Some years ago I had the honor of meeting Paul Newman to discuss Newman's Own in his New York City office. What anticipation I had for that meeting! Growing up, he was one of my cultural touch stones. Cool Hand Luke...I'll never forget the line in that film, 'What we have here is a failure to communicate.' Other films I loved: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Hud. The Hustler. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Yes his eyes twinkled. And he was so, so funny and so heartfelt as he shared wonderful stories about the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, the creation of Newman's Own and its power to help many in need.
I'll never forget the story he shared about a young boy he met at one of the Camps. They were sitting in a western-themed, cavernous mess hall. It was lunchtime. The boy was very shy and kept looking up at him, then glancing away. Paul, wanting to make the youngster at ease, introduced himself: 'Hi, I'm Paul Newman.' The young boy seemed not to know who Paul was. Still eager to strike up a conversation, Paul pointed to his face on a Newman's Own lemonade carton on the center of the table. 'That's me. Paul Newman!' The young boy sat back for a second, looked up, looked away, then as his lip trembled, he whispered, 'Were you kidnapped?!' Paul howled as he gave that punchline!
After that visit, we ventured to Westport and met the management team of Newman's Own. What a bright and caring group. Salad dressing. Pretzels (one of my favorites). Salsa. So many tasty foods enfused with Paul's love of humor, with intriguing product and attribute descriptions and a one-of-a-kind kicker -- all profits donated to charity.
Now some $250 million later, these products are staples in homes across the country. Hundreds of charities have benefited from his 'lark,' as he called the creation of the first salad dressings. Children have a wonderful respite at the Camps.
And we, as a cause-affiliated community, learned that the highest power of commerce and cause happens when it's driven by true authenticity offering quality products filled with splashes of humor.
Newman's Own will live on beyond Paul as a wonderful company with values as deep as the blue in his eyes.
We will all terribly miss you Paul.