Tova Borgnine, Cosmetics Maven and QVC Star, 80 . but die
Ms. Borgnine was a serial beauty entrepreneur who found success with a lucrative skin care line whose pedigree was a back story. Worried that the dry desert air was making the showgirls of Las Vegas, who were her clients, looked older than her years, she set out to find an emollient to heal her skin. As the story goes, she pressures actress Merle Oberon to reveal the secret of her dark complexion, which turns out to be a mask based on an ancient Aztec formula involving a cactus made by a family in Mexico. Ms. Borgnine traces the family, and they agree to sell her the formula.
But in the fall of 1976, before he had a proper company or settled manufacturing and distribution, an item in a syndicated gossip column noted his mottled look of Mr. Borgnine and his wife’s plugging cactus face mask. . Within days, as the Borgnines reported, they received hundreds of letters for the product, and checks totaling $56,000.
“It must have been a slow news day,” Ms Borgnine liked to say.
The Borgnines put together a new business. He called it Tova 9, a play on his last name. Mr Borgnine called himself “Guinea Pig No 1” and often remembered convincing his wife to use her mask.
“So she tells me, ‘Honey, try that.’ I say, ‘murmur, murmur.’ But I put stuff,” he told The Boston Globe in 1978. “So help me Hannah, I love stuff.”
In an interview, Christopher Borgnine confirmed that the tales were not apocryphal: he regularly recalled coming home and seeing his father reading the newspaper in the living room, his famous features frozen in a bright pink face mask.
Mr Borgnine used to boast to reporters about his wife’s products: “I shave with it, bathe with it, shampoo with it, brush my teeth with it and smooth my skin with it.” The soap lathers well in hard water, he said, and his friend Steve McQueen once took the spot 60 times. Burt Reynolds, an avid catalog buyer, was a customer. So was Elke Sommer and Charo. (Ms. Borgnine’s business was always mail order only.) In the early 1980s, she added a line of Burt Reynolds men at her request.
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