Thursday, July 02, 2015

Leonard Starr, and the Ultimate Cool

By Thomas B. Sawyer

In the wake of the recent death of my closest friend and longtime studio-mate during my illustrator-career, artist/writer Leonard Starr, an unforgettable, eminently character-defining anecdote comes to mind.

Back around 1971, Leonard Starr, moved from Manhattan to suburban Westport, Connecticut. There, he and his wife had purchased a home which like so many others in that artist-colony town sat amid several acres of woods. Woods so dense that, often, houses on adjoining properties were not visible.

Such was the case with Leonard’s handsome two-story place, and that of his immediate neighbors, whom he’d not met: movie megastar Paul Newman and his lovely actress-wife, Joanne Woodward.

And less than a week after moving in, there was a knock on Leonard’s front door. Leonard opened it and found himself facing Paul Newman, there to welcome his new fellow-Westporter.

In a phone conversation with Leonard a few days later, he described the encounter, which had struck him as an amusing incident. For me, however, his description of what followed was, and will, I have zero-doubt, remain the totally coolest conversational response I have ever heard or read about. A level of Cool to which we all aspire, but of which almost none of us are capable. A degree of Cool that nails so eloquently the very core of who Leonard Starr was.


As Leonard swung the door open, Paul Newman grinned: “Hi. I’m Paul Newman.”

Leonard smiled back, and without hesitation said: “No shit?”

Understandably, Newman cracked up.

I mean – wouldn’t you?

~ Thomas B. Sawyer

* Read an excerpt from Thomas B. Sawyer's memoirs on his first meeting with Leonard Starr in the 1950s, as well as some personal anecdotes from Starr, shared by David Apatoff. Click here

* David Apatoff's post on the death of his friend, Leonard Starr. Click here

* Mike Lynch's post on Leonard Starr's career. Click here


  1. Anonymous6:53 AM

    I recently saw a documentary on P. Newman. He was a very cool guy. This anecdote is great! Thanks for sharing :)

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