Sunday, July 8, 2012

2012-07-07 RIP Ernest Borgnine

Today I was really sad to hear of Ernest Borgnine's passing at age 95 yesterday.  He apparently died of renal failure in the hospital surrounded by his family.  I am not often moved by the passing of celebrities, however, thanks to years of working as Security/Guest Escort at DragonCon I have gotten to know a few as more then a face on the screen.  This past September I was lucky enough to be assigned to Mr. Borgnine, though he insisted we call him Ernie.  He was wonderfully nice to everyone, even the hotel staff that was just working in the kitchens we were walking through from panel to panel.  He shook everyone's hand, asked them how they were doing and genuinely meant every word of it.  I spent three days taking him to and from panels and even at his age he never complained about anything and was just happy to be there.  

Two of my favorite moments with him happened during his last panel that weekend.  He had been very reserved and had made a point not to curse or accidentally say anything inappropriate for days, but as the weekend progressed he realized that people weren't there to judge him, but to be in awe off him and get to know him.  So at the Sponge Bob panel, which was supposed to be for the children's track but the adult fans had muscled most of them out, a fan waited patiently in line to ask his question. "How do you get such an amazing smile in pictures?" he asked rather nervously.  Ernie laughed and said, "Well, if you say 'shit' it forces your mouth to go in the biggest smile possible" and then he flashed the crowd his famous toothy grin.  More questions were asked and then a young lady came up and asked how he's managed to live for so long.  Ernie's giggling could not be contained, as he had apparently sworn he wasn't going to tell this story anymore.  Years before he had been on set and someone had asked him the same question, his response was, "Well, I masturbate a lot!" and the crowd went wild.  His ability to be so frank and friendly with the crowd made every person in that room feel like they were his best friend by the end, myself included.

He had just completed a new film called The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez and he was so excited about it.   It's supposed to be released later this year so everyone will get one more chance to see a new work by this amazing actor.  I know I'm going to miss him at DragonCon, but I am so grateful I had the opportunity to spend some time with him and get to know him a little bit.  He was the cool grandfather type that everyone wishes they had.