"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight of the dark movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home."
After teaching the novel The Outsiders for two years, 150 students, and eight middle school classes, I was always saddened when the kids in my charge had no idea who Paul Newman was ... I might well have been talking about obscure stage actors of the 1800's as opposed to an iconic, and, until recently, still active screen presence of the last fifty years. Cultural awareness of this latest generation is a sad state of affairs - which is even more surprising when one considers that teens today have access to more information than any generation before them, and yet seem more blissfully unaware of anything going back further than five years.
So when reading of Newman's death today, I wondered if any of the middle school kids I taught who are now in freshmen and sophomores in high school might have taken pause to remember Ponyboy's opening (and closing) lines from S.E. Hinton's book.
Perhaps. When bringing the middle schoolers up to speed with a list of movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, and The Sting that got me blank stares in return, the only one that ever clicked for them was, ironically, Newman's voice work as Doc Hudson in Cars.
From what I know of Newman, I think he would have liked that....