We don’t usually do a lot of "celebrity news" here. But it is truly sad to hear, this morning, of the passing of Paul Newman. Alas, Mr. Newman was not a Gay man. He was married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years. Lucky Joanne. Lucky Paul.
But both he and Ms. Woodward were longtime allies of the Gay community and in 1978 wrote a fundraising letter to raise money to fight yet another California ballot initiative…the first anti-gay ballot initiative, the Briggs Initiative, aka No On Six for those of us who fought it.
I know about this letter because I wrote it, under the guidance of David Mixner, and then, one bright Los Angeles morning, drove it over to the Newman home for their signature, where they…Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward for god’s sake!…invited me in and served me coffee and talked about how important it was to defeat the initiative. The maid had showed me in, and took me to the room and invited me to sit. As I entered the room, there was Paul Newman, talking on the phone, sitting on a low sofa in a sunroom at the rear of the house…in his underwear and a bathrobe. He waved me in and pointed to another place on the sofa for me to sit (me not knowing where to not look…not at his underwear or not at his ice blue eyes!!)
He got off the phone and shook my hand, calling out "Joanne…you got some coffee in there?…you want some coffee?" he said, turning to me. And before I could respond, out comes Joanne Woodward with a tray of coffee and danish. She poured me a cup. They both sat and reread the letter and, after a little coffee talk, signed the letter and I was on my way…floating just ever so slightly above the surface of the earth for the rest of the day. What we talked about, I couldn’t have told you five minutes later. But I do remember how comfortable they made me feel. How unaffected they both were, and how concerned they were that Gay rights be defended. Aside from the millions of dollars he went on to give to charities and will continue to give as those companies continue, the Gay community has lost a great ally in a time when we still need allies.
Our sincerest sympathies and condolences to Ms. Woodward and the entire Newman family.