“My Oscar is fifty years old Sunday night,” Ernest Borgnine happily recalled. He’d just received a standing ovation when introduced Friday night at the National Italian American Foundation salute to the Academy Awards — celebrating 78 years of Italian-American Oscar winners and nominees.
Past honorees have included Sophia Loren, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Frank Sinatra — twice. Borgnine received his Oscar for “Marty” — for which he said he was paid $5000 — “and I would have done it for nothing.” The robust Borgnine also revealed he is 89 years old — and has recently completed four films — one in Italy — and in Italian!
Also toasted at the evening’s reception were Italy’s Oscar-nominated “Don’t Tell” director Cristina Comencine and costar Stefania Rocca. Jack Valenti who co-chaired the dinner also presented the National Italian American Foundation scholarship check to USC student Mario Bucca. Tom Dreesen was a hit as host as was guest performer Fred Travalena.
The Hollywood-Italian-American contingent on hand included Connie Stevens, Dom DeLuise, Robert Loggia, Al Martino, Larry Minetti, and — Franco Nero. Also there Doris Roberts who had filmed two segs of “Everybody Loves Raymond” outside Rome. The NIAF’s Joe Correll welcomed all and intro’d visiting dignitaries — well as L.A.’s Mayor Antonio Villariagosa who announced he wants to honor Jack Valenti by presenting him with a revived tradition — the key to the city.