October 6, 2008

Your Philanthropist Crushed My Austin Martin

Philanthropist/actor Paul Newman (1925-2008) loved practical jokes (e.g., director Robert Altman found 200 live chickens in his trailer courtesy of Newman). The actor also had a passion for cars. As recounted by Eric Lax in Paul Newman: A Biography, he liked to combine the two:
[Newman's cars] became a joke with friends such as Robert Redford, who once gave Newman a Porsche as a present. The car, however, was a wreck — dented from an accident and missing its engine. Redford paid a dump truck driver to deposit the car in Newman’s driveway with a note attached: “Happy birthday.”

Newman had the car compressed, then placed in a wooden box at the Redford estate... He conceded that Redford won the gag by never acknowledging the box.
In his New York Times blog, Dick Cavett wrote of a similar incident in which Newman had Redford's Austin Martin sportscar towed away at night, compacted, and then returned to Redford's driveway.
The following morning the [crushed car] was gone from the Redford lawn. Dawn revealed it: it had suddenly and mysteriously found its way to the Newman residence, where it could be plainly seen . . . on the roof.
What I like about this is that Robert Redford left an apparently authentic blog comment in Cavett's column: “Paul replaced my Austin with an identical one of showroom quality”!

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