The True Story of Paul Newman's Salad Dressing

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

 Who doesn't love Paul Newman? An incredible actor, with the most famous blue eyes since Sinatra, he appeared in over 60 films, including some of the greatest movies ever.

The Hustler is my own favorite Paul Newman film, but hey, the list of "classics" for Paul goes way beyond that. There's Cool Hand Luke, The Verdict, Exodus, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Towering Inferno, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting... And let's not forget his Oscar-winning performance in The Color of Money.

The list goes on and on and I think most of us think of Paul Newman as "the quintessential movie star.”

But Paul Newman had other interests besides the movies and acting. Besides being a devoted husband to his beloved wife and a loving father to his children, he loved auto racing, was very active politically, and liked to relax by drinking beer and consuming vast quantities of popcorn.

The idea of "Newman's Own" salad dressing began in 1980 in the town of Westport, Connecticut. Unlike many movie stars who live in lavish Beverly Hills mansions, Paul and his beloved wife, Joanne Woodward, chose the quieter confines of Connecticut.

Paul's friend, A.E. Hotchner, always noticed Paul had a strange habit every time he went into a fancy restaurant. Upon ordering, Paul would politely ask the establishment for some olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and fresh black pepper. Upon receiving these items, he would proceed to mix up a batch of his own personal salad dressing. After indulging in this rather odd practice, Paul would not only consume his delicious concoction himself, but often distribute the unique concoction around to his fellow dinner companions.


The waiters, restaurant staff and owners probably just thought Paul was another eccentric Hollywood kook indulging himself. The usual comments and compliments from his companions of “You should market this stuff" usually passed by unnoticed.

But one day, in Newman's basement, Paul and A.E. decided to whip up a huge batch of Paul's dressing. They stirred the tangy concoction, in a big vat, with a canoe paddle. They poured the dressing into several wine bottles and gave them out as gifts to friends.

At holiday, the tasty dressing was a popular Christmas and Hanukkah gift. This cozy custom became a holiday ritual for Newman and his friends. But it wasn't until Paul spotted the bottles of dressing being sold, as a very hot item, in a local grocery store, that he realized he was on to something.

Paul and A.E. decided to market the dressing under the name "Newman's Own.” Paul immediately made two rules for his salad dressing:

1) His face would go on every bottle (obviously attracting countless women consumers)

2) All the proceeds would go to charity

He even came up with the product's motto: “Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good.”

Using the proceeds, Paul started a group called “The Hole in the Wall Gang.” This was a group of 11 free camps for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He started the first one in Connecticut in 1988.

He supervised the group's development in every possible way, including the designing of their camp uniforms. Paul even designed their official cowboy hats- which hid the effects of chemotherapy-induced baldness. The Hole in the Wall Gang grew to service over 15,000 kids every year.

After Paul received a 1993 Jean Hersholt special Oscar (his second) for his humanitarian efforts, he refused to ever be acknowledged for his charity work again. A few years later, he made his vow official by burning his Oscar tuxedo in a bonfire in his front yard.

Newman's Own donates it's proceeds to several other carefully-chosen charities now. And besides the ever-popular Newman's Own salad dressing, Paul's food-producing empire had grown to include spaghetti sauces, chocolate candy, mints, steak sauces, popcorn, salsa, cereal, and pizza.

(Image credit: Flickr user Abigael Tay)

Not forgetting that the whole operation stemmed from salad dressing, Newman's Own now distributes 23 different dressings alone, including, balsamic vinaigrette, caesar, cranberry walnut, honey mustard, zesty Italian, poppy seed and sesame ginger. Lite dressings are also sold for those of a more health conscious nature. Beverage-wise, Newman's Own sells its own personal blends of coffee, tea, and lemonade, as well as Gorilla Grape Juice and Orange Mango Tango.

And let's not forget our four-legged friends. Newman's Own markets its own canned and dried dog food, canned and dried cat food, as well as its special dog treats.

Paul Newman passed on on September 26, 2008. But his smiling face lives on, not only in his wonderful movies, but in grocery aisles across America. And with  what other Hollywood legend can we not only enjoy one of his classic films, but dine on his delicious food and drink while we do so?

(YouTube link)

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We sold a very similar dressing to Mr. Newman's original dressing at the Winfield General Store where I worked in the early 60's - my Aunt Martha would mix it up in the cellar and I'd bring it in to work with me.
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Using the detective skills honed from reading all of the "WhoDunit?" posts, I figured out that it must have been the only other person to have access to large amounts of dressing: A.E. Hotchner. Of course, it could have been a family member.
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