Paul Newman and David Mamet had at least one strong connection I know of. Newman was brillant in Mamet's superb film script and tale of corruption, ``The Verdict.''
I had similar experiences with both men which I have written about here, but with Newman's death, the stories seem worth another mention.
The first came some years ago when I was a sports and arts writer (I know the combination sounds odd) for the Monterey County Herald. Newman was competing at Laguna Seca Raceway and I interviewed him one afternoon.
The talk was all of racing until, near the end, I said, ``I see you are making a film of `The Glass Menagerie.' It is a great play, but don't you think it has been done too often?''
Wrong thing to say. He fixed me with a blue-eyed glare. He said, ``It'll knock your socks off, and I'll bet you a nickel.'' I said, being on rather unsure ground, ``Well, OK.'' Soon other writers moved in and I said goodby. I hadn't gone far when I heard, in that distinctive voice, ``Where ya gonna send the nickel?'' I returned, surprised, and Newman gave me a mailing address. ``Remember, if it knocks your socks off, you owe me a nickel. No welching.'' I laughed; I was struck by how easy and affable and unpretentious he was.
A few months later I saw the film, starring Joanne Woodward. It turned my socks inside-out. I was going to send him the nickel, but I had lost the address. I felt guilty for years, because Newman would have known when the film was coming to the Monterey Peninsula and he would have been expecting a reply _ a nickel, or the request of one _ just as anyone else would have. Even the latter, as any writer knows, would have been better than silence.
Several years ago I was in San Francisco for a theater and art event. I met Mamet and, knowing he'd been a wrestler, told him I had wrestled 138 (pounds) in high school. He said, lighting up, ``I wrestled 138!'' ``I wrestled 145 in college,'' I said. ``I wrestled 145 in college!'' he said. We were getting into the conversation, discussing holds and matches, when other people, as in Newman's case, moved in on Mamet. I said goodby and was halfway across the room when I heard, again echoes of the Newman interview,``Do you still wrestle?'' I gestured ``Not much,'' but Mamet was submerged by admirers and further conversation unlikely.
The two incidents, in a way carbon copies of each other, made me realize how difficult it is for celebrities not to have just normal relationships, but normal encounters. If Newman had not been famous I probably could have found his address and mailed him the nickel; if Mamet hadn't been Mamet, we might have been able to continue the discussion about wresttling.
When I wrote about Newman earlier this year it was also in connection with the announcement that he would direct John Steinbeck's ``Of Mice and Men'' at Connecticut's Westport Country Playhouse. I was immediately intrigued in how he might interpret Steinbeck's powerful tale of men living on the fringe, since Newman had so often played them; too, racing here so often, he seemed to have a feeling for Monterey County, where ``Of Mice and Men'' is set, down by the Salinas River near Soledad.
Then, a few months ago, it was announced that Mark Lamos, not Newman, would direct the Westport production, which opens October 7, so it was apparent then that the stories of Newman's illness were probably with foundation. A few weeks ago I sent the latest edition of the Steinbeck Review to Westport's co-artistic director Anne Keefe, hoping it would be of interest to a company preparing to perform Steinbeck, but also hoping it might eventually get to Newman.
I was hoping, of course, to make up for that nickel.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...