Borgnine, Carradine turn out for Hallmark premiere
Putting Ernest Borgnine in "McHale’s Navy," the 1960s TV sit-com, turned out to be pretty good casting: Borgnine spent 10 years in the Navy between 1935 and 1945.
While in Peoria Wednesday to help launch the Hallmark Movie Channel, Borgnine, 91, took the time to visit with the family of his former Navy skipper Paul Haberkorn, who served with Borgnine during World War II.
"He was a wonderful man," said Borgnine of Haberkorn, a Peorian who died in 1986. The pair served together on the USS Sylph, a converted yacht used to hunt down German submarines in the Atlantic, said the actor.
"I could have done more damage (to German U-boats) with a slingshot," said Borgnine of the antiquated armament aboard the Sylph.
Because of the aged artillery aboard, the Sylph’s crew needed to be on the ball, Borgnine said. "Haberkorn was one of the best skippers I had. You could tell he was from the Midwest. He was always friendly."
Borgnine met with Haberkorn’s widow, Emma, and her daughters, Jeanne Barclay and Lynne Lisenby, along with husband Jerry Lisenby, before Hallmark’s afternoon ceremonies at the Civic Center.
The group reminisced about the trip the Haberkorns made in the 1960s to visit Borgnine in Hollywood while he starred in "McHale’s Navy."
"Ernie invited us to come and visit him in Beverly Hills again. He said he’s still living in the same house," said Barclay.
Borgnine, who starred in the Hallmark Channel’s holiday movie, "A Grandpa for Christmas," came to Peoria along with David Carradine to help promote Hallmark’s family-oriented offerings.
"If it plays well in Peoria, it will play well across the United States," said Hallmark CEO Henry Schleiff to applause from 90 students from the Fine Arts Academy at Peoria High School and 100 others who gathered in the Civic Center’s Great Hall for the ceremonies.
Schleiff used some Hollywood touches to kick off Hallmark’s channel promotion. Chinese dancers performed before a pagoda erected inside the Civic Center to celebrate the first airing of Carradine’s "Son of the Dragon" miniseries Wednesday night on the movie channel.
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis welcomed the Hallmark Channel to town, inviting them to become honorary Peorians as well as offering to accept any taxes they’d be willing to pay.
John Reardon and Desiree Siahaan, the young stars in "Dragon," spoke of their roles in the show before Carradine came to the podium. Appearing much like his character in "Kung Fu," the 1970s TV show, Carradine gave the new Hallmark program his seal of approval.
"Of the 120 movies I’ve done, I’d rate it in the top 10," he said.
While Schleiff was effusive in his appreciation for Peoria, Carradine wasn’t so sure. "Don’t you think we should come back to Peoria to make a movie?" he asked the actor. "How much money are we talking about?"
Peoria High School students Jade Tunks and Jasmin Armstrong said they recognized Carradine from the two "Kill Bill" movies.
"It’s fun to see famous people," said Armstrong.
Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or email@example.com.