Archive for December 31st, 2008

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

As we say goodbye to 2008 (and, as some of us say “good riddance”), it seems that every magazine, newspaper, and TV news show are running features on those who died during the year.

Like all years, it’s quite a list, including George Carlin, Bo Diddley, Charlton Heston, Tim Russert, Sir Edmund Hillary, Suzanne Pleshette, and Tony Snow – to name just a few. But the one name that stops me in my tracks, every time I hear it, is Paul Newman.

Newman fans – and there are millions of us – each have their own reasons for holding him close to our hearts. His philanthropy ($250 million in gifts), his dozens of great movies, or – for some – just his amazingly blue eyes evoke in us a deep personal response.

To me, though, when I think of Paul Newman, I see a guy who took every batch of lemons life handed him – and turned them into lemonade.

His first movie (and almost his last) was “The Silver Chalice.” It was one of the most atrocious movies of the entire 1950s (Newman always claimed it was the worst), and – as the star – he deserved a fair share of the blame. A lesser person might have never shown their face in Hollywood again. Instead, he learned from his over-acting mistakes. He also made no excuses for his failure. He simply vowed to do better the next time – a promise he kept for 50 years.

This is a pattern he would repeat many times in his life, in marriage, fatherhood, and in business.

The death of Newman’s son Scott from a drug overdose was devastating. But – being Paul Newman – he found a life affirming way to deal with the tragedy. In Scott’s name, he created a foundation to help in both prevention of and recovery from drug addiction. His goal was simple – to spare as many other families as possible the pain of losing a loved one to drugs.

I look forward to every viewing of “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” and – a personal favorite – “Cool Hand Luke.” Like all great actors, Newman learned to make each performance seem effortless. And, through the magic of film, he will always be with us.

But, unlike so many other public figures, he was a class act off screen as well. And there aren’t so many of those around that we should ever be too busy to note the passing of one of the best.

Nor should we fail to learn from his example. Old show biz hands say that “In life there are no second acts.” Paul Newman proved them wrong. And time after time, we were the beneficiaries of his second efforts.

So goodbye, 2008 – I won’t miss you at all. But Mr. Newman – wherever you are – you are a memory I will treasure.