Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good by Paul Newman and A. E. Hotchner

Some people know Paul Newman better for his salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, popcorn, and other food items — and for his using the profits from this enterprise to establish camps for seriously ill children — than for his acting.  Shameless Exploitation… is the story of the Newman’s Own food company, as told by Newman and his close friend and business partner, who happens to be an outstanding writer.

Parts of the book are laugh-out-loud funny; both men have great senses of humor and had a lot of laughs while making their business decisions.  Their story is also inspiring, describing the results of hard work, original thinking, and a deep concern for people in need.

 The idea for the company started in Paul’s dank, filthy basement in 1978.  The two men planned to give bottles of homemade salad dressing as Christmas gifts for neighbors and were stirring the dressing with an old canoe paddle.  After the gifts were ready, a lot of dressing was left.  Paul thought about bottling the leftover dressing and selling it to a few local stores.  “Hotch” answered, “Look at this place!  The bugs can’t even stay alive here!  If somebody croaks from ingesting this stuff, you’ll be in court, with no liability insurance.”  The authors continue, “And that is how our baby got started — not in a manger, but in a tub — not a wise man in sight — a fading movie star and a cantankerous writer.”

The unconventional business — run from an office furnished with Paul’s outdoor furniture — succeeded beyond the men’s wildest dreams.  The food met the men’s standards — healthy as well as delicious — but Paul refused to put his picture on a bottle of salad dressing in order to line his own pockets.  He decided, “To go the low road to get to the high road — shameless exploitation for charity, for the common good — now there’s an idea worth the hustle.”

So the profits went to charity and eventually to camps for very sick children who needed the opportunity to focus on fun and not on their illnesses.  The men were so determined to get their charity off the ground that they even found Canadian workmen to rush through the construction during a snowy New England winter.  One of the camps described is the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman.

My husband was so impressed by this book that he is now reading Hotchner’s book about his 53-year relationship with Newman, Paul and Me.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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