Al Harrington's Legacy Entertainer Award, 2006
by Jerry Pickard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Al is one cool, dynamic guy, to put it mildly. That
was this observer's overall impression, following his acceptance of the First
Legacy Entertainer Award on
This well-deserved honor was given during the 9th Annual Music Foundation of Hawai'i's gala dinner, which also saw others from Five-0 either taking part in the proceedings or, as in the case of the very personable Jimmy Borges, receiving most stellar recognition as well (Male Vocalist). It was very special for this attendee to meet up again with series folks interviewed like the evening's co-emcees Kimo Kahoano & Melveen Leed, along with Carole Kai and Bob Witthans.
But, back to one of the major drawing cards for taking yet another wonderful trip to Honolulu (amid a record-setting rainy season!), and that of course is Mr. Harrington on "his night."
Earlier this year the MFH sent out various inquiries, trying to track Al down to see if he would be willing to receive such a tremendous tribute. Although he had been making himself somewhat more visible in recent times than had been the case for quite a while, it was still challenging to locate him. The writer was fortunate, with others' help as credited in the online newsgroup, to reach Al's devoted and courteous partner Rosa, and ask that contact be made with the MFH. It all fell into place eventually.
To meet Al in person is truly awesome. Most of us remember him from The Show primarily as the very lithe and limber Ben Kokua, jumping and running his way through the credits along with wasting no time in snaring and "booking" the crooks (when it was his turn). He certainly continues to get around most nimbly now, after all these years. But Al asserts perhaps an even more daunting presence at this stage. I mean, the man is simply full-bodied as well as being exceptionally tall! Helping to project an almost regal aura about his person that night was his predominantly white attire, topped with numerous classic leis. What works to save him from falling into the quagmire of egotistical aloofness, which can snare other "show-biz types," is a genuine (and rare) sense of humility. Combine that with relative soft-spokenness, and this writer found him to be most graciously accommodating during the all-too-few interactive moments shared on this very busy occasion, mainly for photos and book-signing, as well as something else. The latter will be described in depth below.
Members of Al's family, along with very close
friends, joined him for this extraordinary event. Maybe it was also something
of a "Welcome-Back" opportunity, because Al revealed that after a
dozen or so years on the mainland, he was currently in the processing of
returning to the
That aside, the evening's mosaica
of music took on especially heart-warming turns when excerpts from the Five-0
theme were played not just once, but twice. These stirring notes reverberated
when both Jimmy and Al were being feted. As well there were some great clips
from their scenes on the show, presented on the stage's screen. Elsewhere in
the world, the feeling could be described as generating
"goose-bumps," but in the
When it was Al's turn to receive his award, a thunderous standing-ovation accompanied the trek. Al's acceptance words were both awe-inspiring and entertaining. It was not at all difficult to see his many years of teaching, coming to the fore! It is hoped that a full text of his speech can be obtained, and shared later.
The evening was, by this hour, heading inexorably
into clear over-time and the writer was put on notice to "keep it short
and sweet." A modest presentation folder, containing the following wording
along with regrets to Al from James MacArthur and Seth
Sakai for their inability to be there with him, was given to Al. Here's the
jest of it:
It was learned later that Al was quite touched by Rebecca's thoughtful summations, and rightly so. Mahalo Rebecca!
Unfortunately, there was not, on this visit, an opportunity for the time needed to have a good "talk-story" with Al. It is hoped that might happen at some point. Meanwhile, I believe it's safe to say that the night just described to some degree, will remain a memorable one for all who could attend. Hope you could sense at least a little of what it was like.
Warm aloha, Jerry
"AND THIS IS STEVE MCQUEEN"
by Jerry Pickard
Well, not really. However, more about that below. The subject of this interview, carried out in February 2006, is Bob Witthan, a very peppy and loquacious man who appeared in quite a few episodes over the series run.
Although Karen Rhodes' BOOKING
The title of this article was almost going to be, somewhat prosaically, "Hi Bob." That was because there was something of a similarity between this insurance-selling Chicago-area native with humorous overtones, and another Bob from 70's television. The latter, Newhart, was originally an accountant who turned comedian, and one of his more enduring sitcoms was set in The Windy City. But the McQueen reference is better, as will be explained shortly.
Acquaintance had been made a few months before we
convened, when he attended a small gathering of Five-0 folks in
Bob and the writer met at one of
It was intriguing to note that Bob described Jack as a "real great guy, a loner sure," yet always very nice to him. Bob still doesn't know why, but on one occasion, he was even invited, as the sole guest, to the Lord apartment near the Kahala Hilton Hotel, which he said he'd never forget.
Of course, reference to Jack Lord's consummate insistence on excellence from all those around him, was mentioned during our meeting. Bob prided himself on making virtually no errors when performing-a trait, which he felt endeared him to Jack considerably. There was one time, however, when a most memorable lapse took place. During one scene in The Ninety-Second War, he was playing Naval Officer George Smallitt and the script called for his character to introduce a number of people, including McGarrett. Unfortunately, he announced to everyone that "And this is Steve McQueen." He was supremely embarrassed by this gaff. However, it must have occurred at an opportune moment, for all present apparently found it highly amusing - even Jack, who laughed the loudest!
On a more sober note, Bob recounted a poem that he heard Jack recite once at a country club gathering, going something like this:
"Sometimes I wonder, what life is all about
Whether I should scream, or joyfully shout.
Whether I should run, or calmly walk away
As I remember that tomorrow is yet another day.
But then I remember
The lord is by my side.
Should I tire,
He'll give me a ride."
This has stuck with him over the decades, and provides, I sensed, comfort and encouragement.
Meeting Bob Witthan was truly a neat event. As we wound down our breakfast "talk-story," he told me of the tombstone inscription he has planned for himself. "God Loves a Humorist-I Hope."
It says it all.
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See you in July, 2006
Be There! Aloha!