Julie Cline, the Senior Nonfiction Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, writes at the review today about her father's LA life and travels on the edges of the Hollywood movie machine. Her father lives on a boat in San Pedro, "a retired builder, general contractor, and salesman of everything from used cars to room additions." He's not really an actor, but he showed up in a film shot last year. Cline goes with him to a crossing of paths with Ernest Borgnine.
I met Ernest Borgnine last summer at a wrap party for The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, set in a retirement home and billed as a family western. The director is a man (a kid? he looked very young) named Elia Petridis, and it appears that this is Petridis’s first film. It was Borgnine’s last.
Falcon on Sunset is a place I’d been a few times — for some forgettable, star-related events — but on this night I was there with my dad. Worlds, in a way, were colliding.
We spotted Ernie relaxing at a wood bench, taking in the scene. Leaning against an ivy-covered wall, his face lit by a thousand little lights that ran up and down the trees on the patio, he looked every bit the cross between Oscar the Grouch and Ernie (of Bert and Ernie) that I remembered him: mouth agape, heavy brows akimbo. Before we could get to him, we had to go through “That red-headed gal, Kelly — that’s the AD.”
Kelly was lit up, too. She ushered us to the actor’s table. “Ernie?” she said softly, bending to touch his arm. “Ernie, this is Jim, he’s the one who…”
As he listened, Ernie’s eyes grew wider and wider. In what seemed like momentary horror, he turned to look at Kelly. He raised his thick eyebrows — In anger? Confusion? — and gently squeezed her hand.
“I know who Jim is,” he said.
The look on Borgnine’s face, the gesture, appeared to contain two thoughts: 1.) “Don’t treat me like an old man,” and 2.) “Show some respect to this man.” The same thought, really.