Remembering A.E. Hotchner

A. E. Hotchner — a writer who parlayed his friendship with fellow Westporter Paul Newman into a second career in philanthropy — died today at home. He was 102 years old, and lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

The New York Times obituary described the longtime Hillandale Road resident as a “novelist, playwright, biographer, literary bon vivant and philanthropist whose life was shaped and colored by close friendships with two extraordinarily gifted and well-known men, Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman.”

A.E. Hotchner and Ernest Hemingway.

Hotchner “was not to the manner born, nor was he a celebrity. But he was nonetheless at home among the glitterati, one of those not-so-famous people whom famous people, for whatever reason, take to,” the Times said. At Washington University, he was a classmate of Tennessee Williams.

He wrote books about his friends, including Clark Gable, Barbara Hutton, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Doris Day and Sophia Loren.

But he included honest details about Hemingway’s suicide in “Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir,” whose publication the author’s widow tried to halt.

Hotchner wrote 2 other books about Hemingway, and one about the Rolling Stones, among others.

Yet it was his friendship with Newman that most distinguished the latter part of Hotchner’s life. According to the Times:

“We owned a series of dilapidated boats we’d take out on the water to go fishing and drink beer and have all sorts of adventures,” Mr. Hotchner told the London newspaper The Daily Mirror after Newman’s death in September 2008. “We drank a lot of beer and so never actually caught many fish.”

Mr. Newman had made it a holiday ritual to make batches of homemade salad dressing in his barn, pour it into wine bottles and drive around his neighborhood giving them away as Christmas gifts. Just before Christmas 1980, Mr. Newman was stirring up an enormous batch, with a canoe paddle, when he invited Mr. Hotchner to join him. Out of their small adventure came the idea for Newman’s Own.

Founded in 1982, the company has given away hundreds of millions of dollars through its charitable arms….

In 1988, Mr. Hotchner and Mr. Newman furthered their charitable work by founding the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with life-threatening diseases.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary.)

14 responses to “Remembering A.E. Hotchner

  1. Westport has many unsung heroes. Some well known and widely recognized. Other quiet and flying under the radar. All a part of what makes Westport so remarkable. Thankfully several of the latter kind have enriched my life.

  2. Lucinda Mirk Setnicka

    A. E. Hotchner rented our house on Greens Farms Road the summer of 1967 (we went to California for the summer, our first visit). What a good sport he was, because along with the house came our sometimes very mischievous dog, Vicki. Wonder what sort of adventures those two had together. I think he spent the summer working on drafts of “Papa Hemingway.” Rest In Peace and the Mirk family sends our condolences 💔

  3. Hotchner supplied the title for Hemingway’s splendid memoir of his time in Paris in the 1920’s : A Moveable Feast
    ADW Staples 1956

    • The book was published after EH died. This is from the wikipedia entry for it. “The title of A Moveable Feast (a play on words for the term used for a holy day for which the date is not fixed) was suggested by Hemingway’s friend and biographer A. E. Hotchner, who remembered Hemingway using the term in 1950”

  4. Great guy. He once told me to throw some 50 mph grass seed by his chicken coup. I gave him a puzzled look. Then he said he just wanted it to look good driving by at 50 mph,

  5. Vanessa Bradford

    Wow. Two Westport icons gone this week. Woody Klein and A.E. Hotchner. Westport was a better time and place because of them.

  6. He was very warm and gracious when I had the privilege of interviewing him for “06880” several years back and his fondness for Westport was quite evident.

    Lucinda’s post was interesting to see because I know he owned his home on Hillandale going back to the 1950s—but perhaps he rented it out while doing research for extended periods elsewhere in connection with one of his books. One thing I meant to ask him, but never did, was I had heard that Robert Redford rented his home in the early 1970s.

    • Robert Redford was in the Hillandale Road house when Hotchner was working with Sophia Loren, probably in Italy, on her autobiography in ’78 or ’79. I remember pointing out the tennis court to Ann Friedman when we were each driving a car of Cub Scouts to the nature center. I was so intent on being sure she saw it that I missed RR on the tennis court.

      • Joyce, I spoke to a friend whose property was right behind the Hotchners and he confirmed that Redford stayed there in the 1970s and that Hotchner did rent it out to others during at least some summers (including veteran actor—and Oscar nominee—Sam Jaffe).

  7. I was feature editor of my high school newspaper. At that time, I interviewed AE Hotchner as he and Paul Newman had just started making their fabulous salad dressing; after my interview with him , he kindly offered to introduce me to Paul and said, wouldn’t your readers like hear my partners perspective? There and then, he picked up the phone and called Paul Newman. I then sat and interviewed Paul. I’ll never forget the gentle, kind, gracious person AEHotcher was. I need to dig up my interview with him.

  8. I managed a large automotive repair shop many years ago .. We worked on his Much Loved old Corvette , and his wife’s Classic Jag … He always introduced himself as Hotch ,while calling on the phone for a service appointment .. He was a Class Act .. May you Rip Hotch

  9. I remember that house on Hillandale…was sure Robert Redford rented it. I drove by the house and saw Robert Redford and Paul Newman playing tennis. I parked my car up the block and unloaded the stroller and pushed my baby back and forth in front of the court–pretending I was just on a stroll! (for quite a long time!!!!)

  10. Kathleen love your comment, I would have done the same. I lived in Westport for 2 years (67-68) as an au pair, and to my regret I never had the pleasure of running into Paul Newman. He was such a class act and I have seen many of his films, and loved most of them. I did see Joanne Woodward once when (after I had moved away from Westport) when I had lunch with a girl friend and our young children at the Ships, she came in to have lunch, just walked through the restaurant and smiled at our toddlers. Nobody made a fuss over her and she acted like a normal person. Somehow had it been Paul Newman not sure it would have been the same, not sure I would have kept my cool had he walked in.

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