimately made him a Radio Operator, third class.


With Newman flying in the rear turret of Grumman TBF Adenger Torpedo planes! Which Newman later confessed He was a lousy Gunner, with his revolving rear turret having a 30-calibre machine gun, but said He was a pretty good radio operator, although He couldn’t read instruments very good. As his pilot would be Guffawing over the radio when Newman thought the Altimeter was claiming they were 200-feet underwater!


As Newman served aboard various Aircraft Carriers in the Pacific, with his pilot getting an earache the night before reporting to the USS Bunker Hill, which got wiped out by a Kamikaze Attack! Then served out the remainder of his three year Navy Stint at Bremerton, Washington before being Honourably Discharged in January, 1946.


Newman then transferred to Kenyon University, where after He was Kicked Off the Football team as a reserve, finally settled upon Drama, and starred in nine plays during his Junior to Senior years before graduating in 1949.


After Graduation, Newman did some Summer Theatre Work in various Plays and got married to his first wife Jackie Witte in 1949. Shortly after marrying, their first child Alan Scott Newman was born in 1950. Followed later by their first daughter Susan.


Paul’s father Art Died in 1950, with Newman,  Jackie and Scott returning to Shaker Heights where Paul reluctantly returned to working at the Sporting goods store as a Salesman. But his Heart wasn’t in it, with Paul growing restless before packing up his family to go to School at Yale in it’s Masters of Fine Arts (MFD) programme in order to be able to become a Arts Teacher. Spending a year at Yale in 1951.


Yet the Siren song of New York called at Paul, who decided to leave Yale and give Acting a chance instead. After some brief success, enough to support his fledgling family, with a daughter on the way. He informed Yale He wouldn’t return to finish his degree, before finding his way to the Artist Studio in 1952.


During this time He landed what turned into his first  Feature role in the upcoming Play Picnic, where it just so happened that the Understudy for the character Madge that Paul was trying to seduce, was named Joanne Woodward. Who’s Mother had named Her after Her favourite Actress Joan Rivers…


Newman signed what then was a standard movie contract by Warner Brothers in 1954. guaranteeing a minimum of 10 weeks work at $1,000 per week and two movies a year and an option for a third. Along with the Studio’s right to loan him out to other Studios, plus work one First rate Broadway Play up to nine months per year for five years. As Newman’s debut movie The Silver Chalice in 1954 was Dreadful! And for the rest of Paul’s movie career He would steadfastly claim He’d already worn a Cocktail Dress once and would never do so again!


Paul and Joanne who had first spent considerable time together in 1953, although nothing romantically due to his marriage, reconnected on The Long Hot Summer movie in 1957 where they Co-Acted together, with Paul getting divorced from Jackie in 1958. Then marrying Joanne Woodward the same year, a marriage that lasted until Paul’s Death in 2008.


As Paul ultimately had six kids, Scott, Susan and Stephanie with his first wife Jackie. And Nel’,  (Elanor) Melissa and Cleo’ (Claire) with Joanne.


In 1968 Paul was worried about the War and how to protect his 18 year old son Scott from having to go to Vietnam. Not to mention being disalusioned with LBJ. Thus Newman took to actively supporting Eugene McCarthy, and went on the Campaign trail with Him.


In New Hampshire, a Jaguar Dealer loaned Paul a car for a few days. Upon returning it,  Newman discovered that it would next be loaned to Richard Nixon. So Paul left a note on the Dashboard reading: You should have No problem at All driving this car, It has a very Tricky clutch



The Hole in The Wall Gang Camps idea came to Paul One day when He was thinking of what His next Philanthropic project could be. Presenting it to Joanne and his Good Friend and longtime neighbor, the renown Author A.E. Hotchner who immediately said He’s In! They found a 300 Acre parcel that was mostly flat, being ideal for Wheelchairs that included a 47 acre lake!


Funding was the key issue, since Newman’s Own which was pledging $7 million had to be met Dollar for Dollar for Tax purposes. Although Anheiser Busch, a longtime sponsor of Newman’s racing endeavours gave $1m for the facility’s main building. It was the meeting of a Saudi Arabian who secured a $5 Million Donation from His Government that ultimately Paid for this Camp.


In the first two decades of the 11 Camps existence around the Globe. Nearly 120,000 Children from 31 U.S. States and 28 countries, including eight children from Russia afflicted by Chernobyl Nuclear Radiation Fallout have attended Hole In the Wall Camps at No cost to themselves…