Sometimes A Great Notion
The summer after my father passed away, my family rented a beach house in Lincoln City, Oregon. What better way to remember him, I thought, than revisit a time that still felt magical? I’d been a young teenager and a budding actress when Dad took us on location for Sometimes a Great Notion. Thrilled to be around movie stars all summer, I’d relished every moment.
One of our first stops was the Salishan Coastal Lodge, where my family had spent many fun hours. As my husband and I walked from the lobby into the old, familiar restaurant, I thought I saw the same booth, just over there, in the center. I pictured my father sitting with Paul Newman, who directed and starred, and co-star Henry Fonda, next to Paul’s wife, Joanne Woodward, with their friend, the director, George Roy Hill. Closing my eyes, I traveled back in time and heard my father tell me the story I’d loved so much from his memoir:
“…Paul, Joanne, Fonda, Hill, and I were having lunch. Paul, as usual, sat with his back to the room so as not to be recognized. A woman spotted him, however, and approached us with a menu in hand. She wanted Paul’s signature for her daughter, Nancy. Paul explained that we were having lunch now, but if she notified the studio, they would send her an autographed photo with her daughter’s name on it. With that, he thought, she’d go away. As she started to leave, miffed, she suddenly recognized Fonda.
“Mr. Fonda! I didn’t see you there! Would you please sign this menu for my daughter, Nancy?”
Henry turned on the charm. “I’d love to.” He took the menu from her, wrote down something, and then handed it to Hill, who grinned a huge wide grin before handing it to Joanne. She, too, smiled and shook her head, handing it to me. I couldn’t quite believe what I saw and gave it to Paul who burst out laughing before handing it back to the woman. The note said, “Dear Nancy. Paul Newman is a shit.” It was signed, Henry Fonda. The woman walked off without even looking at it. What a nice surprise for her daughter.”
“Would you like a table?” The restaurant host shook me back to the present. I pointed at the booth in the center.
“That one,” I said, giving my husband a wink.
“Are you sure?” the host said. “It’s a big one.”
I could feel Dad laughing, a slight whisper of air moving past my shoulder. “Yes, that’s the one.”
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