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Listen to Daniel Zwerdling's 1997 Profile of Paul Newman

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Celebrating the Legendary Paul Newman

Celebrating the Legendary Paul Newman

Listen to Daniel Zwerdling's 1997 Profile of Paul Newman

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95135748/95135358" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Davar Iran Ardalan, Senior Producer

Paul Newman (top left), Daniel Zwerdling and Davar Iran Ardalan (seated). courtesy of Davar Iran Ardalan hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of Davar Iran Ardalan

In early December of 1997, Daniel Zwerdling and I went to Westport, Connecticut to interview Paul Newman and to peer inside the Connecticut headquarters of Newman's Own food company. Since 1982, the company has been selling spaghetti sauce, salsa and popcorn in supermarkets around the world, all emblazoned with Newman's picture. But not many realized at the time that Newman donated 100 percent of the after-tax profits to charitable causes — schools for the deaf, theaters for low-income children, camps for kids with serious diseases and civil rights groups.

We spent a good three hours with him as he talked to us about his career and his motives for giving. We both even got to taste-test his latest salad dressing and play ping-pong with him!!! At one point, I asked to take a few photos. That's when he brought over a chair and asked me to sit down in front of him. Then, he asked Daniel Zwerdling to stand next to him, behind me. Before I knew it, Paul Newman had his hand on my shoulder and we had a pose similar to the one in his famous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie. It was pretty surreal!

He was very generous with his time and took Danny and I around his office to show us his knicknacks. Here is a transcript of what happened next:

Danny Zwerdling: I should probably point out to our listeners that there is a lot of whimsy all around here. The sign on your door doesn't say Paul Newman, it says: Attention! Chien bizarre! Right? "Strange dog" in French??

Paul Newman: Crazy dog.

Danny Zwerdling: Continuing on our whimsical tour; the brass plaques on the desk say... A... E....

Paul Newman: It says A.E. Hotchner, lifeguard on duty. Paul Newman, assistant lifeguard on duty.

Press shot from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. hide caption

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Danny Zwerdling: And then next to it looks like there is a bottle of spaghetti sauce that is spilling, but it's got to be a phony. It's like one of those plastic pooh-pooh jokes.

Paul Newman: Gratefully, it's spaghetti sauce. There is no ka-ka stuff up here. I do love our slogans, though. Slogan number one: "You can get straight A's in marketing, and still flunk ordinary life." That was Paul Newman to Lee Iacocca after his Pinto (car) caught fire.

Danny Zwerdling: Your Pinto?

Paul Newman: No, his!

Danny Zwerdling: Oh, you mean ALL of their Pintos.

Paul Newman: There's the other slogan, "Just when things look darkest they go black." That was Paul Newman to Walter Mondale in 1984.

Danny Zwerdling: Do you know, did he laugh when he got that — or cry?

Paul Newman: He may have wept. There's another slogan that says "Whenever I do something good, right away, I gotta do something bad, so I know I'm not going to pieces."

Danny Zwerdling (looking at a photo of Paul Newman standing in an icy pond): That's not really you, is it?

Paul Newman: I used to do that to get my heart started in the morning.

Danny Zwerdling: This is extraordinary. This is a picture of you in a teeny bit of water surrounded by snow and ice in the middle of the woods. You go into icy ponds?

Paul Newman: Well, I used to do it. I used to do it to get my heart started, but a couple times it stopped. That's when I decided to quit. We had a little river that flowed through our backyard, and I used to go in there.

My heart sank when I heard of his passing. Take a moment if you can and share your thoughts about Paul Newman below.

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