In Hollywood, Paul Newman was royalty. But in Westport, Conn., where he lived with his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, he was just “a regular guy,” says AJ Izzo, part owner of Crossroads Hardware on Main Street, where Newman had been a customer for more than 20 years.
“He’d walk in and say, ‘How are you, AJ?’ And I’d say, ‘Hey, Paul.’ He probably gave more than he took in life, and you don’t find many people like that.”
Newman, who will be remembered in town as upbeat, generous, and down-to-earth, often popped into the store to buy supplies to fix common household problems.
“He was a gadget guy in many ways,”” says Izzo. “He’d buy light bulbs or a new screw for a hinge just like an average guy would do.”
Izzo says he last saw Newman about two months ago when he came in alone to buy some masking tape. “He looked really thin,” recalls Izzo, adding that Newman did not discuss his illness. “He was the kind of person who liked his privacy.”
A Beer Man
However, Izzo says he saw one of Newman’s friends less than a week ago, and when he asked how Newman was doing the friend replied, “Good. He’s having a beer and glass of milk because he needs to gain weight.”
About a month ago, Newman treated himself to a cold beer during dinner with Woodward at Pane Vino Restaurant, says owner Marty Levine. The couple sat at their usual corner table, and though Newman appeared frail and had a smaller appetite, he remained his usual cheerful self. “His personality was about the same,” Levine recalls. “He was always upbeat. He didn’t seem dour or depressed.”
As a customer, Levine says Newman was “honorable and courteous. I never felt like he gave off the aura of a big celebrity.”
Bryan Malcarney, chef/owner of Blue Lemon Restaurant, another favorite spot, agrees: “He’d joke a little with the staff. He was never a pompous Hollywood kind of person-neither is Joanne-and that was nice.”
Newman-who often ordered Dover sole-came in to eat about three weeks ago. “We’re really sad to see him go,” says Malcarney.
‘A Loss for the Whole Town’
Newman supported the town’s small business, including Oscar’s Deli, where he had been a loyal customer for the past 40 years, says owner Lee Papageorge.
“It’s a loss for the whole town,” Papageorge explains. “He was very generous, nice to have around, always approachable and very friendly.”
In addition to his humility and his kindness, Ramze Zakka, owner of Acqua restaurant, remembers the actor for another of his best features: “His baby blue eyes were brilliant across the dining room.”
Albert DeAngelis, Acqua’s executive chef, added: “He’s just one of the finest human beings I’ve ever been around.”
Elias Vlandis, owner of Coffee and Donut shop, says the whole community is affected by the loss. “There are a lot of regular people coming in today who are really sad about it,” he says.
But Newman will never be forgotten in Westport.
“We have a picture on the wall here,” says Vlandis. “We’re not taking it down. We’re proud to have it.”