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    Many Ties to Paul Newman

    So I’ve gotten some e-mail responses from friends and family in Cleveland with ties to Paul Newman. The first was from my cousin Sue whose dad went to Shaker Heights in Cleveland and graduated with Newman.

    “Paul Newman was from Shaker...graduated with Leonard....Happy New Year.”

    I asked Uncle Leonard via e-mail if he had any remembrances about Paul and this is what he wrote:

    Thanks for asking. Paul Newman was in the January graduating class and I was in the June Class.  However, there were one or two classes in which we were together.  He was a beautiful boy at age 17, cleanly cut, blue, blue eyes, a great smile. He was light of build, about 5’ 9” or 5'10”. However, he was somewhat aloof, so I did not get to really know his personality.  He had a small group of friends who were somewhat different from mine. Naturally he appeared to be self conscious about the girls because they did google over him.
    I can only relate one incident.  There was a call for tryouts at school for Hamlet, and I signed up for any part. After (Paul’s) turn came to read, I quietly slunk out of the room.
    The play was Hamlet, and from my recollection, he was fantastic. That was in 1943.  In 1949 I saw the movie Hamlet with Laurence Olivier, and it conjured images of Paul in my mind. If I had only saved the school playbill....
    Keep up with your good work.
    Love, Leonard

    My mom, a realtor in Cleveland, showed Newman’s mother’s home as part of her listings.

    Additionally from my dear friend Raj in Cleveland:

    “You forgot to mention the most important thing!!!  Newman was raised a stone's throw (figuratively speaking) from where you grew up!  ("Renrock Road in Cleveland Heights before moving to a large home on Brighton Road in Shaker Heights...")  Ya gotta work that in the copy before it goes to press.” 

    P.S.  Here's my Newman remembrance: The [Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland article] mentions Newman-Stern, the sporting goods store run by Paul's dad and uncle on E. 12th. Newman-Stern isn't there anymore. The space was eventually razed -- along with everything else on the block ranging from E. 12th to E. 13th and Chester to Superior to make room for what is today Reserve Square, where my Cleveland apartment is.  I recall reading that Paul worked briefly in the billiards department as a salesman before moving to N.Y. He'd spend his down time working on his [pool] shots. Which is probably why he was able to look competent in "The Hustler.” So now I can say that when I'm in Cleveland, I live where Paul Newman used to shoot pool. Plus, it was the first sporting goods store I was ever in, which for me, was like a kid going to Disneyland for the first time.

    When I interviewed him in New York, maybe around '96, (Raj was a writer for a New York City magazine) and introduced myself as being from Cleveland, you should have seen his face light up as he gave me a clenched fist of solidarity. That was something I'll never forget. If people thought (myself included) that he'd renounced his hometown, those few seconds would've reversed opinions.

    I told him how I could still remember when I was small, going past Newman-Stern numerous times, having grown up downtown. He replied that he still has the plaque from the front of the store somewhere in his closet. It had been mailed to him when the place shut down for good. The strange part is, as I was telling him that, I'd been picturing the plaque in my head. And then he proceeds to tell me about the plaque. (Somebody cue the "Twilight Zone" theme.) So those are my memories of Paul Newman. One of us!!!”

    So there you have it. Between my Uncle Leonard, my Mom and my friend dear friend Raj, I have many ties to the great Paul Newman. I also recently viewed some of Newman’s classic movies on Turner Classic Movies when they did a retrospective of his work, and I must say Newman was an icon of his time.

    Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com