I HAVE to add a few words to the many written and expressed about Paul Newman, dead of cancer at 83. I was amused at how Paul’s obits and tributes kept referring to him as the consummate Hollywood actor. He was anything but that. He didn’t live in Hollywood; he didn’t have anything to do with La La Land. He worked in films and on the stage and made his home in Connecticut. The public mostly respected him and left him and his family alone. Paul lived a remarkably grounded life for a star of his caliber and good looks. I rarely heard tales of temperament, overweening ego, excessive bad-boy behavior. (At most there were hints that he was only human, might drink an extra beer now and then and enjoyed sophomoric dirty jokes.) He was probably no saint, and only he and his wife, the divine Joanne Woodward know all that went into staying married for 50 years. Paul put his money where his mouth was and became a truly charitable figure with his Newman’s Own products. And Paul Newman was probably the only star, who, when he talked politics, didn’t make one cringe, want to scream and change the channel. He had a brain. And a great big heart. Perhaps it was something in the inherent privacy and sincerity of his nature. I never felt Paul was talking just to enjoy the sound of his own voice.
Truthfully, the only time I heard people criticize him? When he refused to give an autograph. After a certain point he just wouldn’t. He thought it was a ridiculous waste of time, on both sides of the issue — autographer and autographee. His eyes were bluer than blue. His abs were chiseled marble. He starred in movies. But that’s not how he made his mark on this world. Yesterday, I picked up some Newman’s Own Tomato and Basil pasta sauce and Lite Caesar Salad Dressing. It was the best way I could think of to tip my hat to Paul. Let’s keep buying Newman’s Own products and contribute to Paul Newman’s vision of helping children with cancer via the Hole in the Wall Gang. He was a giant and we will miss him.
P.S. On Oct. 12, Turner Classic Movies salutes Paul with a 24-hour movie marathon. Included are “Hud,” “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” “Exodus,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “Sweet Bird of Youth,” “The Outrage,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me.”
I’VE SELDOM heard such waves of good word-of-mouth about a coming movie as for the highly anticipated “Rachel Getting Married.” And I am hearing this from other “civilians,” not just the hired gun press agents. Maybe the talk is for the star Anne Hathaway, about to be totally rehabilitated in the public’s heart since her near disaster on the real-life front pages. (She found she had a handsome crook for a boyfriend, but of course she has broken it off now and he is en route to prison; Anne is back on the red carpet!) The actress gives a commandingly heartbreaking turn in this film. Or, maybe it’s the talented screenwriter, Jenny Lumet, who just happens to be the daughter of director Sidney Lumet and writer Gail Buckley. Well, I couldn’t be happier for her success because Jenny is my god-grandchild and we celebrated her 16th birthday together years ago at Studio 54, with her famous real grandma, Lena Horne, lifting a glass to us Groundhog Aquarians. Or maybe the word of mouth for “Rachel” lies in this name — Jonathan Demme. The director has made so many great movies — “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia,” “Married to the Mob,” to name a few. Or maybe it’s some of the rest of “Rachel’s” cast — the sorely missed Debra Winger, the gifted Anna Deavere Smith, the genius Tony-winning actor Bill Irwin. And there is an outstanding performance by Rosemarie DeWitt as the “Rachel” of the title. I don’t think you should read any plot-explanation reviews of this movie. Just go and experience a dysfunctional family functioning at their wedding day peak. You’ll see that a divine princess of an actress, the aforesaid Miss Hathaway, the charmer of “The Devil Wears Prada,” can also play a shattered drug addict who refuses to forgive herself. P.S. Only one minor carp. There is joy and happiness in music in movies, but this one has simply too much music — from Indian cacophony to wild hip-hop to weeping single violins. Maybe it is inflicted on purpose. The wedding itself is orgiastic, but the soundtrack did nearly drive me crazy. Maybe it’s just a plot device to signal that weddings exhibit surface joy only to conceal the future like a curtain. I don’t know. Director Demme keeps his mysteries.
ON MONDAY “Broadway Up Close” honors those Great White Way giants Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. Estelle Parsons, Karen Ziemba, Dick Latessa and Susan Watson, the original girl from “The Fantasticks,” are paying tribute. Then, Marge Champion, 89, and Donald Sadler, 88, will offer a brand new dance routine. Call 212-501-3330. You’ll seldom see the likes of this again. …THE GREATEST queen of them all – actress Helen Mirren — is returning to the British stage come next summer. She will play the lead in Racine’s tragedy, “Phaedra” at the National Theater, to be directed by Nicholas Hytner… I WAS RUSHING through the Chicago airport last week when someone kept calling my name. Turned out to be Kevin Spacey, who had just been to the Emmys — where he didn’t win for “Recount.” But Kevin certainly isn’t down for the count. This terrific actor was on his way back to London where he runs the Old Vic. “Smartest thing I ever did in my life,” he opined… YOU MAY not care but I’m featured in New York and The New Yorker this week and it’s all too much!… THERE IS a Broadway Preservation Fund and this year it’ll give its first Schoenfeld Vision for the Arts in Education award to NYC school superintendent Joel Klein and — ta, da! — to Gerry himself. No performer worth his/her salt will say no to this evening. Happens Monday at the Waldorf. Call 212-744-1048 for tix… THE POLICE Athletic League to help New York kids is Oct. 16. Katie Couric, Lesley Stahl, Marie Brenner and yours truly hope you’ll come do a good deed in a naughty world. Join D.A. Robert Morgenthau and Police Chief Ray Kelly. You could try to get your parking tickets fixed! Call 212-477-9450.