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Behind Blue Eyes: The Dark Side of Being Paul Newman

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Mike Burd is my oldest brother, an unexpected guest blogger on The Seeker, and a businessman/sailor who is able to spin a decent yarn when the notion strikes him. He relayed this story to me after reading the recent post regarding the death of Paul Newman.

When I was finishing my undergrad studies at Ball State and working with Prestige Foods, my business marketing professor was VP of National Sales for Merrico, a large division of Anaheuser-Busch that makes yeast cinnamon rolls for retail customers. At that time, Budwieser sponsored the Newman/Haas Indy Car racing team. The year the race was in Indianapolis, there came a great opportunity to market to AB’s clients and distributors. So, they had a large function at an upscale hotel in Indy.

Paul Newman showed up at the dinner and reception as part of the marketing program, as did Mario Andretti, the team’s high profile driver. Everyone was having a wonderful time, although Augie Busch’s wife was displeased because she and her lady friends wanted to see Paul Newman’s blue eyes. He was wearing sun glasses. Augie Busch thought it would be reasonable to ask Newman to remove his glasses, so he approached Newman and asked that he remove them since the ladies wanted to see his eyes. Newman said he would consider it.

Newman did not remove his glasses, which made Augie Busch unhappy. As the night was coming to an end, Busch turned to his Marketing people, including my professor, and asked how much money Budwieser provided as a sponsor for Newman Haas Racing. The figure was around $9-10 million. Without hesitation, Busch told them that needed to end, that Budwieser would never again sponsor Newman/Haas Racing.

The story was a lesson: It did not matter how much effort was put into marketing programs with companies, they can all be sunk by one little thing, such as Paul Newman refusing to take off his sunglasses at a dinner function, obviously a $10 million mistake for a wealthy CEO’s wife being snubbed in front of her peers.


Written by seeker70

October 4, 2008 at 12:48 am

Paul Newman is Dead

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The death of Paul Newman last weekend brought to mind some of my favorite films made by the quintessential Hollywood antihero.

There is a lot of debate about Newman’s greatest role; many would argue for Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy. Some would say it was his Oscar-winning second turn as Fast Eddie Felsen in The Color of Money. My money is on Luke, though I also liked Newman a lot as Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. None of those is my favorite Newman role, though. That honor goes to Reggie Dunlop in Slapshot.

Once caught in the hilarious and profane web that is Slapshot, it is easy to forget that Reg is a character we really shouldn’t like. He’s a womanizer, a manipulator, immature, foul-mouthed, self-important, and delusional about his declining skills as a player / coach on his own hockey team. He sleeps with the wives of two other players, ignores his own wife until she makes him jealous, tells the team owner her son looks like he might suck cocks some day, blackmails the team president, and schemes to win by rewarding players for goonish behavior on the ice.

Only Newman could make us love such a man. One flash of his blue eyes, one crooked smirk, and Newman’s Reg becomes the kind of guy we want to meet for beers at a dive bar.

It’s Newman’s willingness to play such characters that earned my respect. You probably won’t find anyone who would dispute that he had leading man good looks and talent, and that he could have easily slipped into glamorous, high-profile roles or coasted on his early successes. But Newman kept building, kept climbing, kept pushing the edges all the way to the end of his career. He made women swoon not just with his charm and piercing eyes, but by reminding them that the most irresistable men are the flawed, self-destructive ones that they know are bad for them. Nobody portrayed those antiheroes better than Newman, and he played them time and time again. Nobody else made such a successful career out of it. He was one of a kind.

Written by seeker70

October 2, 2008 at 1:08 am

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