Last year I had the pleasure of meeting and the honor of interviewing on of Hollywood’s oldest living legends – Ernest Borgnine. We met in Atlanta at DragonCon, and I was immediately overwhelmed at how energetic and full of life Mr. Borgnine was. When he shook my hand I thought he going to break it. I observed him at the show meeting countless fans, always with a smile and a laugh. If someone wanted a photo, he stood up from the table every single time and took one. He walked around the show doing this and that, and was never anything but courteous and friendly. Today I heard the news that Ernest had passed away. On one hand it’s heartbreaking to see such a kind and talented man, literally a living legend, come to an end. But on the other hand, what an impressive career and life this man has lived. To be 95, and still acting (he most recently appeared on the big screen in 2010’s RED), Ernest was an inspiration to many around him. Bruce Willis even noted that working with Borgnine changed his thoughts on retirement completely.
Growing up I enjoyed watching Ernie in movies and TV, especially Airwolf, which was one of my favorite shows. His films include classics like FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, MARTY (for which he won an Oscar), THE CATERED AFFAIR and EMPEROR OF THE NORTH. He’s also remembered for TV shows like McHale’s Navy and The Single Guy, and even kids know him as the voice of “Mermaidman” on Spongebob Squarepants. Most recently fans in Dallas had a rare chance to meet Mr. Borgnine in person at Texas Frightmare Weekend on May 4-6 of this year, where he did a Q&A I was at one point dearly hoping to host. He passed away today of renal failure, at the age of 95. In case you missed it, here is my interview with Ernie from last fall. As I’ve said before, my only goal was to hear the man laugh heartily at least once, and he didn’t disappoint.
My thanks to DragonCon for having Ernie as a guest, the lovely Karen Cadle for making this interview possible, and big thanks to the wonderful Blake Garris for shooting this.
1917 – 2012