A night with an ex wife, her high school crush and Ernest Borgnine

Posted on August 28, 2011

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Some time ago, I think it was 2009, my friend Denise who does these kind of things invited me to an Oscar Party and gifting suite that was to be the kick-off for a new not for profit “The Believe in Dreams Foundation.” Well, I’m a dreamer and as I’m fond of saying,  “I do love me some swag.”

me with nancee borgnine

me with mr. borgnine

The party was hosted by Ernie and Tova Borgnine and Ernie’s daughter Nancee (who I’ve known for a few years). Also it was going to be on the old McHale’s Navy sound stage…and as anyone who has ever met me will tell you – I LOVE classic television.

Simply love it. I was stoked to go to this one.

Karen "Roxy" Karich

At about the same that party invite came through, I had recently been put back in touch with my friend Karen Karich. Karin and I played husband and wife in a benefit production of Chicago many years ago (me as Amos, she as Roxie – hence the “ex-wife”). She and I hadn’t really seen each other in years so I asked her to be my date. As far as I know she hadn’t been to one of these kind of events before. I had, but they’re usually great fun and it was a good cause. So, I drove over, picked Karen up and off we went.

I also invited my friends Christian Campbell and his wife America Olivo, and they had friends with them and they all met us at the party. You never know who is going to show up to these things. This particular event had quite an eclectic guest list. There were people who I knew casually, like Suzanne Whang, people I  knew from back when I worked at Nick at Nite and TV Land (there’s that classic television thing again) like Jerry Mathers, Doris Roberts, Scott Baio and…wait…SCOTT BAIO! Scott Baio was at the party. Karen (my date) started frothing at the mouth and squealing. I mean she went NUTS like cocker spaniel on the wrong side of a sliding glass door when they see a squirrel on the back porch. I practically had to hold her down and stuff my wallet in her mouth to keep her from swallowing her tongue. No, that’s an exaggeration. She was perfectly lovely and refined the entire time (once her nails were dug back out of my forearm.)

It turns out that she had a Scott Baio poster inside her locker in junior high. Unbeknownst to Mr. Baio, he had apparently broken his promise to marry Karen, despite the fact that they’d never actually communicated in any way shape or form. At the very least, Karen thought he owed her a photo of the two of them together to prove something. Bear in mind, at the point in the evening when I was informed of his dastardly treatment of my faux-ex, they still hadn’t even met. But that meant nothing to Karen who was quickly devolving into a teenager right before my eyes.

If I was to prevent Karen from continuing her Benjamin Button like journey through time (and thereby prevent myself from entering with the adult mother of two, but leaving with preschooler) I had to do something. So I walked up to Mr. Baio, introduced myself and explained that either he would agree to take a picture with my date, or I would be forced to go looking for pampers within the hour.

Having been friends with many well known people from movies and television over the years, I long ago stopped questioning other people’s reactions to famous people. But Karen surprised me. I suppose we all have someone who will trigger a strong reaction. I’ve been fortunate to meet, work with or become friends with many people I admire, but I daresay that if or when I meet Barbra Streisand I might become a blithering idiot and (to borrow a phrase from Will & Grace) have a “Yentl Breakdown.”

Anyway, back to Baio… he plastered on his best, “Thank you for remembering who I am and please try not to embarrass me in front of my wife” face and took a few pics with Karen. He really was quite gracious about the whole thing considering that he hadn’t appeared to be in the best of moods prior to that moment.

my "ex-wife" with her "ex-husband"

Karen came back to our table (me, Suzanne, her date, Christian, America and their friends – and Doris Roberts who had appeared inexplicably out of nowhere, and then changed tables faster than they switched the Dicks on Bewitched.) We all enjoyed the rest of our dinner and the presentation about the charity etc. It was a really nice evening, and I can’t help but thinking that if Karen hadn’t gotten her picture with Scott Baio, there would have been a rift in the time-space continuum.

I drove Karen home, and went home myself. And then within hours, Karen had all pictures of her actual husband deleted from Facebook, and Scott Baio was everywhere. One of us left that party very happy, the other left more than a little amused.

suzanne, christian, ernie

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