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The Borgnine Way

Tova stretches and tones. Ernie runs everywhere on 'The Single Guy' set. But together, they walk.

November 20, 1996

She is CEO of Tova Corp., owner of the Body Mind & Spirit Salon in Beverly Hills, and travels to Pennsylvania every six weeks to sell her skin care line on QVC.

He is an Oscar winner (best actor, 1956, "Marty"), starred in the TV comedy "McHale's Navy," and today co-stars as Manny the doorman on NBC's sitcom "The Single Guy."

Together they are the Borgnines: Tova, 56, and Ernie, 79. They've been married 23 years.

During this interview on fitness, the couple explained how they met--on a blind date at a party. That evening, he escorted her back to her hotel, which had an elevator operator. The elevator man kept trying to close the gate, but Tova discretely wedged her foot in the door to give Ernie time to ask her out.

He did.


The Inspiration

His: "I'm the original couch potato, but I'll tell you something: I exercise because of her. I was laying out there in that easy chair of mine saying, 'Well, I'll get up tomorrow and do whatever.' One day she stumbled over me and she said, 'Ernie, get a job.' So I said, 'Oh, Lord. I'm semiretired.' Well, my agent found 'The Single Guy.' "

Hers: "We've all seen the jiggles especially on women. . . . Everything starts drooping, so for us girls exercise from the waist down is vitally important. It's a matter of keeping the muscles toned."


The Regime

His: "At first I worried myself sick trying to keep up with all these young people on the show. Man, they can move. Now I kind of feel good about it when I do."

Ernie took to running everywhere, even on the set. "When they give me a call, I try to run. Not hard, but just trot in and trot back."

He also walks the stairs at home at least 20 times a day. "Plus I have one of those machines that you pull on and push at the same time, and I do 50 to 100 a day in no time at all. Bam, it's done."

If he's home with nothing to do, he will work out by washing down and polishing his customized bus, the Sunbum.

Hers: Daily floor exercises, mostly toning and stretching.

She also does posture work with a stick. "It's actually a cutoff broomstick. You put it behind the shoulders, hold on to it with your hands, straighten your posture and walk."

Theirs: "What we're great at," she says, "is walking. Walking is the best, and you can have a wonderful time doing it. Also, you get energy and clarity and the ability to take care of things."

"Not only that," he adds, "but we have one of the biggest driveways you've ever seen. It's a good quarter-mile, so in no time at all you're doing a mile."


The Dreaded Topic

He says: "Food is a horrible subject with us for the simple reason that, well, she doesn't cook. After we were married she said, 'You know that room in there where all the pots and pans are hanging?' I said, 'Honey, it's not a room. It's a kitchen.' "


The Favorite Fare

* Breakfast

Hers: Melon and coffee.

His: Rice cakes with jam and peanut butter, and tea.

* Lunch

Hers: Vegetable soup and salad. Carrots and celery at the office because the crunching is good for the nerves. Grilled white fish during business lunches and iced tea or white wine. She carries water with her everywhere she goes.

His: At home, a salad with tuna and oil and vinegar, half a sandwich or soup or rice. On the set, vegetables and fruit.

* Dinner

She says: "When we go down to Ernie's favorite restaurant, he will have pasta. I have pasta once in a while but usually vegetables. I don't eat red meat hardly at all anymore."

He says: "I don't eat red meat at all. And, you know, there are times we pig out."

She discloses: "We'll have that extra dessert or some champagne to have a fun evening."

He 'fesses up: "Even get a pizza."

* Guest Workout runs Wednesdays in Life & Style.

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