As reported by The Hartford Courant, October 10, 2008.

The Wonderful Places in His Life

By MaryEllen Fillo

James Naughton was born in Middletown, grew up in West Hartford and became a well-known actor, singer and director as well as one of the late actor Paul Newman's closest friends.

Naughton, who will perform Oct. 18 at the Bushnell as part of the University of Connecticut Health Center's 2008 Image Gala, is busy with a soon-to-open off-Broadway play, "The Master Builder," at the Irish Repertory Theater, as well as his cabaret show.

While rehearsing in New York City for the play, the 62-year-old two-time Tony Award winner who lives in Weston found some time to "spill the beans" with Java.

Q: What brings you to the UConn gala? Do you perform often in your home state?

A: I still do a lot of performing and actually did a show at the Bushnell not too long ago. At the gala, I'll be singing for about 90 minutes with a band. Once the play is up and running, I'll be doing some cabaret shows again. The next one is in Washington, D.C., in November.

Q: What is your favorite song?

A: There are a couple that I do that people enjoy, a country song called "I've Been Everywhere." It's one Johnny Cash recorded. I love stuff by Cole Porter. "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael is one of my favorites.

Q: So, you are a West Hartford guy — good memories?

A: It was a wonderful place to grow up in the 1950s. Our house abutted Duffy School's play yard, and we played every sport there was over there. In the summer, we'd play baseball every day. My wife and I still visit friends and relatives in West Hartford, and every once in a while we take a ride by my old house.

Q: I'm so sorry about the loss of your good friend, Paul Newman. When did you see him last?

A: About 48 hours before he died. I stopped by his house. He wasn't conscious, but Joanne [Newman's wife, Joanne Woodward] said to go up and talk to him. I did. I talked about the good memories we shared. My favorite times with him. Going to watch him race. It was great. We'd get on a plane and go to wherever he was racing and then get picked up by a helicopter and dropped down in the track infield. Directing him in "Our Town" on Broadway was a highlight in my life.

Q: How did you two meet?

A: He directed me in "Glass Menagerie." I had done stage productions with Joanne. While working with him, we learned we lived about four minutes from each other, and he invited me to his house for dinner. We both liked to shoot pool and fish. It turned into a friendship.

Q: You're a pool player?

A: I spent a lot of time in high school and college shooting pool in Hartford with my best friend, Tom Lorch, who was a guidance counselor at Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford. We had a lot of fun.

Q: Your favorite role?

A: The detective in "City of Angels." I got to say these wonderful lines like, "She was a handful — maybe two, if you played your cards right." And I love any play by Tennessee Williams.

Q: What is your biggest regret? Your best decision?

A: My biggest regret is sliding into third in 1978 in a ballgame. I tore the bejeezus out of my left knee and still have to wear a brace when I play squash. My best decision? To marry my wife, Pam. We have been married 41 years.

Q: Every other celebrity seems to be writing his or her tell-all autobiography these days. Do you have any plans to write yours?

A: It's funny, because my kids keep telling me I should write down some of the stories I tell, but I have no burning desire to inflict my stories on others. Nah, I'm just kidding about any inflicting. Maybe I will write a book someday, but not right now. I'm a doer, not a writer.

Proceeds from the Image Gala Oct. 18 will benefit Lea's Foundation for Leukemia Research Inc. and UConn Survive Program for young adult cancer survivors. Honorees are former UConn School of Medicine dean Peter J. Deckers, Lea's Foundation founder Michael Economos and former UConn men's basketball coach Donald "Dee" Rowe. Ticket information is available by calling 860-679-4569.