Paul Newman is looking out at me every day. When I open the kitchen closet to take out a breakfast cereal, on the shelves below — and above — there he is smiling at me — the same smile I’d seen in person for half a century — and one I will always continue to see.
There he was on the first Newman’s Own product for which he delightedly wrote the humorous label. And he continued to do as the list of products grew and grew and grew. On the first Newman’s Own Olive Oil and Vinegar salad dressing he admitted, “For years at Christmas, old pal Hotchner (A.E.) and I bottled this concoction for friends. The acclaim was deafening, the repeat orders staggering. This year, they chained us to the furnace until we brewed 30 gallons — a prisoner of my own excellence. Enough I said! Let’s go public! I’m out of the basement and onto the shelf!” (All profits and royalties were to be donated to charitable and educational purposes.) I told the manager of my neighborhood Gelson’s market, the Newman salad dressing should get a better space. It was promoted. And as the number of Newman’s Own increased, the primo placement continued.
It was a game — and a joy to watch each new Newman’s Own product bear an appropriate caricature of him on the front label and an hysterical description of the origins and ingredients. For instance, on Newman’s Own Parisienne Dijon Lime, a bereted and mustachioed Newman tells, “after a physical encounter with the Baroness Legume, that those who try this Parisienne dressing are warned consumption of this product may produce unexpected romantic results.” Then came the “Industrial Strength” (!!) pasta sauces, with the label describing the creation by “P. Loquesto Newman” — via his “Venetian ancestors” to his vegetable patch to his boiling pot. For each delight to the palate, an hysterical description of its creation and appropriate caricature. But always with that knowing smile — and the blue eyes.
I had spoken with him off stage, off camera, off the track, off the Hole In the Wall Camps, at events where he was reluctantly honored –wherever –he was always a joy to talk with, listen to. And we’ll still always have our own Newman’s Own.