Photographer: Solange Podell
Article: Cyriaque Griffon
This quote could have been taken from a newspaper dated November 2016, referring to the run-up to the U.S. elections and iconic figures either supporting Hillary Clinton such as Meryl Streep, Beyonce, Cher and Madonna, or Donald Trump with celebs like Mike Tyson, Chuck Norris, Paul “Hulk” Hogan, Clint Eastwood, Jean-Claude Vandamme and Kirstie Alley.This quote is taken from the Time weekly magazine issue dating May 1968 though. And that was already true at a time when celebrity participation in the presidential primary and general elections of the United States reached an unprecedented level.
Pretty like today, the Hollywood participation was prominent among Democrats but also a key factor in the Republican races. Eugene McCarthy announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party for the White House. Facing him, Richard Nixon was campaigning on the Republican side. In the years 1967 – 1968, there was a boiling caldron of social issues and political unrestliken ever before. The students and the hippies would demonstrate on the streets and Luther King had just been assassinated. One of the Democrats’ main issues was opposing the war raging in Vietnam. The most important Hollywood star who came out for the Democratic Senator McCarthy was Paul Newman. The then novice photographer Solange Podell just happened to beat the right place at the right time to take a series of unforgettable snapshots of Newman when the actor was committed to supporting the Democrat candidate. The scene took place at the St-Regis, the most opulent and grand hotel in New York. This legendary hotel had, among his most famous residents, Salvador Dali. The artist would spend his winters there. This was the place where Marilyn Monroe stayed had when filming the famous subway grate scene in The seven-year sitch. St-Regis Hotel, New York, 1968
I was told that Paul Newman was about to come to the St-Regis Hotel and attend a cocktail reception held in support of the Democratic senator McGovern in the primary elections, Solange recalls. I was sent to the St-Regis by the famous American photographer Santi Visalli (who worked for Photoreporters agency).When I arrived, there he was, standing in front of me. He was as smart and handsome as I had expected, wearing an elegant dark suit with a bowtie, holding a glass in one hand. A screen legend with one of the most magnetic piercing steel blue eyes in movie history. On that day, that was for me a wonderful opportunity to take a series of photos.
I remember that dark-haired female reporter in a blue dress with a notepad in one hand. She seemed to be clumsy when asking questions and Newman did not bother really. As he was well educated he pretended to be interested in her questions. Yet, he started looking around, obviously feeling like doing one thing, getting away from that journalist. And when he caught my eyes, I caught his eyes too and started snapping away at him. His piercing look made me think of a « call for help.On that day, I had a little bit the sentiment that I had helped him in some way, enabling him to get away from the reporter.
McGovern lost in the primaries and Newman went on supporting the elected Democrat McCarthy. The latter lost. That earned Newman a charter list on the new elected Republican President Richard Nixon’s Enemies List, right at number 19!