Julia Roberts at the June 8 celebration of Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall camps
06/09/2009 AT 02:50 PM EDT
, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Redford, Bill Clinton, Harry Connick Jr. and Kristin Chenoweth helped deliver some serious star power to Monday's Lincoln Center gala in New York on behalf of Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Camps and honor the beloved, late founder of the charity benefiting children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Among what they had to say about Newman, who died last year
"We've done a lot of these galas," Julia Roberts said, after doing a dancing kick line with kids who have attended the camps. "And I've never stood up without my buddy Paul Newman. It seems so much easier to sing and dance and make a fool of yourself when he's right next to you. He encourages fun, more than any person I've ever met. "
"I went up to the camp and Paul had me eat my first oyster," Jerry Seinfeld said during a sidesplitting stand-up routine. "I had never had an oyster in my life. And he convinced me to eat one. And it was horrible and it was exciting. And I thought, this will be gross and I'll have a story: I had my first oyster with Paul Newman."
Former President Bill Clinton remembered meeting Newman as a "penniless law student" and then recalled his first visit to the first Hole in the Wall Camp in Connecticut as a "penniless governor" of Arkansas. "I have watched it since then," he said, "expand to "Florida, Ireland – which really touched my heart – France, and soon the Middle East." In fact, there are now camps, available to eligible children free of charge, in all 50 states and in 39 countries around the world, says the organization's Web site
Harry Connick Jr., who performed "a little New Orleans Boogie Woogie" in Newman's honor, recalled once getting a voicemail from Newman that "changed my whole thing with my wife. I became more eloquent. He was the only guy who could really make you, as a man, feel like total crap. Feel like white trash," Connick Jr. joked, referring to Newman's accomplishments onscreen as well as with his substantial charity work.
Introducing the event on behalf of Newman's wife Joanne Woodward, Robert Redford, Newman's costar in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
and The Sting
, said that "with success comes the pleasure to follow your passion. And Paul had many. Joanne, the girls, the whole family, racing, and salad dressing. I couldn't believe that when I first heard it."