Screen legend Paul Newman won an Academy Award for “The Color of Money;” was acclaimed for playing a disgraced lawyer who redeems himself in “The Verdict;” and made women swoon in “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
But what many don’t know is that 37 Boston Marathons ago, the actor once described as having “the most famous blue eyes in movie history” had breakfast with future Hopkinton Fire Chief Ken Clark at his family’s Hayden Rowe home. Newman’s wife, actor Joanne Woodward, was in town making a film entitled “See How She Runs,” and scenes from the Marathon were part of the story.
Newman is one of many celebrities who have passed through town on Marathon Monday, when Hopkinton is the epicenter of the sports world. Some just appear at the starting line on race day and attract some startled glances from spectators who otherwise leave them alone. Others have a brief interaction with locals, creating lasting memories that the residents savor for years to come.
Luminaries who have run the prestigious race and have been spotted by locals include comedians Will Ferrell, Mario Lopez, Soupy Sales and Pat Paulsen; Holliston-born country singer Jo Dee Messina; “Love Story” author Erich Segal; former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn; New England Patriots players Doug Flutie and Tedy Bruschi; and countless others. A few celebrities who did not run have been spotted on the sidelines, including actor Steve Schirripa, who portrayed gangster “Bobby Bacala” on “The Sopranos.”
In 1978 a producer for Woodward’s movie approached Clark’s father Les about borrowing the family home, because of its ideal location near the end of the staging area for runners.
The field of runners was much smaller back then. “At the time the race started on lower Hayden Rowe,” recalled Clark. “We lived at 26 Hayden Rowe, right by the corrals for the runners, and the producers asked if they could film some scenes from the second floor of our house.”
The Clarks agreed and promised to keep Newman’s presence at their home a secret, but Ken said that his mother couldn’t resist telling relatives. “They all came in to meet him,” he recalled.
Newman and his entourage spent much of the day, including breakfast, with the Clarks. Ken remembered that “he is much shorter in person than he appears in the movies, where they often build him up as this huge guy. But he was very nice.”
Along with welcoming Newman, Clark and his fellow firefighters would welcome Messina years later. The Boston Athletic Association, which runs the race, asked the Hopkinton Fire Department if Messina could spend the night before the race there, and the firefighters happily let her sleep in their bunk room. Clark remembers the singer sleeping peacefully despite three alarms.
And local Carol Ann Falk remembers that her “gentlemanly” firefighter brother, Patrick Gross, “gave up his bed at the fire house so Jo Dee would have a place in town to stay.”
Other Hopkintonians have shown hospitality to the famous. Judy Keefe hosted former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn and former Police Commissioner Mickey Roach for several years at her Main Street home near the starting line. Her brother-in-law, a selectman at the time, offered up Keefe’s place to the Boston officials as a place to rest before they joined the race. Associated Press photographers learned of her choice location and asked if they could camp out on the second floor to photograph the race. And one year, WBCN radio asked if they could park their truck on Keefe’s front lawn.
“We had our finished basement for the runners, and my family always came out, too,” Keefe recalled. “We had donuts, fruit bowls, coffee and homemade breads for everyone. They were very appreciative.” Keefe remembers pleasant conversations with Flynn and Roach, and AP photographers watching the race on TV and developing photos in her bathtub.
Others who interacted with celebrities include Kenneth King, who remembers sharing a Popsicle with Paulsen when the comedian was “running” for President. Jen Bachman remembers holding Paulsen’s umbrella while he signed a guestbook at a Hayden Rowe home. Sandra Davis Brault remembers that her sister Judy “exchanged glances” with Newman while the actor was walking his dog on Hayden Rowe. Keri Paradis remembers when she and her father chatted with former New England Patriot Tedy Bruschi. Lauren Hurley spotted Mario Lopez; Dave Lareau saw Flutie slip into the race near Ray Street.
While it’s always a thrill to spot someone famous, most would agree that anyone who runs the Boston Marathon is a superstar. Notes James Long: “Everyone who entered and finished is a celebrity. End of story.”