I met Paul Newman in 1977 during a sports car race at Mid-America Raceway in Wentzville, Missouri, just outside St. Louis. He came to Wentzville late in the Sports Car Club of America racing season to try and qualify for the runoffs later in the year.
But his car lost a clutch and Newman gained no points that day. As both a media photographer and a race official for SCCA, I was able to get past the guards that surrounded his compound and spend some time with the movie star and acclaimed actor.
Newman was gracious, funny, witty and tired. His blue eyes sparkled with humor and vigor that belied his age. We chatted for about 30 minutes before I had to go out and work another race.
Amy met Newman in 1984 when we attended the pole qualification weekend for the Indianapolis 500. We were leaving on the Sunday following pole day qualifying and she was struggling with a suitcase at our hotel. A short, wiry man stepped up to help with the door. It was Newman, part owner of Newman-Hass racing.
When she got to the car where I was packing the rest of the luggage, her mouth was still open.
"My God," she said. "That was Paul Newman. He’s almost as short as I am."
Newman was short in stature but tall in the eyes of his fans. The 83-year-old legend died Friday after a long bout with cancer. Reports The Associated Press:
Paul Newman never much cared for what he once called the "rubbish" of Hollywood, choosing to live in a quiet community on the opposite corner of the U.S. map, staying with his wife of many years and _ long after he became bored with acting _ pursuing his dual passions of philanthropy and race cars.
And yet despite enormous success in both endeavors and a vile distaste for celebrity, the Oscar-winning actor never lost the aura of a towering Hollywood movie star, turning in roles later in life that carried all the blue-eyed, heartthrob cool of his anti-hero performances in "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
The 10-time Academy Award nominee died Friday at age 83, surrounded by family and close friends at his Westport farmhouse following a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said Saturday.