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Paul Newman: an Altruistic Film Icon

Paul Newman: A Life in Pictures is the first definitive photo book ever published about this giant of cinema and sexy grand. Created with the approval of Paul Newman, this book draws together hundreds of rare and never-before-seen photographs.

At the age of 80, Paul Newman is as admired today for his philanthropy as he is for his legendary film performances and iconic good looks. This volume includes images from both his Hollywood and racing careers as well as his private life. Pierre-Henri Verlhac and Yann-Brice Dherbier are the co-authors of this book and have produced photo-biographies of John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy and Pope John Paul II.

Others may think Newman is larger than life, but he doesn’t buy it. Three years ago when asked about his iconic status, Newman pointed out that this wasn’t how his grandson saw it. “My grandchild does not think I’m an icon. He came to the door the other day and said, ‘I am obsessed with the Yellow Submarine.’ What will he say when he’s 6?”

Well, Paul and Joanne’s (Woodward’s) grandson Peter is now 6 years old and already has quite a bit to say about the environment, an important issue for Paul and Joanne. Gramma Joanne told an Earth Day audience that Peter and his brother, Henry, are being raised with a great appreciation of nature.

“My daughter is raising her children to be very much aware. We went on a nature walk a few years ago and at one point, my 6-year-old grandson showed me a bush with flowers. Somebody called us: ‘Come on, come on.’ And Peter said, ‘Oh I wish we could just stay and observe it.’ Isn’t that wonderful for a 6-year-old to see and be that aware of what he’s walking through in nature?”

It’s wonderful, but not surprising. Joanne and Paul instilled that sense of awe for nature in their children, including   Melissa—Peter and Henry’s mother. “I remember the first Earth Day; my kids were small, and Paul and I took them out and picked up garbage. I wanted them to know what it was about. Of course, doing such a small thing is not going to solve the world’s complex environmental problems. But I do think it creates awareness among the next generations. It is upsetting that many people don’t seem to observe what’s happening to the environment, what’s happening in terms of global warming, the loss of habitats and wild things.”

Henry is now 7 years old, and Peter is 6. They get to see their Pop-Pop Paul and Gramma Joanne all the time. Paul has joked that since Melissa lives literally a stone’s throw from the family homestead in Westport, Conn., he and Joanne have “shrunk the umbilical cord” and count them lucky that they are able to see Henry and Peter more than other grandparents see their grandchildren.

There’s a theory that all that time with Pop-Pop and Gramma may be spawning a new generation of actors in the family. In 2004, Joanne said that then-5-year-old Henry seemed to take to performing before an audience like a duck to water.

“I had given Henry and his brother tap-dancing shoes for Christmas and signed them up for a tap class. But when he had his show, he was apoplectic and told me, ‘Gramma, how could you sign me up for something that has a recital?

This is the worst day of my life!'”

When the big performance was about to begin, Henry seemed “a little panicked,” but as soon as he saw the audience, he settled down. He loved the attention and applause. Joanne was thrilled, and so was Paul.

Joanne has always insisted, “Our life is with our kids and our interests. We’re not very good at being celebrities. We’re both rather shy.”

One of Paul and Joanne’s interests is the Hole in the Wall Camps for sick children. Paul started the first camp in Ashford, Conn., in 1988 as a place where seriously ill children could “kick back, relax, raise a little hell and just be kids.”  Today, Hole in the Wall Camps is the world’s largest family of camps for children with life-threatening conditions. Nearly 100,000 seriously ill children from 40 states and 31 countries have attended camps free of charge thanks to the charitable donations from thousands of individuals, corporations and foundations.

The idea behind Hole in the Wall Camps is for children who have been cheated out of their childhood because of illness to regain a sense of self, a joy in life. Activities are structured to allow campers to know success regardless of their disease or disability. They learn what they can do, not what they can’t. They experience a supportive environment with other campers with whom they can relate.

Children leave camp with a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of control over their own lives. Combined camps are designed to serve more than 46 different disease groups—cancer, sickle cell anemia, HIV/AIDS, hemophilia, leukemia, cystic fibrosis, just to name a few. Each camp boasts a 24-hour, state-of-the-art medical facility staffed by full-time, highly trained medical professionals. Paul says, “It’s not that the children say ‘Thank you for a wonderful time’; it’s that they say ‘Thank you for changing my life.'”

The Newman’s have developed a unique way to raise money for the Hole in the Wall Camps, the name taken from the Hole in the Wall Gang portrayed in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as for other charities that are near and dear to them. The funding comes from Paul’s line of food products, Newman’s Own, which includes everything from salad dressings to popcorn.

Paul, who receives all the profits and royalties from Newman’s Own, Inc., distributes all of them personally to the charities of his choice.  Since the inception of the company, the total amount of those gifts to charity has been estimated at approximately $200 million.

It’s an enterprise that is extremely satisfying to Paul, who sees how the Newman’s Own profits benefit the Hole in the Wall Camps. “I wanted to acknowledge luck. The beneficence of it in many lives and the brutality of it in the lives of others, especially children, who might not have a lifetime to make up for it.”

To order Paul Newman: A Life in Pictures for immediate shipment, call 800-722-6657 or send an e-mail to orders@chroniclebooks.com. To find out more about Newman’s Own Products go to www.newmansown.com.

Originally Published on GRAND Magazine in January-February 2007 Issue.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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