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Life Lessons from The Movie Stars - #2

by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Set your own values.

When I was 23, I became one of the first women in the new industry of men’s hairstyling. My boss, Jay Sebring, was stylist to the stars. I would pick up the phone and find Steve McQueen on the other end of the line saying, "Hey, can Jay go racing with me tomorrow?" If Jay’s answer was "yes," I had to call his executive clients and say, "I’m very sorry, but Mr. Sebring has been called out of town on urgent business. Could I reschedule your appointment?"

At the opening party for our salon, I, of course, was the hostess. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie flew in for evening. Also Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. When Paul Newman walked in, he literally glowed. It was an amazing experience, and I have never seen anything like it since. He was surrounded by people, but it was as if he were alone. This was the first time I truly understood what people mean by a magnetic personality.

Tragically, my boss died that year. Jim Markham took over his business and clientele. Years later, Jim told me a story about Paul Newman. Jim had been in Paul’s kitchen, cutting his hair, when Joanne Woodward came in. Paul jumped up, bits of hair flying everywhere, and raced over to his wife. "Lovely lady, how are you?" he cried, hugging and kissing her. Jim Markham commented, "Here is the sex symbol of the world being wonderful to his wife. A real lesson for us mere mortals!" Joanne Woodward’s film, Rachel, Rachel, had just come out. In one scene, she is walking down a country lane, and the camera angle goes up until I honestly thought she must be six feet tall. Yet, when I shook hands with her, I had to lower my eyes to make eye contact -- and I am only 5’1".

I don’t know about you, but I love seeing movie stars on talk shows. Obviously if you have previously met them, it is even more exciting. I remember seeing Joanne Woodward being interviewed by Barbara Walters, and Barbara asked her, "What is success to you?" That’s easy, I thought: being rich, famous, and sleeping with Paul Newman! But Woodward said something that I have never forgotten. "To me," she said, "Success would be raising four children who don’t need a psychiatrist -- and I haven’t done it."

Joanne Woodward, according to her own definition, would probably think that the majority of Americans are more successful than she is. Maybe the most important role for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward is the role they play at home rather than on the screen.

So many of us look at celebrities and think they must be a lot more special than we are. They’re not. Don’t sacrifice your core values to win the approval of people who don’t care about you. 


Patricia Fripp CSP, CPAE is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach and professional speaker on Change, Customer Service, Promoting Business, and Communication Skills. She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It So You Don’t Have to Fake It and Past-President of the National Speakers Association.

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