The Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of "Bloom County" on the revival of his beloved comic strip after a 25-year hiatus and a new book about the origins of Bill The Cat.
Author A.E. Hotchner’s intimate account of his remarkable fifty-three year friendship with Hollywood icon Paul Newman. The two met on a television project in 1955. Many decades later, they started Newman’s Own food line as a prank and watched it grown into a major charitable enterprise.
- A. E. Hotchner novelist, biographer, editor, playwright and co-founder of "Newman's Own" food products, author of "Paul and ME: 53 Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman"
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Author A.E. Hotchner and actor Paul Newman were best friends, neighbors and business partners. After Newman died in 2008, Hotchner said of him, Paul Newman was an unadorned man. He was direct and honest, and off-center and mischievous, and romantic and very handsome. All of these qualities became the generating force behind him. He was the same man in 2008 that he was in 1955. Despite all the honors and the fame, not a whisper of change. That was something, the constancy of the man.
MS. DIANE REHMA.E. Hotchner's new book is titled, "Paul and Me" and A.E. Hotchner joins us in the studio. He's asked me to call him Hotch so that's what I'm going to do. You can join us 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to you. It's good to have you here.
MR. A. E. HOTCHNERAll right. Thank you.
REHMYou know, I understand that you first met Paul Newman in 1955. Talk about how you met.
HOTCHNERWell, it was a fortuitous meeting for both of us. I had written my first television play, an adaptation of Hemmingway's short story called, "The Battler," and I had trepidations about whether it would be produced and it was. It was to be produced with James Dean to play the lead and a very fine director named Arthur Penn and a wonderful producer named Fred Coe. So I was primed for a wonderful first experience in the new world, the world of theater really because this was live television, which was quite like theater.
HOTCHNERBut unhappily, I imagine about three weeks before we went into rehearsal, Dean was killed in his souped-up sports car and they could not find -- the producer or the director could not find another star on such short notice to replace him. So Arthur Penn said, well, look, there's a young man on the cast here that I've worked with here in the Actor's Studio. I think he could do the part and his name is Paul Newman.
HOTCHNERHe had made one movie that was a terrible disaster called, "Silver Chalice" and had been relegated to sort of the discard heap as far as Hollywood was concerned. So Paul came in and Paul said, well, I don't think I'm ready, first of all, to replace my friend Jimmy Dean...
HOTCHNER...and secondly, I don't think I'm ready to perform this kind of part. It's a difficult part and indeed it was a difficult part. "The Battler," as Hemmingway described him, was really a mutilated character who had been a welterweight champion of the world and had had a traumatic beating in the ring and now was addle-brained and face misshapen. And that kind of a heavy character part, Paul just was reticent about playing.
REHMHow did he do?
HOTCHNERWell, he sort of talked himself into it and I talked him into it. And of course, he did brilliantly.
REHMI've seen the photographs of how his misshapen face was reconstructed for the part. He looked ghastly.
HOTCHNERWell, that's how everybody described it. Only one ear, the other ear had been battered off. Misshapen nose slits for eyes, all the terrible things that can happen to a boxer happened to Paul. And the interesting thing was that at the first rehearsals, he was simply awful. He didn't at all perform like that character and he knew it. And one day, we were rehearsing in a -- because they had run out of room at NBC, we were rehearsing in a funeral parlor where the backroom had been stripped of its funereal stuff and there we were.
HOTCHNERBut in the anti-room were still caskets so one day I'm leaving rehearsal and out of a coffin I hear Hotch and I nearly jumped out of my skin. And I went over and there's Newman in the coffin. And he said, batten down the hatches, I'm checking out. So I said, oh, come on, let's go and have a beer so we did. And he said, you know, I'm just terrible in this role.
HOTCHNERWell, not too long after, maybe a week later, because we rehearsed for two weeks, Paul suddenly began a wonderful delineation of this character. I said, where did this come from? He said, well, you know, I went down to downtown Los Angeles to a grubby gym there where boxers hang out and I met this sort of beat-up boxer who was a little bit addle-brained, walked in a kind of a shuffle and I got to know him well and then began to infuse his character. And he built on it and became a really extraordinary performer.
REHMThe extraordinary part of that story for me is how he opened himself to that transformation, to that infusion from that real-life boxer.
HOTCHNERAnd what he said was -- because I said, this is just such a turnaround. He said, but, you know, what's difficult about it is it can't be an imitation. You have got to take it as a kind of an infusion of that character and to build on that and make it your own, which is what he did. He did it so well that as a result of that telecast, he was approached by MGM and they asked him whether he would play the lead in a big new movie called -- which was to be called, "Somebody up There Likes Me."
HOTCHNERAnd the irony of it is that it was Jimmy Dean, who was slated to be the lead of that movie, too, and, of course, that was Paul's first big break out in "Somebody up There Likes Me." He was wonderful in it.
REHMDid you have a sense, as you began watching him in this evolutionary process, that this man was really headed for something big?
HOTCHNERAbsolutely. He was...
HOTCHNERIt was an extraordinary development. And also, as I got to know him and to see the facets of his personality, you knew that he had wonderful tools with which to work.
REHMA.E. Hotchner, his new book is titled, "Paul and Me: Fifty-three Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman." Do join us, 800-433-8850. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your tweets and join us on Facebook. You met Joanne Woodward around that same time. Tell me what their interaction was like.
HOTCHNERWhile we were doing rehearsal, we would go at the lunch break to a nearby diner kind of bar and grill where we'd lunch in a booth. And we were often joined by this young, truly beautiful, charming, little bit of Southern accent woman who was Joanne Woodward. And she had been in "Picnic" with him and so they obviously were very much in love.
REHMHe was already married?
HOTCHNERHe was married, had a...
HOTCHNER...at that point. And Joanne would come and be in the booth with us, sort of participate, listen to our problems of rehearsal. And I could just see then and there that they were so much in love and I knew that someday, in the not too distant, you could tell that they would be getting together.
REHMWere the two of them very supportive of each other throughout their more than 50 years of marriage?
HOTCHNERIn every conceivable way.
HOTCHNERAs actor, actress, as father, mother, friends, as antagonists in -- over things they didn't agree on. But at the base of it, the most important thing was respect. They just respected each other enormously. And I think that's the basis of love anyway. In my own, that's my own private feeling about love.
REHMYou bet, you bet. 50 years plus of marriage with Joanne Woodward after how many years of marriage with his first wife?
HOTCHNERI don't really know. But certainly he had three children with his wife so it had to be a considerable length of time. But they married very young. As a matter of fact, I think he met her in summer stock when he was just...
HOTCHNER...beginning to stir his emotions about acting.
REHMDidn't he attend Kenyon College?
HOTCHNERHe did, yes.
REHMYes. And was very generous to Kenyon College after he became...
HOTCHNEROh, he was a great sponsor to them.
REHM... a wealthy man. Yeah, I thought so.
HOTCHNERHe did, yes. Not only financially, but actually he directed plays there with the students.
REHMYou know, one of the wonderful areas of playfulness you talk about in the book is playing doubles tennis with him.
HOTCHNERWell, he had a lunch for Robert Kennedy -- for Robert Redford and the man who was the head of the motion picture institute. And after lunch, I don't know how it came about, but Paul said ,why don't we do a little tennis. There was a tennis court next to the house, but he said, I think we ought to take the keg of beer out there and the deal is that every time we change sides, we'll have a slug of beer.
HOTCHNERSo this was Jack Valenti and Robert Redford on one side and I was playing with Paul. Bob's a very good athlete...
REHMAnd we'll have to hear the end of that story when we come back.
REHMAnd if you've just joined us, a dear and longstanding friend of Paul Newman's, A.E. Hotchner, is here with me. He's written about that friendship in a new book titled, "Paul and Me." Why did you call it "Paul and Me" instead of "Paul and I?"
HOTCHNERThis may sound peculiar, because there's no real basis for it, but I just felt that "Paul and I" was a little egotistical. "Paul and Me" sounds a little more moderate because it's not I or me, it's really Paul and how I had a friendship with him.
REHMAnd, of course, A.E. Hotchner is the author of the international bestseller, "Papa Hemingway." He's written 16 other books, including "Doris Day," "Sophia," and the Memoir "King of the Hill." Do join us, 800-433-8850. Finish that story about the doubles tennis.
HOTCHNERWell, we got on the tennis court. Bob is a very good athlete, whether it's skiing or anything else, and he'd been taking lessons. And he's a left-hander, which is difficult in tennis. But Valenti, I swear he's about -- if he was 5 feet, it was a lot. So when you're small like that, in tennis, you don't cover much ground. And also he was rather erratic. And Paul was not a very avid tennis player. He was adequate. And we started this, but Paul's rules were that every time we changed sides, on every odd point, we'd have to have a slug of beer. And it was a hot day and we had just had lunch. He had cooked his hamburgers and we had drunk beer at lunch.
HOTCHNERSo the match progressed. Valenti was hitting the ball over the backstop and after a while, he was lobbing a lot. And Paul was not quite getting to the ball. But as the match progressed, the beer got to Valenti and to Redford and to me a little bit. But Paul, who regularly drank four or five beers a day anyway, he was in training for this match with his beer. And by the end of the match, Paul was hitting overheads and he was the star. And the three of us were just barely seeing the ball and (intelligible). But we won, but I think it was mostly Paul's beer-fueled tennis that did it for us.
REHMWasn't he moving the lines somewhat?
HOTCHNERYeah, he was always saying, I don't think you guys are seeing the line correctly, and he would call the ball out or in. And we felt, okay, we're drinking beer so maybe we're not. But Paul just trumped everybody.
REHMYou know, you mentioned Jack Valenti's height. Wasn't that one of the issues with which Paul Newman got into a real feisty match with Rupert Murdoch?
HOTCHNERRupert Murdoch is the owner and be-all of the New York Post, which has a notorious page six, which is a gossip page. And on that page, they describe Newman as being 5'8" or 5'9" or whatever they said. And Newman took great umbrage at their underestimating his height. So he said, okay, I'll make a bet with Rupert Murdoch. If I am an inch over 5'9", is what they said he was, then I'll bet him $100,000 that I am. And if I'm not, then I'll pay him 100,000. And he said, and I'll have Hotch hold the stakes. Well, of course, Murdoch didn't take (unintelligible) .
REHMNever showed up.
HOTCHNERNever showed up.
REHMYeah. He did not like Rupert Murdoch.
HOTCHNERYou can -- that's an understatement, yeah.
REHMWhy. What was the basis?
HOTCHNER'Cause Murdoch stood for all of the political and egotistical elements that Paul didn't like, but primarily it was because of his politics. And Paul literally was a Democrat. He believed in many of the things that Murdoch, in his papers, was opposing. So -- and he had several outlets besides the radio station and a television station. And Murdoch, for him, was a kind of force that was (sounds like) antipical to what he believed in.
REHMI think many people are very aware of the Newman's Own line of products. Talk about how those came into being. I'm thinking about an ordinary kitchen pail for one thing.
HOTCHNERYou mean how we happened to start in the food business?
REHMAnd salad dressing.
HOTCHNERThe whole works. It was a joke. It was -- I think at the basis of our relationship it was, have a good time and enjoy life and enjoy each other whenever you're around. Just have a good time. So I wasn't surprised at -- one day, he called me up. We lived about ten minutes, twelve minutes apart in Westport, Connecticut. He called me and said, what are you doing? And I said, I'm not doing anything in particular. He said, come on over, you can give me a hand. And he was down in the stables underneath his house. No longer horses there, but had been stables. Had a washtub and a big gallon of olive oil and various condiments, a great number of bottles he had sort of cleansed a little bit. And he was intent on mixing up his salad dressing. He was very proud of it.
HOTCHNERHe always had his salad dressing whenever we went and ate dinner there or even in restaurants. He would tell the waiter, bring these things, I wanna make my own salad dressing. There was one time that he asked for vinegar and olive oil, but the waiter brought the salad with their dressing on it.
HOTCHNERWell, Paul got up, took his plate, went into the men's room, washed off the lettuce, brought it back and said, now, bring me what I need -- dried it off with paper towels. So you can see that he was very proud of it. So we mixed up this whole vat full of stuff and we corked up the bottles, which he now said, we will now do our regular caroling with our kids and we'll give the neighbors a bottle of my salad dressing.
HOTCHNERIt was a Christmas gift.
HOTCHNERWell, we had a little left over in the washtub and he said, I'll tell you what. Why don't we just bottle this up and put it in the local food stores, you know, the gourmet places, delicatessen, a few places. I said, Paul, you can't do that because it's (unintelligible) .
HOTCHNERSomebody gets a belly ache off this, you're gonna lose the stable and the house and the whole works. Okay, he said, well, let's get a proper bottle and a proper label, and that's the beginning of Newman's Own. Unlikely, that one bottle and everything we did, we were the no-no guys. Whenever they said, you can't do that, it's not done, and Paul would say, no, it's going to be done that way.
REHMSo that bottle of salad dressing really launched everything else.
HOTCHNERIt launched the ship. The fact is that we were the first ones using olive oil and we use no gums or preservatives, all the things -- sugar, all the stuff that was being used in salad dressings at that time. And I remember we walked in -- Paul said, let's go to the supermarket and see the competition. There was this glass wall of Kraft and Thousand Island and all these dressings. I said, Newman, we're never going to be able to exist. Look at that. He said, we will 'cause we're going to do everything these people don't do. And we did and we were and we made it.
REHMWhat about putting his photograph on there?
HOTCHNEROh, well, no. That was suggested by -- there was a big supermarket near us called Stu Leonard's. And Stu, who was a very knowledgeable guy, said, you guys are going to do fine because it's a very good dressing. Celebrity foods don't sell, but this might with Paul's picture on it. Paul said, whoa, wait a minute, I'm not putting my picture on a bottle of salad dressing. So Stu said, well, how do you think people are going to know that it's yours and...
HOTCHNER...that it's yours? He said, it says Newman's Own. And Stu said, well, that could be Seymour Newman of Passat, N.J. That doesn't mean anything. You've got to be Paul Newman. So he brooded about that and we were out fishing. We had a succession of really...
HOTCHNER...ridiculous boats. So we're out fishing. Well, when I say that it's relative, we were not catching fish. We never did, but we fished. And he said, I'll tell you what. If I put my face on that bottle and if we make any money, which we won't because we're gonna go out of business, we'll each put up 20,000 bucks. And when the 40,000 is over with, let's -- we're out of business.
REHMCall it a day.
HOTCHNERBut anyway, if we make a nickel out of this thing, we can't put it in our pockets. I said, we can't? He said, no, you can't. You're a writer, I'm an actor. Let's give it all to charity, then it's okay. I'll put my face on it, and that's how the concept of going to charity began. And for all that time -- and Diane, this year we will have given away $300 million to all these charities, including the camps for kids who have cancer.
REHMTell about those camps for the kids who have cancer.
HOTCHNERWe had been giving away, I guess, to about 4 or 500 different charities. The charities we gave to were charities that didn't have a lot of coverage, like the American Cancer Society. We were giving to smaller charities that were really not being funded like that. There was nuns at a migrant school in Florida. We gave them money for a bus to get the migrant kids off the fields. I mean, charities like that. And Paul, one day, said, you know, we don't have a charity of our own that we're identified with. So what do you think? And I said, I think we should begin to think about it. You're right. We should have something -- we can keep up our other charity work, but there should be one in particular.
HOTCHNERAnd we went to see -- one of our charities was for the Foundling Hospital in New York, which took in children that were discarded, run by a wonderful order of nuns. And I really think that sort of got to Paul because I don't know where the idea came from. We had lunch one day and he said, you know, I've been thinking what it should be. I think we should do a camp for kids who have cancer. Now, Paul's mother and father both died of cancer so maybe that -- plus the fact that he had this empathy for these children. And I don't know where it came from, but immediately grabbed me and I said, let's try. Let's find out.
HOTCHNERSo we traveled all over the country going to visit camps for kids with cancer. There were none that were built specifically for that. They were just rented camps and adapted. And Paul's notion was we're going to build it just for these children, these particular children. Let's make it a town like Butch Cassidy had. Let's make it a real fun village and it'll be an experience that these children will never forget. Also, they spend most of their time at hospitals, at home, not able to go to school, no hair, catheters in their chest, terrible things, amputations. But we'll make that all accommodatable (sic) in our camp.
HOTCHNERSo we went out to the coast and we saw camps there and we went to various other places. And finally, with the help of a wonderful doctor from Yale New Haven Hospital, Howard Pearson became the doctor of the camp. We built it up and we built that camp finally. It wasn't cheap. It took 11 million of our dollars, but then a wonderful thing happened that could only happen to Paul. That was the cost of the camp, but we can only contribute from Newman's Own 5 million of that because...
HOTCHNER...well, there's some kind of restriction (unintelligible) ...
HOTCHNER...you can give, whatever it was. And we weren't doing very well, but we got -- we had a call from a young man from Saudi Arabia who lived in the states, wonderful young man, who had an affliction -- I've forgotten the name of it. It required that his blood be completely transferred every year, I think. And he said, I think it's wonderful, this idea of a camp. I wish there had been one when I was a kid. But he said, maybe I can help someway. And about two weeks later, he called up and said, I have a contribution, but you have to come to the Saudi Arabian council in Washington to receive it. So we went to the Saudi Arabian council in Washington and the explanation was that this young man had petitioned the King of Saudi Arabia, King Fahd, and told him about the camp and said that they were in dire need of $5 million. And here was a check for $5 million from the King of Saudi Arabia.
HOTCHNERSo that kind of thing was happening and Paul always believed that the nexus of his life was luck, that he had always been lucky, as witness that first television play.
REHMA.E. Hotchner and the book he's talking about is titled, "Paul and Me: Fifty-Three Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." The other added attraction, in addition to having this camp and others, resemble a set of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the actors the performers who came year after year to entertain those kids.
HOTCHNERThat was something that I wasn't prepared for, that is, how it developed. After the first year of camp, I said, you know, the children entertain each other on stage night. Why at the end of the camp don't we do a stage night, but for grownups who would come and buy tickets. And maybe I can get some star performers to come and perform with the children and do a show up here. And Paul said, I don't know. We're three hours from New York, we don't have any gratification for them.
HOTCHNERThere's no coverage here of the press or anything and I don't know that these performers will come up here, the kind of people you're talking about. I said, well, let's give it a shot. He says, yeah, let's do and we'll see what happens. And so I decided, well, if I have to get two or three stars up here, I better invite maybe ten or twelve, and hoping that maybe a couple will acquiesce. So I went through a list of people like Judy Collins and Bobby Short and Alec...
HOTCHNERYeah, Alec -- Alec wasn't the first one -- Alec Baldwin. At any rate, they all showed up, every one of them. And if I had -- if they'd all performed, it would've been a six-hour show.
HOTCHNERSo I was in the embarrassing position of having to go to Bobby Short, this great cabaret performer of New York City who never leaves the city and go to him and say, Bobby, listen, could you just sing one song?
REHMI love it. A.E. Hotchner. And when we come back, he'll share more of his memories about his dear friend, Paul Newman. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Paul Newman and A. E. Hotchner were friends for many, many years, first meeting in 1955 when Paul Newman was called in to replace his friend, James Dean, who had just been killed in an automobile accident. A. E. Hotchner has written his book of memories about his friend. It's titled simply "Paul and Me." Here's the first e-mail from Al in Indianapolis, who says, "Please ask A. E. Hotchner about Mr. Newman's passion for racing. How did he get involved in racing and what did Mr. Newman think of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?"
HOTCHNERWell, he got involved in racing because he starred in a movie called "Winning." And in order to make his role believable, he decided that he would take lessons at the track. And he got a very good track instructor. And the first time that he really got around that track at 120 miles an hour, he fell in love with it.
REHMHe just fell in love with speed.
HOTCHNERSpeed. He got a speed boat eventually, a Chris-Craft, and we used to churn up the waves. He just loved going beyond anything. And I never really realized what speed was at his level until he won a race at Lime Rock going 180 to 200 miles an hour. But this is a track. It's not like Indianapolis Cup. It's got dog legs and elevations and it's a very intricate track. When he -- after winning it, he said, come on, Hotch, I'll take you around for a victory lap. So I got in this thing, held onto the bars that are inside of it and we took off at that 180 miles an hour...
HOTCHNER...going around some of these dog legs and elevations where the tires never hit the road. We got back and I was so frozen in my position they had to come and help me get my hands off the roll bars. Then I understood what speed was to Newman. Speed was the essence of life. It just was -- to be able to break through whatever barriers exist for the human being, it really made for that kind of thing.
REHMBut surely his wife, Joanne, did not feel great about this.
HOTCHNERNever did, was always very nervous and sort of tolerated it somewhat. But they came to an understanding. He said, I'll tell you what, Joanne, if you can relax some, if you can just relax and come and believe in the fact that I can maneuver this, then I'll make deal with you, then I'll go to ballet with you.
REHMAnd did he?
HOTCHNERAnd he did.
REHMOh, that's wonderful. But he almost -- I mean, he had several near misses in those racing cars.
HOTCHNERWell, it was luck. Paul always extolled luck as a virtue in his life. And he did a couple of -- he did a couple of escapes that were hard to believe. At one point the car going at that rate of speed left the track and went into a dense growth of trees. And Paul had the presence of mind to maneuver the car so that the right side of it went along the trees, and rubbing against them, slowed down the car. I mean, it was not just luck. It was the fact that he was able. And another time he rolled over in the car a couple of times.
REHMWasn't there another time when the car exploded into flames?
HOTCHNERYes. And he had to kick out the windshield and get out of it before it went up.
REHMLet's go to St. Augustine, Fla., good morning, John.
JOHNGood morning, Diane.
REHMThanks. Go right ahead, sir.
JOHNWell, I had the good fortune to meet Paul when he was looking for a site for his Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Down (word?) I worked for a conservation land entity. I was supposed to be at a legislative hearing. And the woman who ran the hearing was frantically calling to say, where are you? And I said, well, I'm touring around Paul Newman. And she went, oh, sure. And so I handed the phone to Paul, who would -- like you say, he's very personable. He says, hello, this is Robert Redford. Please excuse Mr. Hankinson for this tour, you know. She said she turned beat red on the other end of the phone when I talked to her later, 'cause obviously she recognized the voice.
JOHNAnd then on the way -- on the way home he had to stop and buy watermelon at a produce stand on the way to the airport to take back to Joanne 'cause she dearly loved watermelon. But he was just a wonderfully mesmerizing but very approachable and warm person as well, so it was -- it was one of the finest days of my life.
HOTCHNERAnd that's a beautiful camp that's been built there outside of Orlando.
JOHNYes, yes, it is. It's a wonderful facility and...
REHMHow many camps are there?
HOTCHNEROh, goodness, counting those in formation, there must be around the world probably 35 camps and counting.
HOTCHNEREverywhere, Japan, Hungary, South of Ireland, South of France and, you can't believe where it is, on the Jordan River in Israel. And Jordanian children and Israeli children and Palestinian children all go there. Why can't the grownups do the same thing?
REHMYou know, there's one story you tell in the book where a child walked up beside Paul Newman, slipped his hand into his and said, this week at the camp is the best in my whole life.
HOTCHNERYes. Actually this is what I live for.
REHMHere we go to Detroit, Mich., good morning, Joanne, you're on the air.
JOANNEGood morning. I fell in love with Paul Newman when I was 11 years old by myself in a movie theater watching "Until They Sail." So when I was about 40 and he had married Joanne Woodward, my name is Joanne, and I just loved him, and Paul was coming to Detroit to race in the Grand Prix. So I wrote him a letter and said, instead of staying in a hotel, if you'd like to stay with a family, I have two children, my husband, we would welcome you. You'd have a family feeling rather than being in a hotel. And I sent the letter off to Westport, Conn., no address.
JOANNEAnd about two weeks later I come home from work, an envelope with Paul Newman's -- in the upper left corner his name, and my knees starting shaking. I'm thinking, oh, my gosh, what if he's actually gonna stay here at my house. And I opened up the letter and it was a thank you for being such an avid, you know, fan of his and all of his movies and thank you for the invitation. You know, I was somewhat relieved. And I still have, you know, the envelope...
JOANNE...with the letter. Yeah, and it was just a great thrill.
REHMInteresting that Paul Newman would take the time to write that.
HOTCHNERAnd I can tell you, she said she was somewhat relieved, but if he had stayed there, it would've been just he'd been like one of the family.
REHMExactly. All right. To Athens, Ga., O.C., you're on the air.
O.C.Good morning, Hotch. What wonderful stories. I met Paul Newman in 1981 at Summit Point Raceway. I had been a flag and communications worker with the Sports Car Club of America. And he was an excellent racer. And I also helped to put a Kansas City Leaping Lizards' sticker on his car. And he won a race because he had won a race earlier when the Leaping Lizards put stickers on his car. And I said, okay, perhaps I can do this again and he will win, and he did. I forgot which year it was, but it was at Road Atlanta during the SCCA National Races. And the man is just outstanding. I have thoroughly enjoyed the friendships and the meetings that I had with him over the years while I was involved with SCCA Racing, and I still am as a flag and communications worker. The man was a gem and we all enjoyed talking with Paul after the races at the socials.
REHMI'm so glad you called.
HOTCHNERYeah, thank you for that. Everywhere he went at those races, people treated him like he was an old friend. But there was a lot of competition to get souvenirs from him. He once made the mistake of having drunk a beer, he threw the can into a receptacle, there was almost a stampede to see who would get the can.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Robin in Cleveland, Ohio, who says, "Paul Newman seemed to live life authentically and on his own terms which of course is terribly attractive to us. Do you think there was anything he didn't get a chance to accomplish in his life that he would've liked to do?"
HOTCHNERI think the only area in which I could say he was -- he found some frustration with the political area. I think that there were things he would've liked to achieve. I think the work he did in cutting down on nuclear bombs, the other work that he tried to do in disarmament, those things, I think that's all -- that kind of work I think he was disappointed in somewhat. But all the rest of his life I think he enjoyed. I think he...
REHMDo you think he would've liked to have run for office?
HOTCHNERI discussed it with him, but I don't think -- he said, I don't have the personality for it. I don't really like to kiss babies.
REHMBut do you think Joanne would've enjoyed that?
HOTCHNEROh, not at all.
REHMNot at all.
HOTCHNERThey were two very private people.
HOTCHNERNo, political life was not for them.
REHMTell me how she is now.
HOTCHNEROh, she's just fine. She -- obviously there's a period of having to adjust after being with a man for over 50 years, but she's fine. She is trying to live her life according to very good terms of going to the theater and ballet and the things she loves and she's fine.
REHMWere the two of them public radio supporters?
HOTCHNEROh, indeed they were and they still are. We -- I've just appeared for my 18th year to give away Newman's own $100,000 every year to channel 13 in New York for the news hour.
HOTCHNERAnd they support and have always supported public radio.
REHMI'm glad to hear that. Let's go to Flint, Mich. Hi there, Tom, you're on the air.
TOMYes. I just wondered if -- by the way a wonderful show and I always listen to you, Diane.
TOMYeah, do you remember a television show back in the '50s, a drama called the "80 Yard Run"?
HOTCHNERWell, of course. That's an Irwin Shaw short story, a famous one.
TOMYeah, and Paul Newman was in that, wasn't he? Wasn't he the star?
HOTCHNERI think he was. That -- he did a lot of television work before he really got the part of "The Battler" and then graduated into "Somebody Up There Likes Me," so...
REHMAnd that would've been on Playhouse 90, wouldn't it?
HOTCHNERI think it was, yes.
REHMYeah, yeah. And on that very note, Jan in Miami, Fla. wants to know, "Can you comment on Paul Newman's spiritual beliefs and how they may have influenced the way he gave back to the world in his charity work? Did he belong to or associate with any religious organizations?"
HOTCHNERNo, I don't think he did. I think his religion was his attitude, his generosity and his compassion for people. I think that's really what propelled his life. And the love he had for the people around him. But I don't think he belonged to any organized religion.
REHMWe're, of course, talking about Paul Newman. The actor died in 2008. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And to Monrovia, Md., good morning, Eddie.
EDDIEYes, good morning. It's great show as always, Diane.
EDDIEHotch, if I may call you that, I loved your Doris Day book and I kept reading it and reading, and I still do. I was a bit chagrined that recently about a year ago a book came out about Doris Day "The Girl Next Door." And the writer, so called writer, copied practically word for word from that book. And I couldn't believe it, 'cause I compared the two. But if you could comment on Doris and Terry. And also it's a good thing that Rupert Murdock doesn't -- wasn't the owner of 20th Century Fox back in the '60s and '70s because they just came out with about 13 Paul Newman 20th Century Fox films called "The Tribute Collection."
HOTCHNERYeah, I have it. Well, let me -- let me tell you about Doris. She was in many ways like Paul. She was a free spirit. She believed strenuously in the things that we all believe in, kindness toward animals, kindness toward people. It's very interesting that you ask about her. And that book that came out, I haven't seen the book. But I think that kind of imitation is a great compliment. If that's all the writer could do, well, I'm glad to have an...
REHMSo be it.
HOTCHNERBut at the -- you know, after all these years, Doris is 83, 84 now, she got in touch with me. At the time the book came out, there was a great interest in doing it as a musical or a movie. And she said, I'm too young. And last year suddenly she calls and said out of the blue, I'm ready. So at the moment, I am trying to develop Doris into a musical. And...
HOTCHNER...I've enlisted the services of a wonderful performer friend of mine, Tommy Tune.
REHMAnd here's the final e-mail from Frank, who says, "When I first heard of Paul Newman's death, my response was he can't die. This man was invisibly oven into my American landscape. His film "Nobody's Fool" is just terrific. I still enjoy his work."
HOTCHNERHe was a prototypical American. He had all the virtues that we would like to think of in an American citizen. I think he was an example that if it could be duplicated, would be a great joy to the people -- around him in the people who enjoyed what he did. Unfortunately that can't be. Paul Newman was unique. Paul Newman was Paul Newman. We're not gonna see the likes of him. But I think he left a legacy and that legacy is generosity and giving.
REHMA. E. Hotchner, the book is titled "Paul and Me." Thank you so much for being here. I've so enjoyed talking with you.
HOTCHNERIt's my pleasure, Diane. I'm glad to meet the one who was only a voice.
REHMOh, thank you. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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