I don’t often get to swoon about my day job, but this time…sigh.
I’m writing a Young Adult biography of Paul Newman. Other than writing mysteries, does it get any better than penning the life and times of the man with the piercing blue eyes?
The younger generation may only recognize Paul Newman as the face of organic popcorn. Although there is a whole generation under the age of six who recognize Newman as the voice of Doc Hudson from the animated mega-hit, Cars.
I’ve just started the research, but as I wrote in my book proposal, this is a man who was constantly reinventing himself. He was an actor, director, racecar driver, political activist, businessman, philanthropist, humanitarian. He took his love of cooking and transformed it into a hugely profitable business that donates ALL profits to charities. I knew about Newman’s Hole in the Wall camps for children with cancer, but was touched by the story of donating a bus to the Hope Rural School in Indiantown, Florida so that the children of migrant workers, who too easily slip through the educational cracks, could safely get to a school that was created to meet the needs of families on the move.
I envision spending hours watching – and rewatching – Paul Newman movies. I know. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it! While he once took out an ad apologizing for what he thought was his wretched movie debut in The Silver Chalice (and I confess I haven’t seen it), who could forget him as Ari Ben Canaan in Exodus (could those eyes get any bluer?), Brick Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (ooooh, the unadulterated sex appeal and probably my favorite film), and Henry Gondorff in The Sting (Paul Newman in an undershirt, swoon)? The range of the man was phenomenal, but the range of his humanitarian outreach was even more extraordinary.
He wasn’t a saint, often drank too much, met more than his share of heartache. What I find fascinating is Newman’s ability to tackle life head on – and bounce back when he failed. I am impressed by his acknowledgment that it takes hard work to succeed. “I had no natural gift to be anything,” he insisted. “I’ve worked really hard, because nothing ever came easily to me.” I like the idea that he had a second, third, even fourth acts in his life, taking new risks and enjoying new challenges.
The next six months will be a hectic time alternating between the murder and mayhem of the third book in the Sullivan Investigations series – and learning more about the man whose nickname was King Cool.