RIP, Jack Lord

By Eddie Sherman
Honolulu Advertiser

Reporter Eddie Sherman appeared in several episodes of Hawaii Five-O, once as himself.

JOHN JOSEPH PATRICK RYAN, who grew up in the Hell's Kitchen section of New York, was Hawaii's most famous export. The world knew him as Jack Lord. Whenever locals traveled, people almost always asked if they knew Lord. Many believed there was actually a Hawaii Five-O police unit because of the show's realism and Lord's solid characterization ... When the show ceased production in 1980 after a record-breaking 12 years and almost 300 one-hour dramas, Jack shut himself off from just about everyone except his devoted wife, Marie. Seldom ventured from his plush Kahala apt. that he purchased in the early days of the show for $163,000. Today it's worth millions. Over the years, Jack would occasionally be seen walking along the beach, or -- up until a few years ago -- shopping at Star Market-Kahala Mail ... My last conversation with Jack was at the Kahala Mall while he sat in his 20-year-old white Cadillac waiting for his wife who was buying groceries. Jack kept asking the same questions over and over, interspersed with statistics about the show. It was disturbing to see his obvious mental deterioration ... After Five-O's first year of production, the series still had temporary headquarters in a dilapidated Pearl City warehouse. The roof leaked. Rats nibbled at electric cables. Leonard Freeman, creator, writer and producer of the show, mentioned one nite over dinner that if suitable quarters were not available for the start of the second season, he'd move the show back to Los Angeles and only shoot exteriors in Hawaii. Would have meant the loss of many jobs. Thanks to Hiro Yamamoto, president of Manoa Finance Co., and attorney, Sakai Takahashi, a permanent studio was constructed at Diamond Head. The only question Yamamoto had before he invested his money was, "What if the show is cancelled? What do I do with the structure?" Yamamoto was told, "Just move the building to Sand Island. It will only be a soundproofed warehouse." Yamamoto built the studio and the wooden offices in 30 days. It still serves film and TV crews working in Hawaii.

Behind The Scenes

A few stories: Bernie Oseransky, head of production for Five-O during its entire 12-year run, recalled the time Jack screamed at Bill Finnegan (produced the show four years) to "get off my island." Finnegan refused. Jack stormed off the set and boycotted the show for a week until George Ariyoshi intervened and talked Jack into returning to work ... Lord was involved in every aspect of the show and was a perfectionist. Expected everyone to be up to his exact standards. Basically a loner, seemed to only trust his wife, Marie. She was his everything. He was totally devoted to her and she to him ... Once, CBS execs in Hollywood accused Leonard Freeman of an alleged serious conflict of interest, telling the producer they had information he owned stock in Hawaii Studios. A no-no. Told its unimpeachable source was Jack Lord, Freeman reminded the network that the show was a Leonard Freeman production, in association with CBS and that he was the boss -- with the power to hire and fire. He then flew to Hawaii, went directly to Jack's apartment with the intention of firing him on the spot. Lord's replacement was to be Lloyd Bridges, waiting in the wings. Freeman confronted Lord with the truth. Jack tearfully apologized and begged forgiveness. Freeman relented. "Jack was well-established as McGarrett and without a doubt was the consummate pro," said Freeman, the show's creator. "But I warned him that if he stepped out of line again, I would fire him" ... Jack Lord was Hawaii's most famous citizen. He gave this state its greatest public relations spotlite. And Hawaii could have done more to honor his tremendous contribution -- especially to tourism. Jack is gone, but he will live for a long, long time in the hearts of millions.