Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP Paul Newman

The only time I ever met Paul Newman was very brief, although I had seen him walking around a million times. It was in the OLD building of the Actors Studio NYC (the real one, back when it was a real place to be revered, and not the joke that it kind of is now) over on...I believe it was 45th street. There was a time I spent a lot of time there as a kid. My mom was in several shows there, and once in a show put together by the folks who did Best Little Whorehouse; my dad directed several plays, and then dad directed Mom and a bunch of other people (including Thomas G. Waites, Francis Fisher, in Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending. And it was during this time, that I was hanging out there a lot again...a 15-year-old, bored out of my mind because I wasn't always allowed to watch rehearsal (I think some of the actors complained) and other times I would sneak into an area where they couldn't see me and watch anyway.

Mr. Paul Newman was the Artistic Director, I believe, at that time; and I would see him walking around here and there and think to myself, "Wow, Paul Newman!" even though by that point I'd met so many actors...He came up to me one time and was like "who are you?" and when I explained, he just said, "oh, okay" and took off. He seemed to be an intense man who was concerned about the Actors Studio, and he should have been. Most certainly he should have been. I wonder what was going through his mind over the last 20 years since it went from being a beacon of honor among actors, where so many of our greatest actors used to participate and it was an honor to be a member (hundreds would audition every year and only a handful, literally, IF THAT, would get in) because it meant something; to the way it is now, where one doesn't necessarily have to have any kind of acting gift, they can just either sleep with the right person, drop a name, or take a series of classes and at graduation - even if you suck - you can become a member, thanks to their collaboration with both the New School and now Pace. I wonder what Mr. Newman was thinking...watching all these young faces disembark into what had once been a place with dignity and honor among the acting community.

I didn't know him, just met him, but I had respect for him. And hell, I sure do love that Peach Salsa. The following was sent to me by my friend Nathan who used to be the original drummer for the Flaming Lips and has an awesome wife, my dear friend Jamie, and two lovely kids.

Paul Newman was a wonderful, brilliant actor and he will always be remembered by those of us who are well aware that we have just lost another great one - as three "celebrities" spring up every day...and it's a shame because there are fewer and fewer actors out there who really know what's going on in The Work.

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