HONOLULU -- Jack Lord wasn't shooting on the day when I visited with him on the set of Hawaii Five-O. But even when the star isn't in a scene, he often gets in his motor home and has his driver take him to where the company is working.
It is really his show. Over the years, Jack has outlasted many producers, directors, and even heads of the network, so he feels, with some justification, that he knows better than anyone how the show should be done and what makes it successful.
On this day, Jack was dressed in a dapper leisure suit topped off with a stunning white bone necklace, which he said was called a "lei palao." By now, after 12 years of the series and of living and working on Hawaii, he knows a great deal about island customs and habits.
He wanted to show me a certain view, so we drove to the shore. As we got out of the motor home, there was a group of Hawaiian teenage boys, lounging around the beach, drinking beer, and laughing. Everybody knows Jack Lord on Hawaii, and everybody considers him a friend.
"Hey, Jacklord!" they called. They turned his two names into one -- they never call him Jack or Mr. Lord, but always Jacklord. "Hey, Jacklord! Come here. Got a heavy photo I want to show you."
Jack walked over to the boys, who were giggling in anticipation of this chance to show their hero their prize snapshot. One of them produced it from a wallet with a flourish, and Lord looked at it, and politely oohed and aahed. "I thought it was going to be a naked girl," he told me later, "or a shot of some weird kind of lovemaking. But it wasn't, it was a picture of this boy with a squid on his head."
Jack is a Hawaiian hero with good reason. In the 12 years that the show has been here, it has been a tremendous and very positive factor in the state's economy. The show has dumped an estimated $100 million into the state, plus untold millions in salaries it has paid to locals.
Even more valuable, however, is the boost Hawaii Five-O has given Hawaiian tourism. Jack says the latest survey, made by the Hawaiian Visitors Bureau indicated that one out of every four of Hawaii's first-time tourists says he was attracted to the islands by watching Hawaii Five-O.
This, however, will almost certainly be the show's last year on CBS. There were certain indications that last year would be the last, but CBS decided to go with it for one more year. Lord has made some changes in the show, and he says that this coming year could be one of the best.
New this year are Sharon Farrell, William Smith, and Moe Keale. But, Jack says, they are not to be considered replacements for James MacArthur, who has left the show. The three were hired before he got the news that MacArthur was leaving. In fact, he is a little unhappy about the MacArthur situation. "Jimmy waited until the last minute to tell me he was leaving," Jack says, and that cost us a lot of money, because we had to rewrite scripts he was in."
[Back in Los Angeles I talked to MacArthur about that, and he said it wasn"t true. He said he had made up his mind some time ago, and had informed CBS of his decision to leave the show. "I worked for CBS, I didn't work for Jack Lord," he says. If there was any slowness on CBS's part in not relaying the news to Jack, he says that's not his fault.]
We drove back to a dingy little Japanese-language newspaper office in downtown Honolulu, where the company was shooting. Sharon Farrell and William Smith, who are now playing Jack's chief aides, had a scene in which they were questioning an old lady, who worked in the newspaper's library.
The company is very mobile. The studio -- not far from downtown Honolulu -- has one standing set, the Hawaii Five-O office, and all the rest of the scenes are shot on location. So it is a familiar sight on the small island of Oahu to see the company's busses and trucks rolling along the streets. And, always, they are followed by Jack Lord's motor home, with the distinctive license plate, Five-O.
Jack says he has been after CBS for some years to let him add a lady to the regular cast. "They felt I should leave well enough alone," he says. "But each year I felt more strongly about it. This year, when they said they wanted me to do another year, I talked to Bob Daley (president of CBS Television) because he's one of the few executives I have met I can talk to without feeling that I have to weigh every word I say. I said, 'Bob, if you want us to do another year, you're going to let me have a girl on the show.'"
They finally agreed. Lord immediately thought of Sharon Farrell, an actress he respects. She has appeared as a guest star on three episodes of the show -- once playing a young revolutionary, once a hooker, once a dual role of two contrasting sisters who turn out to be the same person.
To capitalize on Sharon's ability to play many types of characters, they are making her an undercover cop, an Angie Dickinson type of police woman. And there is another similarity between Sharon and Angie -- Sharon now has Angie's makeup man. "His name is Al Fama and we call him The Italian Stallion," she says. "I think he's a lucky omen for me. Angie is such a fabulous person, and so I think it's great that I have Al working with me now."
Sharon thinks that a stint in Hawaii will be good for her. She has always been a highstrung woman, and she herself calls herself "a scrapper." She hopes that maybe Hawaii will "mellow me out." If not, she'll also be busy with meditation and karate lessons. For a girl who has always done everything at high speed, Hawaii means change. Here everything is done on what they call "Hawaiian time," meaning very, very slowly. At first, Sharon worried about that, about things not getting done, but now she has learned to adapt. When in Hawaii, behave like the Hawaiians do!
Her new partner is William Smith, probably best remembered before this as the heavy, Falconetti, on Rich Man, Poor Man. Before that he was a heavy in at least a dozen motorcycle pictures, but now he's a hero, and he's happy about the change.
From his roles, you might expect the actor to be a musclebound clod. He isn't. He is, on the contrary, an extremely well-educated man, with a master's degree and many hours of study toward his doctorate. His field is the Russian language, and for a time he taught Russian at UCLA and had been planning on a career with a government agency, perhaps the CIA, as a Russian language expert. Acting interfered.
Smith and his French wife find they love Hawaii. They met when he worked one summer years ago as a lifeguard in Nice. That was the year when he sowed his wild oats. "I love France," he says. "If I could make a living there, I think I'd live in France." He speaks French fluently, as wen as Russian and German. He says, almost as an afterthought, that he has lost most of the Yugoslavian he once knew -- "Yugoslavian was my minor at UCLA."
Another newcomer to Hawaii Five-O this season is a gigantic Hawaiian named Moe Keale. (He will join the veteran Herman Wedemeyer as the Hawaiian members of the team.) Keale comes from a family that is BIG. He now boasts of being a svelte 275 pounds, having dieted off 100 pounds. Nevertheless, he is one of the skinniest of the family: He has two cousins who weigh around 600 each, and he had a 700-pound grandfather. Hawaii, you remember, is a country that places a value on size and prizes heaviness as a virtue.
Eight years ago, Moe was a member of the Hawaii Five-O crew, a grip, handling heavy equipment. They needed a heavyset Hawaiian to play a bodyguard on one episode that season and asked him to do the part. His career as an actor began with that assignment.
They finished shooting the scenes in the newspaper office, and everybody piled into the busses and trucks -- cars for the principals, and Jack in his motor home -- and moved back to the studio, where they were going to shoot a few scenes in the Five-O office.
Bill Smith said that he has a hunch the series might go beyond this next season.Jack really doesn't want to do any more, but Bill's hope is that he and Sharon catch on. He thinks that if the public likes them, Jack could be persuaded.to continue with the show, although doing much less, with Sharon and Bill carrying most of the load.
"My contract is up after this year," Jack says, "and I honestly think I've got to stop then, for many reasons. Mostly it's because my sweet, marvelous wife, Marie, wants to see more of me. She wants me to come home. So, for her sake, I've got to -- after all, I've been doing this for 12 years now. There are so many other things I want to do."
Certainly, financial considerations play no part in his decision. He says he has had good advice on what to do with his money and has nothing to worry about, financially. One thing Jack vows he will not do is enter Hawaiian politics, despite pressure from both parties for him to become a candidate for one office or another.
In Hawaii, chances are that Jack could get elected to any office he aspired to, and the Republicans and Democrats have, both been wooing him. "I told them all," he says, "that I am simply not cut out for politics. I wouldn't be able to knuckle under, which is what politicians have to do. I'm just no good dancing at the end of a string."
But, of course he wants to stay in show business in one way or another. He has made a pilot for a series -- M Station Hawaii -- which CBS will air in the fall. If that sells, he says he will be involved with it, although not on a daily basis. He has forged a new company for this season that is fast becoming a family.
After work, Marie and Jack took over a room in a lovely Chinese restaurant in Waikiki and invited the cast. It was a relaxed, fun evening and Jack (I sat at his table) told stories about the old days in live television in New York.
Intrigued, the rest of the group then shared their own personal way-back-when stories. All in all, this laughing group of coworkers was truly one big, happy family.