Speaking to PEOPLE in this week’s issue, comedy legend Newhart, 90, reflects on his six decades in show business and the close relationships he built along the way. The most cherished of those, of course, is his relationship with Virginia “Ginnie” Quinn, his wife of 56 years.
As it turns out, Newhart and Ginnie, now 78, were set up on a blind date by the late comedian and actor Hackett.
“Well, we’re both Catholic. She’s three quarters Irish. I’m three quarters Irish,” Newhart says. “Buddy said, ‘I’ve got a girl for you. She’s going with another guy, but I don’t think he’s right for her, so I’m going to fix you up on a blind date. You’ll meet her and you’ll date and you’ll get married. Then you’ll have kids and you’ll call one of the kids Buddy.’ “
“Which we did — one of our daughters, we called her Buddy,” Newhart jokes.
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Today, Newhart and Ginnie, who wed in 1963, have four children — sons Robert, 55, and Timothy, 52, and daughters Jennifer, 48, and Courtney, 41 — and 10 grandchildren.
Ginnie, whose father Bill Quinn was an American film actor, has been there for all of Newhart’s successes over the years — and the occasional miss, he acknowledges.
“She’d be in the dressing room. She’d say, ‘Something’s wrong with the sound system. I couldn’t hear anything,’ ” he recalls. “I said, ‘Honey, nothing was wrong with the sound system. They didn’t laugh!’ “
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And luckily for comedy fans everywhere, Newhart, who recently stole the show with a surprise skit at the Emmy Awards, has no plans to retire.
“I get this question a lot: ‘Why do you still do comedy?’ ” he says. “Why would you ever get tired of making people laugh? You never want to give up that sound, that great sound that you fell in love with 60 years ago.”