Newman was here: Remembering star's visits

Racing cars was a passion for Newman, who voiced a character in the 2006 animated film Cars.

Paul Newman's passing last week made headlines around the world, and the tributes have been plentiful for the man who made scores of movies, raced cars, donated at least $250 million to charity, and embodied classic movie star mystique (while remaining married to– and smitten with– the same woman, Joanne Woodward, for 50 years).

In an obituary published Saturday, September 27 on, Charlottesville resident/supreme court reporter Dahlia Lithwick recalled her days as a counselor at Newman's Hole in the Wall camp for seriously ill children.

"Each summer of the four I spent at Newman's flagship Connecticut camp was a living lesson," she wrote, "in how one man can change everything." Newman, who died at age 83 on September 26 after a battle with lung cancer, made his way to Charlottesville for visits on at least two occasions during the 1990s, and for at least two who spotted him, the memory is vivid.

The Newman picture that wasn't

"Paul Newman's on the Mall!" The calls started coming in to the newsroom where I worked one day back around the Millenium. Never mind Charlottesville's long, proud tradition of letting the celebrities living among us roam unaccosted. This was Paul Newman, the unbearably handsome Hollywood legend and philanthropist, adored by women, envied by men– right here on the Downtown Mall! We needed a picture!
I grabbed the camera offered by my editor and ran the two blocks from our offices on South Street toward the Mall, wondering how long it would take me to find him or if he'd already slipped away.

There, window shopping at the corner of First and Main was a distinguished older couple, holding hands and walking slowly: Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

I stood watching for a moment, and realized that this quiet stroll they were enjoying was Charlottesville offering its own kind of celebrity welcome: privacy and respect. It's one of the things our resident celebs probably enjoy as they dine unaccosted at any of the downtown restaurants.

I got the camera about half-way up and held it at chest level, fighting an urge to flee and let them enjoy their walk. And as this internal debate raged, Newman, now standing about 10 feet away, looked right at me. Due to his amber-colored aviator shades, I couldn't see those famous eyes, but he tilted his head a bit to one side and tightened his lips in a small, apologetic smile, as if to say "Please, not right now."

I lowered the camera, my future as a paparazzo in tatters, and walked back to the office, ready for whatever professional rebuke might come my way.

The only picture I got that day was the one that remains in my memory.

Two for Newman

When I was waiting tables upstairs at the C&O in the mid-90s, summer nights were slow. On this one, there was a single reservation for the 6:30 seating: two for Newman. The owner said it was an older couple who were underdressed. I waited with the water and bread. A minute later, the ma®tre d' came rushing up to the dining room.

"Paul Newman!" was all he could get out. It was enough. We did our best to play it cool when he returned with Newman himself and Joanne Woodward. They seemed pleased to have the room to themselves. They held hands.

He was aloof at first– we knew who he was, and he knew we knew. But once he saw we weren't going to giggle or ask him to recite his soliloquy from The Hustler, he loosened up. He told me he'd sold Fuller brushes when he was just out of college. She'd waited tables, too, years before. Mostly we left them to themselves.

After they'd finished their entrees, a noisy walk-in party of four arrived. They'd had a few cocktails before and were now regaling each other with stories of important people they'd met. It wasn't long before the Newmans made their exit. He shook our hands, thanked us, and said we had a "good place." She wished me luck on my work.

The four-top was on to a story about having met a Virginia congressman. The ma®tre d' was pouring wine and couldn't resist saying blithely, "You mean you didn't see who just left?"


Oh my God! Cville is the center of the universe! Every other town in the world that Paul Newman stepped in should also write big articles about this amazing feat. Ughhh. Cville, get over yourself.

COU, it's not so much Charlottesville taht should get over yourselves, it's Courteney Stuart. What a big brunette joke she is. You are right, Newman has traveled the world and almost every state in America and this rag paper has to self promote itself because one of it's hack reporters got to stalk a movie star. Don't you just love how she says, we usually leave our stars alone! What stars? Between reporters having accidents being major news and now stalker reporters meeting, oops, guess she didn't meet Paul Newman - but finding a way to inject herself into his universe, you can see why this paper is staying in the free boxes and newsstands at cheap FOOD LION. No one wants the rag. But isn't it a joke who imprtant Ms. Stuart is? Get over yourself!

Whoa, you two backseat drivers need to get a grip. What's the big deal-- nothing of actual importance to worry about in your lives?

And why the weird personal attack on the reporter? Interesting that you had no vitriol for the second writer of the article.

It's just an article in a paper, not the apocalypse for crap's sake.