On the Set of

Bored She Hung Herself

 

By JOEL BERLINER 


I first contacted Joel Berliner, who starred in Bored She Hung Herself, the notorious banned 1970 episode of Hawaii Five-O, in early 2016. MQ



I played Hank Weatherly in the episode Bored She Hung Herself, and yes, somewhere in America, someone hanged themselves after watching the show. Their parents sued CBS, and shelving the episode was part of the settlement. The first [and only] broadcast in January 1970 was the first time Hawaii 5-0 cracked the top 10 in TV ratings. I was 12, and I was dismayed when it didn't rerun that summer.

The following year I had a one liner in Force of Waves -- "Mom, I'm going now" -- and two years later was the kid on a bicycle in Pig in a Blanket (in a brief scene with Chin Ho). In that show, I auditioned for the part that went to Jim Simpson. He played the kid who gets shot by Danno. I did get my learners permit from my parents out of it, since I needed a license for the audition in case I got the part.

Bored She Hung Herself was directed by John Newland (One Step Beyond), and my mother in the show was played by a wonderful actress in Honolulu, Patricia Herman, wife of playwright George Herman [also an actor on other episodes of the show].

During the filming of Bored, Jack Lord called me "kiddo" all week, and was exceptionally gracious and nice. Several years later, when my brother had a part in the episode The Grandstand Play, Jack asked him on the set, "Are you Joel's brother?" It is interesting how good Jack Lord looks in Bored-- and then I realize he was younger than I am now when he filmed this!

I have very fond memories of all those shows. Ted Thorpe, the original casting director, was great to me, but then he died of a heart attack off the Kahala Hilton (where Jack Lord lived), or I might have had more episodes. James MacArthur was super cool. He used to come to the set in Levi shorts and a T-shirt, and was, of course, married to Melody Patterson at the time. Chin Ho could never remember his lines!

Before they built the studios by Diamond Head (still in use today) the casting offices were in a dinky suite of offices above Honolulu's biggest record store, across the street from the Ala Moana shopping center. This was when they were filming indoor sets in a warehouse in Pearl City. I first read for Ted in 1968 in those offices, and got called back a year later for Bored. By then they were in the Diamond Head studios.

MQ: In Pig in a Blanket, the episode with Chin Ho, are you the kid heckling him as he was pulling stuff out of a Goodwill box, including a brassiere!

Yes. It's odd that two of my three episodes involve a bicycle. Of course my big scene in Bored is the "Wanda was getting bagged all the time" interview with Chin Ho and Danno.

At the time it was the biggest part they had given a local actor who wasn't a regular. Usually they brought actors over from L.A. In fact, if I hadn't aced my reading on Bored they were going to fly someone over as shooting started in three days.

MQ: Is Don's writer friend Boswell, who provides Don with an alibi for the time of Wanda's death, played by director of this episode, John Newland? The late James MacArthur identified Newland when shown a picture of the actor taken from the show, but someone else who contacted me said that this was not Newland.

I don't think so [later confirmed when shown pictures of the two men]. Newland, to me, was a grand imposing prince who told me "Don't act ... just be yourself and talk," and for the hanging scene reaction shot told me to open my eyes as wide as I could until they hurt and let my mouth gape, and he did one or two really long takes where I just held that "pose" until he said cut. He was positively regal, dressed casually in cargo pants like khakis, very brisk and business like. As I remember, he had regal sandy blondish hair windswept back like an English duke (like a slightly paunchy John Derek). I knew him from One Step Beyond episodes, so it was like Rod Serling directing me, but he was not "friendly" like his narrator counterpart, and was obviously very good at cranking out a 1 hour episode in 8 or 9 days. Of course, what did I know...I was 12!

My mom accompanied me on the set and when she noticed how many times Chin Ho flubbed his lines in rehearsal told me to make sure I listened so my line corresponded to his new question. Newland and Danno actually noticed and said something nice to me after the scene on the side (out of Chin Ho's earshot) for saving them from having to call "cut."

With regard to Bored, all the scenes outside of Don's house were filmed early in the shoot on a Saturday, the interior scenes with me, my mom and dad [the characters in the episode] were shot the following Monday and Tuesday (my scene was shot Tuesday). The hanging scene, the scene where I find the body and all of Don's house interiors were shot Thursday and Friday, as were the jail sequences. They were still building both the jail set and Don's interior when I filmed my scene on Tuesday. 

The scene with Boswell (who is clearly gay and which references him in one of my scenes in lines that were later cut -- "Homosexual; not that he ever made a pass at me" -- heavy dialogue for a 12 year old in 1969!) was shot at the Waikiki Shell.

If you can imagine, we kept waiting that summer Bored to be rerun. It never was, and I didn't find out why for almost a decade. I was paid $520 for my week's work. At age 13, I was looking forward to my $260 rerun check. Up to a couple years ago I was still getting residual checks, sometimes for as little as 37 cents, from the other two episodes.

MQ: Did you ever have contact with the other actors in the show after it was over, or know what happened to them? Don Quine, who played Don, appeared in 55 episodes of The Virginian. No idea about Pamela Murphy (Wanda) who xwas on 7 episodes of Dallas, and her career basically ended after this in the early 80's. You already mentioned Patricia Herman. Eugene McDunnah, who played the father, only has Bored as his sole film credit.

I saw Pat Herman and her husband George a lot in the following years, as they were part of the Hawaii theatre scene. I worked lights at Honolulu Community Theatre at Fort Ruger (now the Diamond Head Theatre right around the corner from the Hawaii 5-0 soundstages) when Pat appeared as Anne in George's play about Abraham Lincoln, "Mr. Highpockets" (sometime around 1972), and then I was a member of George's Commedia Repertory Theatre for 8 months in 1973-1974 when they performed a series of plays in Waikiki. I left Hawaii in June 1974, George and Pat divorced some years later. George is now teaching theatre in Oregon, even though he is now in his 80s.

I never stayed in touch with or knew any of the other actors.