Paul Newman will always be one of my favorite actors. The world is a smaller place because he is no longer in it, but he has left a legacy not only of fantastic characters in top-notch movies ("Fast" Eddie Felson, Butch Cassidy, Judge Roy Bean, Henry Gondorff, Sidney J. Mussburger, Cool Hand Luke), he lived his life according to his convictions and put his money where his mouth is.
Several years in a row, I had the great pleasure of working for one of the many projects he financed with his "Newman's Own" line of products - a summer camp in rural Connecticut for kids with cancer and other terminal diseases. It was a place for them to be normal kids for a time, playing in the sun, fishing, making buckskin purses and moccasins.
Kids with cancer.
At that summer camp, the kids stage a variety show at the end of the season and Newman's friends show up not just to see it but to participate. Broadway folks show up, too, including stagehands to work the event. It always has a wonderful party atmosphere and the kids are inspiring and heart-breaking and beautiful. That Paul Newman never made a big deal out of this noble corner of his empire, never did a People Magazine spread or Entertainment Tonight segment about it speaks to his humanity and commitment to the cause. It really, truly was all about the kids.
He was a man of noble character, of class and conviction and always with a self-deprecating sense of sly humor. That despite his myriad accomplishments he never took himself too seriously should be a lesson for us all.
Farewell, Mr. Newman. You truly were one of a kind.
Dahlia Lithwick write about the camp over at Slate.com.