Paul Newman, who died Friday after a long battle with cancer (read the well-prepared Associated Press obit here), was one of those iconic film stars who rarely bothered with television.
One memorable cameo came during the very first Late Show with David Letterman in 1993. New to CBS and the Ed Sullivan Theatre, Letterman playfully conjured up the spirit of Sullivan, who appears (via a film clip) and introduces Newman in the studio audience. Newman stands up, acknowledges the crowd and says, “Where the hell are the singing cats?” He checks his tickets and leaves the theatre. For some reason the embedding code is disabled, but you can jump to a fuzzy YouTube clip of the moment here.
Letterman shares a love of auto racing with Newman and it is clear he was in awe of the Oscar-winner. What’s not to love? The dude was one of the coolest cats ever. Here is a much later clip of Newman on Letterman, with the film star explaining why his long marriage to Joanne Woodward succeeded:
Newman also plays a role in the most memorable moment in the celebrity version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, even though he was never a participant. Norm Macdonald was playing for Newman’s “Hole in the Wall Gang” charity, which provides camp experiences for kids in need. See Macdonald bag the half million in this clip before, out of lifelines, he gives Regis Philbin fits with the final answer:
You can tell gambling man Macdonald was pissed at passing on the mill, but you can also see the great respect he had for Newman. Who didn’t have great respect for Newman?
I encountered him just once and that was via satellite. It was a TCA press conference in January of 2005 to promote the HBO production Empire Falls. Newman was a producer and also acted in that Emmy-winner, and was at his playfully crusty best at the press session. Asked if he ever looked at any of his own films, he said, “I avoid them like the plague.”
You can read the full story here, then run out and buy some Newman’s Own salad dressing and toss a salute to a great man.