The phone rang and I hesitated to answer it because it was usually a press person wanting me to do them a favor. “I’m just going to let it ring”, I said, trying to avoid the inevitable—more press aggravation. And then I heard someone yelling, “Jacobson, for God’s sake pick up the phone – you’re not going to believe who wants to talk to you.” We were in Philadelphia for the Udall Presidential campaign and it seemed no one of any importance wanted to talk to us—everyone wanted to talk to Jimmy Carter or Scoop Jackson.
“OK, I’ll answer it but it better be good or you’re a dead man”. It’s so long ago I don’t remember who I was talking to but I remember what I said because I was not happy about having to talk to anyone. The campaign was out of money and I was trying to put together a press schedule (a day of activities) which cost us nothing. It was not pretty.
“What?”, I said in my most unpleasant highly trained voice. “Who is this and what do you want?”
“Well, I was thinking I’d like to do some events with the Congressman. I like him a great deal and if I can be of any help, I’m happy to do whatever I can.”
The voice sounded vaguely familiar, and I figured it was yet another one of a hundred Congressional people who loved Mo and were willing to travel anywhere to do whatever they could to save the campaign. In fact, I had just been to talking to Shirley Chisholm who had promised us a whole day.
“That’s fine”, I said but what what’s your expertise. What kind of event do you want to do?” My tone was a little lighter because all of these people were friends of the candidates and I didn’t want anyone to tell him that I was either difficult or rude.
“I thought he might like to play pool with me”. The voice was becoming more familiar. “Gee” I said—because I thought 'golly gee' sounded infantile, “I don’t know if the Congressman plays pool. Is there anything else the two of you could do?”
“I don’t know”, he answered. “I’m here shooting a movie about pool, so I thought that might be interesting”. And then I realized who was on the other end of the phone.
“Oh, Mr. Newman, I’m sure Mo would be happy to do whatever works for you.”
“You can call me Paul”, he said. “And what should I call you?”
I couldn’t remember my name. I stuttered and then blurted—“Jacobson. You can call me Iris or Jacobson or whichever you prefer”. He laughed and said, “Hey Jacobson, what’s doin...?”
It was 1976 and Paul Newman was in Philadelphia shooting “The Hustler”. He had decided that Mo Udall was his candidate of choice and he was going to help us by doing an event with the candidate. For a campaign out of money, short on staff, and without much of a following, it was a blessing.
“Here’s the thing” he said, “I don’t want to have to talk to a lot of people and I don’t want this to be complicated. So I’m only going to talk to you about any arrangements and we’ll figure out how this is going to work. Does that work for you?”
“Sure thing”, I said still recovering from not remembering my name. And for the next week, Paul Newman called the campaign headquarters everyday—sometimes more than once and asked for me. When I got on the phone he’d say, “Hey Jacobson what’s doin...?” and my heart would stop. Actually it stopped when whoever told me he was on the phone and it would start again about an hour after we concluded our business. We became best phone friends but much to my disappointment, we never met in person.
We worked out all the details and Mo and Paul finally did a shoot pool event. We got some attention and raised a few dollars and it was over much to soon for my liking. But the campaign went on and when we were in New York for the convention and final concession speech, we went to an event where I finally met Paul Newman. “Mr. Newman”, I said looking into his incredible blue eyes, “I wanted to introduce myself, I’m Iris Jacobson.” He looked at me, smiled, shook my hand, said it was nice to meet me, turned his back and walked over to meet someone else. I was devastated. Surely I couldn’t have been that easily forgettable, I thought. I sulked around the room until I finally realized what the problem was. I walked back over to him. “Paul”, I said, “I wanted to introduce myself in a different way. I’m hey Jacobson what’s doing from Philadelphia.”
“Hey Jacobson, what’s doin...?” he shouted. And he picked me up, gave me a big hug and we spent a whole bunch of time talking about politics and nothing. What a joy.
Over the years I would run into my phone friend at political events and reintroduce myself as Hey Jacobson what’s doin...?” and he always pretended to remember who I was. I like to think that maybe he actually did. Paul Newman died yesterday and I, like so many other fans mourn the loss. It is with sadness and gratitude that “Hey Jacobson what’s doin...? bids you a fond and loving goodbye. We’re just sayin...Iris