Monday, September 29, 2008

Washington Social Diary

One Woman’s Memories of Paul Newman
By Carol Joynt

I only knew Paul Newman as an ideal. But I was fortunate to have our lives intersect on a few occasions, and they are among my favorite memories.

From the time I was old enough to know boys from girls, he was my idea of the perfect boy. His was the only poster I allowed on my bedroom walls that was not one of the Beatles. His good looks and film roles were enough to make the score, but then, on an early “training” date, I sat in a dark movie theater with Hitchcock’s “Torn Curtain” on the screen. In a scene where Newman took Julie Andrews behind a curtain and kissed her, I knew, as I melted in my seat, that he’d just shown all of us what a kiss was supposed to look like. It’s very likely I grabbed my date to find out if he could measure up.

Paul Newman and Julie Andrews in 'Torn Curtain.'
In the early 70s my habitat was the West Village. A friend, the photographer Christopher Little, asked me to accompany him to the wedding party in Connecticut of his ex-girlfriend. He didn’t want to show up alone. The family name was Warburg. On a beautiful Saturday we drove to Westport. The house was big, sprawling, and the pool had flowers floating in it. To me it was a party of “grown ups.”

Christopher kept us on the edges of the action. We wandered the property and ended up near woods. That’s when Paul Newman appeared, coming up a path. He may have had a cold beer in his hand. He gave us a big smile, like old friends. Well, in a way, he was. I’d known him for years. But here he was in the flesh, my ideal. He introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Paul. We live next door.” The three of us shook hands. “You kids should take a walk down there,” he said, pointing down the path. “It’s really something.” We obeyed.

Later there was a string quartet. Guests arrayed themselves on the sunny lawn. Up behind me, Joanne Woodward sat on the ground with her back against the trunk of a big tree, her legs stretched out in front. In her lap rested the head of Paul Newman, who occasionally reached up to touch her face and hair as he savored the music. It’s possible I gaped. To this day it’s the most romantic thing I ever witnessed.

Several years after that my husband and I had dinner at a South Miami restaurant that had a rail car theme. There were drinks the size of fish bowls and little trains that ran under the glass of the tables. There was also, one table over, Paul Newman. If you ever saw him then you know that first moment of recognition always was breathtaking, as it was this night.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward with a small dog, 1958. Photo: ©Corbis.
He allowed himself to age without any apparent tinkering and so, of course, impossibly handsome — everything middle age should be in a man, if you are Paul Newman. Most of all, he was nice to people. He was in town filming “Absence of Malice,” having a relaxed dinner with friends, but not making a fuss or causing a fuss. I imagine in any room he was always the biggest star, but his manner was stardom on a human scale.

Some years later I was a producer for Larry King at CNN. Paul Newman was to be the guest that night on Larry King Live and I had to call him to go over logistics of a satellite interview. His publicist gave me his home number, I dialed it, and he answered.

Just like that, there was Paul Newman’s voice in my ear. It would be a lie if I said it was just like any other show call. All the professionalism in the world couldn’t mask our history. I was still the girl with his poster on my bedroom wall; he was still the man who knew how to kiss women. We discussed studio location, times and so forth and some of the content of the interview. He was friendly but subdued. Before we hung up he said, “I don’t know why you want to have me on the show.” And then the man whose natural humor and practical jokes were legendary, added, “And please tell Larry not to expect me to be funny. I’m not funny.”

Au contraire, Mr. Newman. You were one of the few men who managed to pull off looks, cool — and humor. Rest in peace.
Jellyfish and elephants in the Rotunda of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
In Honor of The Oceans
By Carol Joynt

Parties come in all sizes — small to large — and Thursday night in Washington the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History tossed one that was extra large. They welcomed 1500 people to their new, $49 million exhibition, The Sant Ocean Hall. The museum’s director, Dr. Cristian Samper, in remarks to guests at a smaller VIP pre-reception, said the exhibition represented the “largest renovation of this space in 100 years.”

The money shows. The new hall is gleaming. It feels as much like being in an aquarium as in a museum, loaded with state of the art video displays and inter-active exhibits, including more than 650 marine specimens, plus a lot of well-researched information about the world’s oceans. It’s divided into ten sections that fill 23,000 square feet of space. The star of the show, literally looming over the Hall, is a replica of an endangered species — a 45-foot-long North Atlantic right whale named “Phoenix.” The co-stars would be the two rare giant squid — one of them a 24-foot-long female floating in 1800 gallons of special preservative.
Michael Kelly with ocean explorer Robert Ballard, best known for his historic discovery of the sunken R.M.S. Titanic. He is director of the newly created Institute for Archaeological Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. With whales on his bowtie, Cristián Samper, Director of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.
The hall is named for philanthropists and Smithsonian supporters Victoria and Roger Sant, who donated $15 million. Other support came from the Federal Government (meaning you, the taxpayer) through the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration — $22 million — as well as foundation and corporate donors such as the Ocean Conservancy, the 3M Company and Sony.

In keeping with the ocean theme, Occasions Caterers offered the hundreds of guests a choice among many types of seafood — an assortment of oysters, grilled shellfish and other fishes, and four types of ceviche. There was also “boardwalk” food like clam fritters and paper cups of fries. To back this up, a deejay spun iconic beach music. And nature itself, in keeping with the watery theme, provided a rainy night after weeks of drought.
Inside the Sant Ocean Hall.
Note to parents: a prime feature of the exhibition is a large aquarium that replicates a Philippine coral reef teeming with tropical fish, including some colorful “Nemo’s,” aka Clown Fish.

The guests included Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Edilia Gutierrez, Smithsonian Institution Secretary Wayne G. Clough and Anne Clough, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Marcelle Leahy, James L. Connaughton, Calvin Cafritz, Adrienne Mars, Robert Ballard, Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, Phillipe Cousteau, Jan Cousteau, Elizabeth Duggal, Jill Johnson, Robert Kogod, Cecily Majerus, Carter Roberts, Vicki Spruill, Gabriela Febres-CorderoDr. Michael Vecchione, Robin Richards, John and Eleanor Scarcella, Alec Shapiro, Geunther and Siewchin Sommer, Wren and Timothy Wirth, Feodor Pitcairn, Robert MacDonald, Virginia Clark, Lane Taylor, Paula and Joseph Kerger, William Brennan, Dr. David Blockstein, Paul and Martha Barton, and Mercedes and Giuseppe Cecchi.
Clockwise from top left: A bowl of multi-colored goldfish crackers at the bar; Sea green rum cocktails with umbrellas and white wine; A chef from Occasions Caterers with the miniature Caesar Salad Cones in fresh grass; A server passes Three Cheese Puffs in a bed of parmesan.
The reception offered a variety of seafoods. Here are plates of Bronzini in Scallion-Ginger Nage. Pan-seared Macadamia Nut Crusted Barramundi.
Clockwise from top left: The smaller VIP reception that flowed into a larger reception for 1500; The entrance to the new Sant Ocean Hall; Scenes inside the Sant Ocean Hall (3).
Jellyfish in the museum's Rotunda. A giraffe towers over one of the party's many bars.
Roger Sant, Vicki Sant, Ambassador Mary Ourisman, and friend Phil Whitebloon and Senator Patrick Leahy
Elizabeth Duggal, Associate Director for External Affairs and Public Programs at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History with Alain Taghipour Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and Marcelle Leahy
Robert Ballard and Grace Connaughton Jack Elrod, Roger Sant, Cristián Samper, and friend
Smithsonian photographs by James Di Loreto & Carol Joynt. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.