In the company of a friend whom I owe so much to, who knows me very well, I embarked upon an expedition to an exhibition (so to speak) in the depths of Burbank, to see and speak to a human being of such robust intensity and cinematic charisma that you stand rapt in wonder when, instead of seeing this person on a television or cinema screen, he is suddenly there in front of you, larger than life, even in real life. I waited ¾ of an hour in a queue to see this person, and anticipation made the wait dissolve into no time at all.


The moment arrived, and then there I was, next in line for an experience I’d only ever been on the other side of (save for once in my childhood). Yes, Sgt. Benton was but one fan amongst many, waiting for a star’s autograph. This experience was magnified enormously by another meeting of a younger cinematic hero of mine, for whom I was obtaining this autograph as a gift (having met and befriended this person at a signing event in the UK a few months prior). There are so few actors one can really admire (you know how few), so to obtain the autograph of one for the benefit of the other made this a doubly surreal moment.


I will keep you in suspense no longer. I was there to meet the magnificent Ernest Borgnine. I simply cannot think of many other actors who possesses such a powerful and dynamic character, both on-screen, and even more-so face-to-face. He captures attention with his sparkling array of brilliant portrayals in From here to Eternity, The Wild Bunch, and an host of other films in his long and illustrious career. This autograph was a surprise gift for my lovely friend, David Bradley (whose website link can be found on my site), who acted many years ago with Mr. Borgnine in the film All Quiet on the Western Front.


When my turn had come to get an autograph and have my photo taken with Mr. Borgnine, my heart was aflutter, and all the words I had formed and rehearsed repeatedly in my mind waiting in the queue I suddenly realized had to be blurted out in the brief moment one is allowed at such signings. How can one make a good impression with a personal hero faced with that sort of pressure? I was so surprised at my own reaction at having around my shoulders the caring arm of this man I had admired all my adult life. I have always been aware of the emotions of the many fans in similar situations who have approached me for my autograph over the years, but now I have personally experienced the full spectrum of this emotional event from the “other side”. To that end, I am so pleased I have always bothered to understand fans and their desire to meet and interact with me, a most fortunate actor who appeared in television and film.


So, I have my friend, Kent Edens, to thank for inviting me to this show, and David Bradley to thank for providing the purpose of my queuing for Mr. Borgnine’s autograph. I thank both of these men for showing me the other side of the coin.


Long live loyalty and understanding!

John Levene






© Copyright 2011 John Levene Sgt. At Arms
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