Friday, September 11, 2009


It is amazing how quickly people forget. On Sept. 11, 2001, I had thought all of America had learned to have new respect for the word "hero." But in the eight years that have gone by, I have heard that word hurled at all sorts of people.

The one that infuriates me is when any over-paid professional athlete is called a "hero." Excuse me? A criminal like Michael Vick is not any sane person's idea of a hero. Only that rare athlete that triumphs over a physical challenge or illness deserves to be called a hero. I, for one, would stand and cheer for Lance Armstrong or figure skater Scott Hamilton anytime, anywhere.

I could even understand athletes who can lay claim to landmark achievements being seen as heroes -- the longtime grace and talent of New York Yankee Derek Jeter are worth celebrating, worth emulating. But such should be the exception -- not the rule.

On Sept. 11, 2001, a small army of police and firemen ran into unspeakable danger at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when everyone else was desperately trying to run away. Those men and women were heroes. So were the many thousands of rescue workers who labored at those attack sites, compromising their health -- they too were heroes, and some have already paid with their lives, and many are being denied help with crippling medical costs. Shame on our country for treating these heroes so shabbily!

All sports commentators please take note: let's treat the word "hero" with greater care. Label "stars" and "celebrities" as what they are -- heroes are just that . . . heroes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ernest Borgnine, Lying Coward

In 1964, many an eyebrow was raised when Ethel Merman married Ernest Borgnine. Foreheads fell back into place when the marriage ended after just a few days. Merman filed for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty, and neither she nor Borgnine would ever publicly discuss what was obviously a very painful experience for both of them.

Well, Mr. Borgnine has finally decided to vomit on his ex-wife's memory. In his recently published 2008 autobiography and interviews relating to it, Borgnine claims that other passengers on their honeymoon cruise did not recognize Merman, setting her into a rage that led to the quick break-up. So if you believe Borgnine, one of the most infamous break-ups in show business history occurred because he was better known than Merman.

What anobvious load of crap! While it is true that in 1964 Borgnine was an Academy Award-winning actor and star of the popular sitcom McHales Navy, Merman had been a stage and screen star for three decades, and had just enjoyed international acclaim in the hit comedy film It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963). A frequent guest on television's top rated talk and variety shows, Merman was one of the most recognizable celebrities in America. To suggest that her fame was substantially less than Borgnine's is not just a lie, but a clumsy one.

The fact that Borgnine is now 92 does not make his attack on Merman any less despicable. Interviews make it obvious that he is clear headed and in full control of his faculties, so he knows what he is saying. To do this when Merman is no longer around to tell her side of the story forever marks Borgnine as a coward, and a lying coward at that. If there was one ounce of truth in what Borgnne says, he could have told his side of the story when Merman was alive with little to fear. No, he waited until she was dead for a quarter century to spew this vile nonsense. Whatever the truth of the Borgnine-Merman marriage is, it is clearly so humiliating to Borgnine that he finds it necessary to close out his life by lying about it.

Shame on you, Mr. Borgnine. Whatever you have been as an actor, you are finally nothing but a disgrace as a human being. You will soon join Merman in death, and this is how you will be remembered -- as a lying coward. Rest assured that plenty of us will mark you as such for decades to come.

And a p.s. to Robert Osbourne of TCM -- you can call yourself a "journalist and film historian" all you lie, but your interview of Mr. Borgnine makes it clear that you are neither. Any journalist or historian would have challenged Borgnine's cowardly attack on Merman. By merely sitting there and nodding as he heaped calumny on the dead, you proved to be nothing more than another fawning TV celebrity brown nose. You are an embarassment to those of us who treat show business history as a serious subject, and have about as much right to call yourself a journalist-historian as Tyra Banks.
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