Monday, September 29th, 2008
The Disembodied Head of Paul Newman Lives On
Alternate title: Butch Cassidy and My 4-Year-Old Kid
In our home, humanitarian Paul Newman’s recent death was approached a little different.
At about 3-years-old, my daughter came to know Newman as the face on our pasta sauce jars. That is, she began recognizing his face on Newsman’s Own food items we buy.
One day she asked me, “Papa, where’s the rest of his body?”
I always meant to write the company, or the man himself, to ask, but somehow never got around to it.
Regular Thinga-readers know I read obituaries to my now 4-year-old daughter. I naturally sought out Newman’s tribute on Sunday morning.
I skipped much of the Associated Press-written piece where it focused on his movie career. What does my daughter know of movies?
Instead, I retreated to the familiar, his food. Newman’s death became a mini-lesson in consumerism.
First I jogged her memory about her noticing Tigger on a shampoo bottle at a store this summer. I explained again how the company that makes the shampoo is trying to trick people into buying it because Tigger is on it, not because it’s good shampoo.
(“Trick” isn’t the best word, but it works for a 4-year-old.)
Then I explained that because lots of people know Paul Newman from seeing him in movies, they might buy his sauce because his face is on the jar.
“Do we buy his sauce because his face is on it?”
“That’s right. Why do we buy it?”
“I like it.”
“We buy a lot of his other products, don’t we?”
“When you see his face on a box at the grocery store, do you think it will be something that tastes good or bad?”
“So Paul’s face isn’t a trick, is it? It reminds us of his
reputation and that we’re probably going to like the food we’re looking
at.” [Then I launched into a lengthy explanation of what "reputation"
Don’t get me wrong. She also understands Newman did a lot of other great things during his lifetime besides make tasty sauce.
Later in the day we went bumper bowling and finished the outing with one of her friends losing his Hot Wheels car inside a corner pocket of a pool table. So the kids played a round of pool in hopes of jostling the car free, and my wife told my daughter that Paul is an excellent pool player. In real life? Hmm.
There are three other reasons we like Paul. His nonprofit company gives its profits to educational and charitable causes, more than $250 million so far. And, tragedy in his own family led to his forming the Scott Newman Center for preventing drug abuse. And, he founded Hole in the Wall Camps to help seriously ill children have fun.
Why would he do that? Did he have a sick kid of his own? No. Watch his explanation:
And this Newman’s Own video:
What can you say about Newman’s life? That he was a stellar, yet modest movie star who shunned the shallowness of the Hollywood scene to live a relatively normal life in a committed marriage of 50 years, raising his kids and giving back to society? Sure, you’ve heard that in numerous media reports in the last few days.
But if you watch those two videos, I think you’ll agree he was a man who, when he saw how most people live and how unfortunate some peoples’ lives are, he didn’t look away. He looked at himself and dismissed his success and talent as “luck.” He remained thankful for his luck and the only way he saw to give thanks was to lift other people up.
That is a lesson I hope to impart to my daughter as we continue to see the disembodied head of Paul Newman in our home in the years to come. How can we lift people up?
- Paul Newman should be remembered for charity work not films, says daughter
- He used his fame to give away his fortune
- Newman’s Own tribute
- Hole in the Wall Camps tribute
Addendum: Here are a couple awesome videos that give a sense of life at Hole in the Wall Gang camps (and a few others by clicking through and then clicking the camp’s username at Youtube).