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Paul Newman :: His Secret Life Exposed

by Kay Bourne
Contributor
Tuesday Oct 6, 2009
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When Paul Newman was starting up his film career, he was summoned to the home of Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who dished in fan magazines for readers in small town America about the doings of the stars.

Slyly leading up to the deal she wanted to make, Hopper laughingly told the young Newman about how Errol Flynn, angered about an item she put in a column about him, appeared on her doorstep. When she answered the door, he was facing her... masturbating.

"I began laughing," Hopper is quoted as saying to Newman, "and continued laughing until he finished with a dramatic flourish all over my doorstep. I’ll say one thing for Errol. He’s the only man I know who can ejaculate in front of a fully dressed woman who’s laughing derisively during the entire process."

Yes, readers, to paraphrase Margo Channing: Fasten your seat belts reading the celeb bio Paul Newman/The Man Behind the Baby Blues is a bumpy ride, especially if you favor decorum. It’s an account that guarantees you’ll shake your head saying what!??!! on nearly every page.

Writer Darwin Porter relates in this tell-all biography that over drinks Hopper regaled Newman with a lot of stories that gave evidence that she was far more knowing of the clandestine going-ons in Hollywood than her "provincial" public image might suggest.

The point she was making was that she was on to Newman’s bisexual life that entailed hot and heavy romances with James Dean, Sal Mineo, Howard Hughes, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Tony Perkins, George Grizzard and the list goes on. To keep such innuendos out of her column (which would have iced his film career), she wanted him to give her exclusives on his impeding marriage to Joanne Woodward and other tidbits that would scoop her rival gossip columnist Louella Parsons.

Porter’s Paul Newman/The Man Behind The Baby Blues is, as the words in a police-barricade-yellow banner across the cover proclaim, an exposé. The tone of the writing is far from scholarly and the anecdotes so titillating that the reader may be justified in assessing Porter as a shrewd a gossip as Hopper. That he waited until after Newman’s death to publish it only suggests a solid knowledge of libel and defamation laws.

Still, the fluidity of Newman’s sexuality in the early years of his acting career does at least suggest a prism (or peephole) for Queer Studies academics whose subject matter is unacknowledged gay artists of the past. Does this sexually chameleon behavior inform creativity? What is the role of a gay sensibility in an actor’s developing his chops? Leave those questions to the scholars. The rest of us can only surmise how any of these actors had any time to work.

To my mind Porter’s purpose is to give the low-down on the down-low of Hollywood film and Broadway stage actors. For that he gets a scarlet A-plus.

That is, if you believe what he has to say. His sources are very often name actors, directors, and Hollywood personalities (many of whom like Newman are now deceased). While some may seem suspect, confidants such as Janice Rule give the book’s tattling validity.

Rule met Newman early on when she was playing the heroine Madge in the stage production of Picnic and stayed in touch with him over the years. (Joanne Woodward, who got to know Newman intimately at this time, was her understudy.) When Rule invited Newman to her dressing room after a performance the actor was surprised not to find Rule lusting after his body. Instead she wanted him to tell her what happened when he went to Joan Crawford’s apartment at the cinema star’s invitation. (It is hilarious with Crawford behaving like a cougar.) Rule loved gossip. In later years, she left acting to become a successful psychotherapist in Manhattan, but she kept her ear to the ground nonetheless.

Other seeming reliable sources include Eartha Kitt, who summed up her bedroom romp with the twosome of Newman and Jimmy Dean, saying "white boys are so delicious." Kitt, by the way, told Porter that the authors of the Broadway musical Hair stole that line from her for their show.

A decided plus to the bio is the copious photographs that appear on the very page where they have the most relevance. The quotes beneath the picture can be quite witty, as with Crawford’s, whose quip reads, "We Texas gals eat beef cake."

According to Porter, he’s been collecting hearsay stories on Newman since being introduced to the actor by Tennessee Williams in 1959. At that time Porter was the 21-year-old bureau chief for the Miami Herald in Key West. Porter seemingly has access to numerous luminaries who confide in him from Geraldine Page who co-starred with Newman in Sweet Bird of Youth to playwright William Inge who wrote Picnic, which launched Newman’s acting career in a big way.

He has a writing style, however, that makes his reported private conversations suspect. Porter often quotes what was said in intimate situations that have to be pure conjecture. The give-away is that he’s putting the same words into people’s mouths no matter who is talking, for examples terms like "plowed" and "sloppy seconds."

Paul Newman/The Man Behind the Baby Blues is published by Blue Moon Productions, Ltd, based in New York City, and staffed by writers who otherwise produce the various Frommer Guides, the well-regarded travel publications. Porter has previously done bios on Katharine Hepburn, Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Humphrey Bogart, Merv Griffin, and Marlon Brando. Aside from Jackson, the subjects were room temperature when Porter’s bios were published.

The prolific Gore Vidal also recently authored a memoir in words and photos, which includes more than a few mentions of the Newmans with some lovely pictures of the couple. In the 50s, Vidal, his long-term lover and the Newmans lived together in Shirley McClaine’s beach house in Malibu and stayed close friends through the ensuing years. Towards the end of the book Vidal tells a story of how Newman decided to discontinue his chemotherapy for cancer. "And he died on his own terms...," Vidal writes honoring his friend’s staunch individualism.

Porter also acknowledges Newman’s individualism, but salaciously, with little or no respect for his subject.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2009-10-07 23:48:59

    I’m not buying it.


  • Anonymous, 2010-09-01 20:33:40

    Bought the book! While in it, yes what these sources, anyone from Joan C to Eartha Kitt whom Paul met via James Dean, who reportedly also Paul had screwed around with, said at the time is suspect because the lines quoted express the same words with a different person. I personally, to an extent, believe he most likely might’ve been bisexual, despite his longlasting 2nd marriage; many men, bi or even gay, marry women. It alludes to, mentions Pauls then psyche, way of thinking, by what he’d confide in friends & confidants, thru his first and then, his second marriage! He decided early on, his 20’s, that he didn’t want to live the life of a gay man because he thought it limiting & degrading, even tho he’d enjoy sex with men occasionally or sporadically. He wanted security that a home & marriage may provide. It is revelatory, not slamming him nor hating in any way shape or form. Simply stating wat was rumored & wat he himself told confidants. He wasn’t ashamed privately, yet publicly is a completely different matter altogether! Obviously, not nice, embarrassing to hear after all these years, for his widow & 5 daughters.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-06 04:57:46

    I don’t have a lot to say about Paul Newman because I never met him. I don’t believe that he was bisexual. I think the main reason they made up this story is because he supported gay marriage. I guess society restricts heterosexuals from supporting gay rights thinking that the person who supports them is either gay or bisexual. I don’t see anything wrong with that and at least hes open minded about other people. Besides, even if he was bisexual I could careless...that wouldn’t stop me from respecting him as an actor and humanitarian. He seemed faithful to his wife and said a lot of good things about her. What we do know is that he was married twice and his second marriage with Joanne Woodward for 50yrs was successful. He has children who are now grown up and grandchildren. What his life was like before that I will never know. I feel that its cowardly for any author to make a book about someones sexual orientation knowing that the person is no longer living to have his or her say about it. Thats soo disrespectful to Paul and his family. The author should be ashamed. Only Paul would have had all the answers about himself. I doubt this author had sat with Paul one on one to hear his side of the story. I have never read this book, but I could already tell that this book would be inaccurate. Its all about the money to this person, but its really disgusting that its based on Paul’s sexual interest. Joanne lost her husband 2 years ago, and for her to have to deal with these false rumors is not cool. People need to learn how stay out of other peoples’ business and have respect for peoples’ privacy. Society is losing its morals.


  • Anonymous, 2011-09-17 18:54:39

    They all were GREAT actors and you can not take that away from them. Everyone has skeltons in their closet so leave them alone.


  • Anonymous, 2011-09-17 19:01:26

    I can not believe this websit, I love movies. Don’t tarnish these actor’s like this. As for me I want to remember the great movies that they made and how there movies have touch our lives....Can you not find something good to say about them.


  • Anonymous, 2012-03-08 21:40:43

    How bout this....WHO CARES IF HE WAS STRAIGHT, GAY, OR BI????!!!! HE WAS AN AWESOME HOTT ACTOR..HE WAS A GOOD PERSON, LOVED HIS FAMILY AND THEY LOVED HIM!! NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!! AND IT SHOULDN’T MATTER..WHAT PEOPLE DO IN THE BEDROOM..OR WHEREVER THEY HAVE SEX..IS NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS!!!!!!!! RIP Mr. Newman!! By Kelley McP in Nebraska


  • Anonymous, 2012-04-17 23:59:48

    Ahhh! although I believe in ’to each their own’ and I don’t hate on homosexuals, still I have to say I am disillusioned! Which leads me to question is there any such thing as a true Man?....and no I am sorry but homosexual or bisexual men do not qualify...


  • Anonymous, 2012-06-27 19:53:26

    So many gays and bi’s in entertainment business that it’s sickening and shame!


  • Anonymous, 2012-11-08 12:19:06

    Well. Guess we now need to shift Paul Newman from under the Great Lovers of Women column over to the closet homos and Honorary Rock Hudson imitators. Kind of funny how women swooned over this guy for decades, and all along he never had an interest in their big boobs but instead that big lump below the belt buckle of men’s trousers. Kinky-winky!


  • Anonymous, 2012-11-08 15:13:25

    Paul Newman married, twice! He had 6 kids, first born a boy, other 5 were all girls. He in fact enjoyed women throughout his life, he had a few affairs with women other than his wives, yet remained married, never divorced! Whatever his involvements with men like Brando or James Dean, even Montgomery Clift were allegations, and if he did have sex with both sexes well hot diggity damn. He enjoyed both sides of the game! Many men nowadays do, whether anyone knows it or not, famous or not. There is a clear double standard with men and women, men are forever ridiculed, while women not as much.


  • Anonymous, 2014-06-26 02:32:17

    It must be true he was gay. He once said he hadn’t a lot of neighbors but he had lots of friend up the ass!


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