I live in New York City, at the very fringes of a neighborhood where mogul, captains of industry, Hollywood stars, and masters of conspicuous consumption also reside. And like all New Yorkers, when I see someone famous I tend to look at them once, and then studiously ignore them, respecting their privacy, and understanding that even though they're famous, in their own hometown they deserve to live a normal life.
Longer ago than I care to remember, She and I had taken her mother out to a neighborhood coffee shop, a diner with European asperations, for lunch. It was the middle of December, and her mother had come to the city for Christmas shopping. We were seated at a corner table, and I took no notice of the couple that was seated next to us. The waitress came over to take our order, and then turned to the table next to us. And then I heard that voice.
"Would you have anything as daring as iced tea?", the gentleman to my left asked, in a voice that I had heard hundreds of times, and I did the involuntary head snap to see just who it was. And I fell deep inside his incredible blue eyes...it was Paul Newman, having lunch with a friend. His smile was brilliant, the crinkles around his eyes magnifying his charm, and in an instant I was transported back to all the movies I had seen him in. And then, like a good New Yorker, I turned back, respecting his privacy, allowing him to have his lunch in peace the same way that I was having mine.
It was the first of many times I was to see him in the nabe and in the city...sometimes he was just strolling down 5th Avenue, sometimes he was shopping in the local Korean deli, trying to get the owner to stock more of his pasta sauces, sometimes he would smile or wink, giving the index finger on the side of his nose sign from The Sting, sometimes he just rushed by, hurrying on an errand. I saw him occasionally at the theater, growing visibly older and slightly more fragile looking and rickety, once talking to himself and referring to himself as Pops. I saw him at a Chantecleer concert in a church in Connecticut, visibly not wanting to be there as much I didn't want to either, but beholden, either to the church or his wife, owing the time and paying his dues.
His good work and his good works will live long into the future, and should serve as a model for others, both in show business and not.
And the Lad bears his name, because I realized at the naming time that all the Pauls I knew were the nicest people.