Thursday, January 16, 2014

Like Paul Newman Needs Friends

By Paul Greeley


     I had a private moment with the late Paul Newman. At least I think I did.

     In 1989, I was working at WDSU, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans. At the time, Newman was in town filming, Blaze, about the bombastic Louisiana governor, Earl Long, and his love affair with the Bourbon Street stripper, Blaze Starr.

     I walk into the edit suite one morning to find the general manager’s secretary struggling to make a VHS dub of a segment from that morning’s Today Show. When I ask her what she’s trying to do, she says Newman had seen a feature on the show about his filming the movie and it showed some archival footage of Earl Long that he wanted to study.

     “Newman himself called?”

     “I think so,” she said, “said he wanted us to take the dub to him at his hotel.”

     As a huge fan of Paul Newman, I see an opportunity.

     “You care if I take it to him?”

     “No, here’s the address.”

     I sit down at the control’s and make a nice clean dub with plenty of black at the front and even font in a title with the date. As I’m about to finish, I get an inspiration. Knowing that Newman is going to be watching this, this is my chance to ‘talk’ to him privately. So as soon as the segment is over, I pull down the microphone and punch up some black and started talking.

     “How you doing, Mr. Newman, this is Paul Greeley, the guy making this dub for you from the Today Show. I just want to say that I’m a huge fan of yours, especially your early movies like Sweet Bird of Youth, Long Hot Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hud, and Cool Hand Luke. Look, if you ever want to get a beer and shoot some pool,

I know this place, the F&M bar on Tchoupitoulas that’s open 24 hours.”

      I finish by giving him my phone number, tell him to call me anytime and to keep up the good work. I put a good label on the tape and jump in my car.

     Newman’s staying at the Soniat House on Chartres, from the outside, a small non-descript hotel near Esplanade. You don’t even know it’s there from the street. There are two big green doors at the address and when I knock, the manager opens one to reveal a big courtyard filled with beautiful flowers. I tell him I have a tape for Newman. He says he’ll give it to him. I tell him I have instructions to place it in Newman’s hands directly. He kind of smiles, says Newman isn’t here, he’s up the street shooting some scenes for the movie.

     I leave and walk to where I see some production trucks and camera equipment. I’m met by a young female production assistant wearing a headset, and tell her why I‘m there. She says Newman’s inside shooting some scenes and when I ask how long he’ll be, she says, “you know how production is, could be 10 minutes or 2 hours.”

     I tell her I’ll wait a while and grab a seat on the bed of a truck sitting there. After about a half hour, a beautiful woman comes around the corner from the direction of the hotel. She’s wearing a pretty summer dress, with a stylish matching hat and carrying a small purse. It’s Joanne Woodward. No entourage, no bodyguards, just her. She walks up to the production assistant and they start talking. After a few minutes, the production assistant points to me, and Joanne walks over to me.

     “I understand you’re the gentleman with the tape for my husband?”

     “Yes, I am,” I manage to say.

     “Look, all I have is this small purse, would you mind taking it back to our hotel around the corner?”

     I mention to Woodward that I had seen a picture of her by the early Louisiana photographer Fonville Winans, taken when she was a student at LSU.

     “Yes, I just love being back in New Orleans with all the great food here.”

     We talk for a few minutes and then I leave. I take the tape and give it to the hotel manager. He looks bemused.

     Strange as this may sound, I actually thought Newman would call. I guess I can stop waiting now.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Coffee, Tea or Tirade?

Coffee, Tea or Tirade?

By Paul Greeley


Did you hear the story about the flight attendant that grabbed some beer and triggered an inflatable emergency chute for a dramatic exit from a plane in New York?

When I fly, my idea of eternity is the time it takes the plane to stop at the terminal to when I actually get off. It seems like forever. So had I been on that flight, I would have shoved the attendant out of the way, grabbed his beers and been first to slide down. Wheeee!

I’m not surprised that someone did that, I just figured an impatient passenger would do it first. I’ve been on flights where a flight attendant appeals to passengers to let those with connecting flights get off first. That never happens. Instead, I’ve seen sweet little old ladies lower their shoulders like fullbacks and bowl over pregnant women with babies who are too slow getting down the aisle.

Flight attendants are on the front lines in what can be like a war between passengers and the airlines. Uniformed, visible, and available, with no chance of escape, they are easy targets taking the brunt of airline passenger frustration. Forget about giving weapons to under-cover marshals, it’s the flight attendants who should be packing heat.

I have some suggestions for how airlines can make more money and how passengers can save a few bucks.

Allow a few lucky passengers, for a fee, to exit the plane via that chute with drink in hand. If only the airlines can see how that attendant actually revealed a new money-maker for them and brought some fun back to flying for us! Seems like a natural for Southwest.

Charge passengers extra by their weight. It takes more fuel to fly a 300 pound adult than a 50 pound kid.

Passengers can pay extra to move their seat away from crying, fidgeting kids or snoring, drooling adults.

Smokers can pay a fee to open up a window and light up.

Passengers can avoid that luggage charge by putting on and wearing all the clothes they’ll need for their trip. It adds a whole new meaning to carry on.

Airlines should give passengers free drinks from wheels up to wheels down, but charge for use of the bathrooms. Do the math, hundreds of people guzzling drinks for a couple hours and only two bathrooms! I don’t know how much money airlines make charging for peanuts, but this idea has serious revenue potential.

Remove all the free air-sick bags. Then have the pilots bounce the plane in some fake turbulence and start a bidding process for each bag. If my seat mate looked green, I know I’d be kicking in a few bucks.

A friend told me a story about a cruel, but harmless prank he and his friends played on a flight attendant. They made a big show to the attendant that one of them was sick by barfing noisily into the bag. They rang the attendant to dispose of the full bag, and as the bag was passed to the attendant, my friend opened it, reached in and grabbed a piece of the contents and popped it into his mouth, savoring it with a flourish. Unknown to the attendant, the contents were really the remains of their dinner. Horrified, the attendant almost barfed herself. Had I been that attendant, I would have deployed that escape chute and been gone, even at 30,000 feet. Wheeee!