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Sartorial surprise: Man claims to find Paul Newman suit in New Haven basement

Updated 9:35 am, Wednesday, October 10, 2012
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Associated Press

NEW HAVEN -- A man renting an apartment in a Victorian house here was poking around the basement when he was surprised to find some fine clothes stuffed in a trash bag. A tailor's tag listing the client's name on one of the suits startled him even more.

"Paul Newman. January 1986."

Peter Gamlen, a 23-year-old British illustrator, said he believes the suit belonged to the late actor, director, entrepreneur and racing driver and longtime Westport resident. The suit was by the tailor Henry Stewart. So, Gamlen researched Stewart and found an obituary in the New York Times from 1993 that listed Newman among the tailor's clients.

Gamlen said he began to holler and run around when he made the discovery.

"Guess where my legs are!" he said to a friend. "They're in Paul Newman's trousers!"

Gamlen described the suit as a two-piece lounge suit with surgeon's cuffs.

"This is incredibly well made," said Gamlen, who said he was surprised at how well the suit fit. "The whole cut of this is absolutely beautiful."

Gamlen, who was given permission to sift through previous tenants' belongings, said he also found a photo of Newman in the pocket of a sports jacket. The actor was sporting sunglasses and standing with three other men.

The Westport home of Newman, who died in 2008, was about 30 miles from New Haven.

Gamlen, who came to the United States for work about a year ago and works in a clothing store, said he believes, at the very least, the suit with the tailor's tag belonged to Newman.

Gamlen said he loves fine clothing, and "The Hustler" starring Newman is one of his favorite films.

"It's certainly valuable to me in terms of being like an amazing coincidence and also a really beautiful set of clothes that look pretty damn good on me," he said.

Gamlen said he's not sure what he's going to do with the suit.

Kay Hill, who owns the building, said she has no idea how Newman's clothes could wind up in the basement, though she noted she's had notable tenants over the years such as professors and authors.

"It sounds like it really could have been Paul Newman's suit," Hill said.

She said her parents, who once lived in the building, met Newman at a Democratic fundraiser decades ago, and her late father-in-law once played tennis with Newman.

"They wouldn't have anything to do with the suit," she said.

A.E. Hotchner, Newman's longtime friend, said he could not imagine how Newman's clothes would wind up in New Haven, though he didn't rule it out.

"Paul was notoriously underdressed," Hotchner said. "As far as I remember, he had one black sports coat and he had one suit."

The down-to-earth actor who liked to race cars also had a tuxedo, but he burned it so he'd have an excuse not to attend any more black-tie events, Hotchner said.

"Paul really didn't want anything to do with any kind of dressing up," Hotchner said. "He certainly wouldn't have left any clothes in a building in New Haven."

Newman's daughter, Nell, also said she's not sure why her father would have old clothes sitting around in New Haven, though she noted he briefly attended Yale University in the city.