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Jack Lord: My Life Is Filled With Miracles

Photoplay March 1974

By Nancy Anderson

The eyes are kind, sometimes sad. But his jaw is like a rock. Both the strength and the sensitivity of Jack Lord are in his face, that face so familiar to and beloved by Hawaii Five-0 fans.

A man of contrasts, Jack Lord! When he swings into action, he bristles with energy drawn from a seemingly inexhaustible supply. Yet, when the pressureís off, heís contemplative, soft-spoken, meeting the world with an old-fashioned courtliness. Because his intelligence goes deep, heís not unaware of lifeís hazards. But, because his faith is also deep, heís not intimidated by them.

Sitting in a canvas chair in borrowed space on a Honolulu hillside, the star talked about his reconciliation with the hard facts of living. A short distance away, under the blue Hawaiian sky, Lordís cop colleagues were playing a scene for Hawaii Five-0 questioning a suspect that Steve McGarrett would shortly confront and convince that crime does not pay. Meanwhile, the showís star, free from duties for awhile, rested in the garage borrowed from a neighborhood householder who seemed more puzzled than awed by the proximity of so much glamour.

The garage was an island shade in an ocean of sunshine. The Honolulu morning light was so clear and bright it seemed to pulsate like the sea, washing flowers and fronds in waves of warmth.

"I donít know how long Iíll do the series," Jack said, "because that will be determined by circumstances beyond my control."

During the first season of Hawaii Five-0, when its prospects were in question (at least so far as most of the world was concerned), Lord said his goal was to keep it on the air for at least five years. But now he wasnít thinking in terms of goals or deadlines. "If itís right for something to happen - in this case for me to continue with a television series - things seem to fall into place," he said. "And everything rolls along harmoniously. There are signs along the way which show us what we should do if only we recognize them. Although the signs come in various ways, they are there. The course we should follow is always indicated. And, in the same way, if somethingís wrong for us, weíre protected."

Jackís conversation was low-key, his voice soft-pitched, but he was speaking with the sincerity of an evangelist. For heís proved his precepts through personal experience, and they are as much a part of him as his physical features.

"If you look for the signs, if you listen to the inner voice, youíll be guided in the right direction," he said. "Oh, yes, itís very easy to think selfishly, to think in terms of Ďmeí but I try not to do that. I try to think in terms of good for the greatest number."

New York Irish, Jack is the true Celt, both vigorous and visionary. He could play football at NYU so well that such sports scribes as Bob Considine called him one of the best tackles in the schoolís history. He can also write, paint, dream dreams and catch the gleam of true realities, through the experiences of day-to-day living.

But as for that inner voice...When he listens to it, how does he know that heís turned into Verity and not merely his own ego? Certainly, no easy problem.

"I know thereís a danger of simply hearing what you want to hear," Jack conceded, "but I believe thereís a way to make a distinction between the true inner voice and the false. The path seems so clear, so pointed, when youíre going in the right direction.

"I could spend hours telling you how I arrived at this conviction, but Iíll give you just one example: My wife, Marie, and I had been living in an apartment for four years when we decided to look for a home in Los Angeles. So, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, we went out with real estate people, looking. We searched and searched, my poor wife and I, until we were desperate - and we still didnít find the home we wanted.

"Finally, Marie said, Ďsince we canít find the house we want, perhaps we should build one.í That seemed a good idea, so we went up to Trousdale Estates one day with a broker, who showed us a beautiful lot with the exact number of feet we needed, and at a price we could afford. It seemed to be ideal. In fact, Marie and I were so pleased, we made an offer on the lot, gave the realtor a check, and then began to plan our home.

"The next morning, after weíd made the offer, we naturally expected to get a call from the real estate agent, saying it had been accepted and that the lot was as good as ours. But nothing happened. So by that afternoon we were rather anxious and called him.

"He told us, that just before heíd brought our check in, another agent had come in with an offer that had been accepted. My reaction was, "my God, weíve been protected! And then only two months later, this show came along and took us to Hawaii."

The show took Jack to Hawaii, all right, but for a time it seemed likely that he wouldnít stay, because todayís hit series was anything but a hit, ratings-wise, during the first semester on the air. "Yes, indeed," Jack confirmed. "The first season was very rocky. But - possibly because of my natural optimism - I can honestly say that there was never a point when I thought the show would go under.

"We not only bought our home here, our condominium, before the series was actually sold, but I had that motor home, which I call my office-dressing room, built even before that. Because I realized I needed four months to get it done and, if Iíd waited until the last minute, I wouldnít have had it when I needed it."

Jack and Marie still donít own a dream house. However, they are happily (and permanently, they say) owner residents of a spacious apartment overlooking the ocean in the fashionable Kahala section of Honolulu. Their huge living room captures the cool green of an occasional sea, but Marieís suite is pink like the sunrises they can watch from their balcony lanai. However, the decor wasnít drawn from the sunrise. Marie decorated her suite around a flower painting Jack did, which is the focal point in their bedroom.

"I realized very early that things are ordered for our good," Jack said. "Very early. In our family, we were brought up on that philosophy. Both my father and mother instilled it into us: The place you seek is seeking you; the place you need, needs you. Let it unfold rather than try to make it happen.

"Donít try to force events, for forcing things never seems to work out. I never try to fight against the signs that are there to guide me or against the inner voice. When Iím in a terrible quandary, I go alone and say, ĎNot my will but Thine,í and then itís very clear. Very clear.

"I read a statement by Harold Russell, the man whose hands were blown off during World War II and who won an Oscar in The Best Years of Our Lives, in which he said that his terrible handicap had forced him to become a better human being, kinder to everyone heís come into contact with. Everyone, he said, has a problem of some kind. Everyone. Russell also said his handicap had forced him to pick himself up by his bootstraps and make something out of himself. ĎIím grateful for the experience,í he said. When a man with two hands missing can have that philosophy and be grateful...That takes a lot of guts, or a lot of faith, or a combination of the two."

Although Jack has never faced such adversity as Harold Russell, heís known his own tribulation. As a young shipwrecked merchant mariner, he almost died. As a young would-be actor, he almost starved. But, in the first instance, he held onto life, and in the second, he held onto hope - so he survived both experiences a better man than he might have been without them.

Hardship hones the character; heartbreak, the spirit. And Jack has known both, which helps to explain how he endures with such equanimity meanness and misrepresentation directed at himself. Heís been target for printed attacks, especially in one publication, deadly enough to have sent a sensitive man into fits of screaming rage or into broken-spirited retirement. But Jack, though keenly sensitive, has weathered the abuse without visible scars.

"Visible," however is the critical word here. The verbal arrows havenít just pricked - theyíve wounded, and he confesses as much. Still, heís not looking for sympathy.

"I really feel," he said, "that when a person goes about hurting another with venom and vindictiveness, with malice aforethought, heís the one to be pities. I know whatís in my heart, and I know what my relations are with my fellow human beings. I try to keep them on a very positive level. So, if somebody tries to hurt me, I remember the story about Constantine, how he was told, ĎA mob has just broken the head of your statue with stones.í And how, he, putting his hands to his head, said, ĎThatís strange. I donít feel a thing.í

"Of course, when youíre brutally attacked, you suffer a first shock, you know? Itís like being kicked in the gut. You think, ĎWhy? Whatís the motivation? Is it jealousy? Why did he deliberately put a shiv between my second and third ribs?í And thereís self-examination, too, because, if youíve done or thought something to warrant this kind of treatment, youíd want to know what it is and try to avoid doing it again.

"But I honestly think that the one whoís done the hurting is the one to be pitied most. For heís the one whoíll have to make restitution. Not I. Emerson said, ĎThe dice of the gods are loaded, so beware.í There are laws besides those on the statute books to take care of balancing the account. You donít have to take care of it personally.

"Iím sure that during my life Iíve hurt others. Of course I have. I donít think you can get through life without inadvertently hurting someone. I have never deliberately injured anyone in my life. However, Iím sure that in moments of anger or thoughtlessness Iíve hurt somebody - and Iím sorry."

Where workís concerned, Jack has a reputation for running a tight ship, but, by doing so, heís brought his series into snug harbor - a niche among the top five shows as rated by Nielsen.

"Iím proud to run a tight ship," Jack said. "When we came here, we had many problems. I love Hawaii, but itís a land of manana. More so than in Mexico.

"When we got here, we were fighting to survive, so I used to say to the guys on the crew, ĎLook. Youíre not working for CBS, Youíre not working for a production company. Youíre working for yourself! And, unless you realize that, we are all going to be out of work. When you run to get a lamp, you are doing yourself a favor, because, if we canít make budget, if we canít do these shows on time, we might as well fold our tents now and go home.

"And that was just the beginning. Iíve gone on the road to promote Hawaii Five-0. Iíve made 70 to 80 phone calls from my home at 6 oíclock in the morning every year to talk to television editors and columnists about the show. Nobody paid me to do that - and I didnít want pay. Thatís the kind of thing you have to do behind the scenes if you are going to succeed. I ask professionalism from the people with whom I work. I work hard and I expect everyone else to, and if they donít, they hear from me. Itís as simple as that.

"Birth is always hard, and to make ours more difficult we were pre-empted four out of our first nine shows on the air," Lord remembered. "Then, when we first went on, we had a lead-in called Blondie which lasted 13 weeks. After than, Mike Dann (the vice president of CBS) came down here. I remember walking with him along the beach, and he said, ĎJack, Iíve got a great new lead-in for you. Itís a thing called The Queen and I - itís about an ocean liner, with Larry Storch. That was our Ďbig lead-in,í and that was also a flop.

"But in spite of that, I think CBS realized we had something interesting going here. We had the right cast and solid story lines, and, even though we werenít getting Brownie points in the Nielsens because of the preemptions and the difficult time slot, I have a feeling network people realized we were a quality show. Nobody ever told me, but I think they knew we were on the right track.

"So, on Christmas night, 1968, Mike Dann switched us to Wednesday at 10:00 and from there we began to climb. We gradually went into the top 20, and then into the top 10 and then into the top 5, where weíve stayed pretty consistently."

Jack is a man whoís in love with both his work and his wife, so, while he operates under a back-breaking schedule, heís remarkably happy.

"Iím not afraid of anything," he said. "Isnít that a terrible thing to say? But I really am not. Someone once said to me, ĎFear is only false evidence appearing real.í

In answer to a question, he said, "If I knew my life were nearly over, that I were going to die a month from today, I wouldnít do a damn thing differently. Except that Iíd be sure to spend the whole month with my wife. I donít think Iíd want to know I was going to die, but should I find out, Iíd want to spend my remaining time with the one I love. You can be sure Iíd spend 24 hours a day with my girl."

Jackís a guy whoís caught the gold ring. But not through happenstance. Heís worked hard to earn his treasures, including material comfort, professional acclaim, a marvelously complete and happy marriage, and general contentment. However, not even these are the greatest of his assets. Best of all, Jack has a philosophy and spiritual values to sustain him even if everything else were denied.

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