paul newman died friday. he was 83.
two winters ago, my partner rob was cast in a play at the westport country playhouse, in westport, connecticut. prior to starting rehearsals, he and i drove up to check out the town and the theater. always good to know what you're getting into.
joanne woodward had taken over as artistic director a few years earlier. she and paul newman lived in westport. paul was about to open a restaurant, "the dressing room," in a building attached to the theater. we would have a lovely dinner there later that winter.
as rob and i drove around westport, i kept saying "we're gonna see paul newman, just you wait."
"we're not gonna see –" rob would grumble.
"they live here, you know. they live in westport. we're gonna see paul newman," i'd counter, my eyes darting from street corner to front yard to park bench to sidewalk.
we'd turn down another quaint street and i yell, "there he is! there's paul newman crossing the street!" or "there's paul newman, going into the bookstore!" or "there's paul newman trimming his hedges!"
it was never him.
we drove to the theater, our final destination, and took a little self-guided tour. charming. theatre history. the theater itself – an old red barn (which brings to mind images of an old red barn, but this is, like, a really, really nice old red barn.) as we were driving out of the theater parking lot, we passed a gold volvo station wagon. rob suddenly sat up straighter in his seat. "that was him," he said. "that was paul newman."
i made rob turn the car around and go back. this was a small lot, able to hold maybe 40, 50 cars or so. newman had pulled all the way to a back corner of the lot. we did the same, on the opposite end.
we watched. there he sat. paul newman. he rolled down the window. he put the seat back, reclined, and waited. presumably for joanne. was she in a rehearsal? at a board meeting? would she walk across the parking lot and say "hi honey, sorry that took so long, christopher plummer would not stop talking."
newman waited. we waited. time ticked slowly by. "what are we gonna do, sit here all day?" rob said.
i thought maybe he'd get out of the car, paul newman. i thought he'd get out, and that would be my big chance. i could get out too, walk casually towards him and then, i don't know, tell him...something. "mr. newman!" i'd say, "the sting!" and he'd smile. "ahhhh...butch cassidy!"
i'm not a what you'd call lightning-fast on my feet. if someone had written a "you meet paul newman in a tiny parking lot" monologue, i might have been okay. but on my own, under the gun? i suck.
in the end, he didn't get out of the car. we didn't sit there all day. but i saw paul newman in a parking lot. and that was pretty cool.