Paul Newman is in a mischievous mood. he arrives at a cast party for Old Wicked Songs, a show at Connecticut’s historic Westport Country Playhouse, shouting the caption to a New Yorker cartoon: "Just because I didn’t tell you to shut up doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening!"
Heads turn and the collective attention, as usual, shifts to Newman. Fully aware of his effect on the room, he slides into character as the consummate entertainer, bantering with cast and crew members and, for a man in his eighties, performing a pretty impressive tap dance before flashing a half smile that prepares everyone for the big finale: a wink.
The Paul Newman charm offensive remains a wonder to behold. These days, however, the actor generally doesn’t waste it on Hollywood. Now he uses much of it on food philanthropy, promoting his wildly successful Newman’s Own brand, which generates millions of charity dollars each year, and launching new projects (Robert Redford once described Newman as having the attention span of a bolt of lightning). One of his latest obsessions is Dressing Room: A Homegrown Restaurant. The new venture, which opened in October 2006, is adjacent to and helps support the Playhouse, a regional fixture since the 1930s.