By Jack Lord
Jack Lord, Holiday's Lord of the Leis in Hawaii
"It?s as close to Paradise as you can find in this world. I?m very grateful to have finally settled on this as the place where we?re going to spend the rest of our lives."
Living in Hawaii was decided for us, my wife Marie and me, by God and by CBS. I have always believed in the metaphysical premise that "the place you seek is seeking you-the place you need needs you."
Someone else was signed for "Hawaii Five-0" but they couldn?t sell the package. Then when CBS executives heard I was available, they offered it to me and paid the other star off. We made a two-hour pilot that went to New York (Madison Avenue) and was sold out (fully sponsored) in a matter of hours.
We went through absolute hell for the first year and a half (our trial of fire), but we survived and triumphed. So somebody up there is watching over Steve McGarrett and "Hawaii Five-0."
We love the place-the fresh clean air, especially after having lived in Los Angeles and New York City with their air-pollution problems. We love the sparking blue sea forty feet from our lanai. The birds and flowers (there are over three hundred varieties of flowering plants and trees). We love the people and their Polynesian and Oriental backgrounds, customs, fold ways, mores. We love Oahu, where we live, and the neighboring islands for their special charms. Wo can walk around the waterfront of Lahaina on Maui and not be caught up in the history of this ancient whaling port with its jail, quaint streets, and Pioneer Inn? Nor can one remain unimpressed with God and nature after standing on the lip of the Halemaumau Volcano crater on the Big Island and watching the fireworks. And the place we love most-in Hawaii, or anywhere else-is our home.
Hawaii is the only American state in which two-thirds of the inhabitants has their beginnings in the Orient or Polynesia. The pace is slower here in the tropics, more placid than on the mainland. People are kinder, friendlier, more cooperative. There is more courtesy than human beings show each other in New York or Los Angles. Does it change one?s temperament? Most decidedly. I feel more at ease, more relaxed than in those frenetic cities with their surface antagonism and unpleasantness.
I suppose living as close as we do to the sea has a quieting effect, too.
We?re right on the blue Pacific-that gorgeous body of water-and I find it is tranquilizing to look out from our lanai on that broad vista.
In New York, we lived on the seventh floor of an apartment house and looked out on gray roofs and skyline. Here, as I said, we contemplate a lovely sand beach, offset by frothy surf, beautiful flowers, and flowering trees. We see marvelous sunrises in the morning. All of this affects my moods and temperament. It?s as close to Paradise as you can find in this world.
Even though we have lived in only three cities, both of us, my sweet wife Marie and I, have traveled to most of the continents. I?m very grateful to have finally settled on this as our home and as the place where we?re going to spend the rest of our lives.
The background cultures of Hawaii-the Oriental and Polynesian-I feel, have a lot to do with the tranquility. The inscrutableness of the Oriental and the sort of open-faced friendliness of the Polynesian can?t help but rub off. It?s interesting how little emotion Orientals show under pressure, and that also has an effect on the way one conducts oneself.
The Hawaiian, I find, are special people-uncomplicated, open, free of artifice, free of that sort of conniving we sometimes find in large cities on the mainland where things are done for effect or for some ulterior motive. There'? a sweetness here. I see it expressed so many ways. I was in a large store recently, and a woman came up with two flower leis that she had just bought. She said, "Oh, Mr. Lord, I saw you and your wife here in the store, and I went to the flower shop and bought these. I?d like to give them to you; please accept them." And she draped these beautiful leis around our necks and kissed us both and walked away saying, "I do enjoy your show so much, and this is a way of saying thank you." It?s traditional, a kiss goes with every lei you give. Where does that happen on the mainland?
We were over in Hilo where I was serving as Grand Marshal of a parade, and after the parade the Mayor invited us to a ceremony in a huge gymnasium. He was speaking and we were listening when a small boy approached with a bag of Maui potato chips. He came over and didn?t say a word. He had this little, inscrutable Japanese face, and just put out his hand and handed me the bag of potato chips. I was deeply touched. Such things happen quiet often around these islands. The people are sensitive-hypersensitive like children at times. Their feelings are hurt rather easily, so one must weigh one?s words, speaking carefully so as not to injure anyone.
There are so many Hawaiis. So much beauty. If Matisse or Gauguin were alive, they could set up their easels anywhere on the islands. These are marvelous little fishing villages along the coast of the Big Island, which look very much like the Tahitian villages that Gauguin painted. And so many plants and beautiful leaves. When I think of Matisse, I always remember the way he handled leaves and plants in his paintings. Matisse would love Hawaii. Take him to the Foster Botanical Gardens and he?d probably spend years there. The rain forests of the Big Island, the breadfruit threes that are every where, seem to me so much like the motifs that Matisse often used. What I?m really saying is that no matter where you look, once you get out of Waikiki, which is fast becoming a concrete jungle, any painter would be enchanted, would just love, say, to go up along the Waimanalo Coast or to the beautiful places on Maui-or nearly anywhere.
I don?t set up my easel anymore; I paint from memory in my studio. I took a page from the Frenchman Pierre Bonnard, who decided to use the conscious and the subconscious and dredge up images from his own thinking. That'? the way I have been painting for approximately the last ten years. I used to go out, as all artists do at some period in their lives, take watercolors or an easel and canvas, oils, and set up wherever I saw something I wanted to transfer to canvas-then, depending on what medium I was using, spend the day, or several days, doing it. But I find this psychological method of work more creative when one transfers mental images to canvas, which is more challenging then doing a representation of something you?re looking at. In a sense, it?s like catching fish with a net. All the little fish escape and only the big ones remain when you have a net of a certain gauge. It?s only the big fish-the important things-that I try to get down on canvas, the things that stay with you, that are most memorable. I take in impressions like every other human being, every moment, every day of my life, and that reservoir, that file of registered pictures, is there the computer in my brain, my memory, and they?re the ones I want to capture. So that'? the way I?ve been working.
A quote attributed to me was published: "I would rather paint than eat. One painter in a million becomes famous. I?m using acting as a way of getting my name before the public. Then my pictures will have a name value." I don?t doubt that I said those things. I think I meant something different. The "means to an end." I guess, is what I object to because I do love acting and directing. I find them both creative and satisfying. What I probably meant when I said that, in context, was that painting is really my first love. I was a painter long before I was an actor. In fact, my entire training was in that direction. I never once thought of being an actor.
Then I got off on this marvelous new tangent that was opened to me, and I did become an actor-and I love it. But my first love is still there. I suppose it?s like have two friends that you love. You can love the older one a little more-the one that you have the most experience with-yet you still love the other friend, too. I don?t want to cop out, but I?m grateful that with the success of "Hawaii Five-0" four or five galleries came to me and asked if they could handle my work. I?m sure four or five galleries weren?t terribly interested in handling it before I was known as an actor. But I paint now, do graphics, lithographs and serigraphs, and they well very well. I enjoy having my work in the hands of other people who love and enjoy it. I get fan letters about my paintings as well as for some of the performance that we?ve done for "Hawaii Five-0".
I have also been quoted as comparing the TV show to a form of a sonnet: A TV show must be done in an exact time, and a sonnet must be fourteen lines-no more, no less." I used to memorize poetry for my father; I still do, and always shall make time for that. My old man (that?s a term of endearment) gave us a penny a line and even though he?s gone, I?m working on that account; when we meet again somewhere, I?m going to "call" the bonds.
My favorite poets are Shakespeare, La Rochefoucauld, Wordsworth, Hannah Moore, Horace, Seneca, Goldsmith, Milton, Burke, Byron, Keats, Swift, Emerson, Coleridge, Fielding, Pope, Browning, and Thomas Moore. Shakespeare?s 29th sonnet is my favorite, dedicated to my Marie, of course.
When, in disgrace with fortune and men?s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess?d,
Desiring this man?s art and that man?s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven?s gate;
For thy sweet love remember?d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
I am described variously as artist, actor, or (once): "a star like Jack is money in the bank-always on time, no bags under his eyes, and he always knows his line." And-"He can?t play a virgin; his face looks lived in." When I?m working on this or any other show, Marie and I have a very regimented, Spartan life. Because I find it easier to learn my lines in the morning when I?m not wrung out, we get up very early-Marie at 3:30 a.m. and I at 4:00. Naturally, we have to go to bed early. No social life except on Saturday night during the working season.
I?m a Capricorn and it amuses me to read about those born under this sign in horoscopes. Sure enough, they describe me perfectly-I can?t settle for less than the best-so I try to achieve it in all areas. Right now, it?s this show. Not everyone feels the same way, but I believe every person connected with the show should deliver to the top of the stick. So we keep weeding out and that?s when I get the feedback. I see stories in print about what a tyrant I am, and I can just about tell which of the ones who didn?t make the grade are being quoted. There are quite a few of them, so a lot of ugly stories have been written. Reporters seem to love that sort of thing, and I suppose they encourage it. I don?t think many stars are spared this particular kind of torment. All I know is, "Hawaii Five-0" is still on the air nine years later and consistently in the top ten in the national ratings, so I guess the snipers haven?t really done much damage.
But American TV desperately needs a long overdue transfusion of originality, creativity, and guts. Shows do not mirror new values or the needs of American society; nor do they reflect genuinely lifestyles. Where are the innovators, the creators of new and exciting forms and formats? When "Hawaii Five-0" was launched nine years ago, we were the only police show on the air. Today, there are many of them in various forms, and more coming next season. Audiences are being drowned in imitations and carbon copies. The premise "If it works for them, it will work for us, so let?s try one" has long pervaded in thinking of TV network executives.
I was asked recently if I had any plans to return to Broadway-"would I, if another Cat on a Hot Tin Roof were offered?" One of the good French minds, a philosopher, wrote: "Never say to the fountain, ?I will not drink from thee.?" That?s a good piece of advice. I don?t always follow it, but I don?t really have any desire to go back to Broadway. It was an invaluable period in my development and my life. I did two plays that I was proud of and a couple that were flops. I would rather spend whatever years I have left on earth doing the things that I?m doing right now-motion pictures and painting. I have a feeling that in my next life (I don?t mean in another world, but here), in my next plateau, I?ll be directing. I love to direct. I love actors and actresses-love to work with them. I feel I can contribute a great deal of knowledge that I?ve gained in twenty years of being before the cameras. I?ve been studying technical things for all those years, and know a lot about camera techniques, lenses, lighting, and so forth picked up from the great cinematographers whom I?ve had the privilege to work with. The great directors, too, have shared their knowledge with me. So I think that?s where I?ll be a few years from now, when "Hawaii Five-0" finishes.
To answer the Broadway question directly-no, I would not go back if another Cat on a Hot Tin Roof were offered. I might go back if some enormous change of pace could be arranged-like a brilliant comedy, a Neil Simon sort of thing. Or something like that, which would stretch muscles that have never been used in that area, with the exception of one time. I did a comedy with Marie Wilson called The Little Hat, but I have never done another.
Hawaii, by the way, produced many well-known artists, among them Bette Midler and Harry Owens ("Sweet Leilani," "To You, Sweetheart, Aloha"). The best hula dancer we have is exquisite Beverly Noa, and the incomparable Emma Veary, a wonderful singer, is at the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Her husband, Aku, the highest paid disc jockey in the world, calls her Ol? Golden Throat, affectionately. Though he?s not from here originally, Don Blanding left an enormous body of Hawaiian poetry for us to enjoy. And, of course, there is James Michener, who also lived here.
Visitors often ask to be shown the greatest spots in Hawaii. One of my favorites places is the Island of Molokai. This was Father Damien?s parish, where much of this work was accomplished. It is the most remote of the five major islands, and one day soon I am sure a hotel complex will be built there. Only twenty-five miles from Honolulu (and visible on any clear day), it is serviced by the new, exciting hydrofoil that carried passengers from Oahu to Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii.
My father, being a steamship executive and an old salt who had seen it all and done it all, would have enjoyed walking on the waterfront of Lahaina on Maui. This is the "Mystic, Connecticut of Hawaii," steeped in the tradition of seafaring men, whalers, scrimshaw artists, and wild men and women. (I think he?d like that.)
We have two favorite gourmet restaurants-and two favorites severing Italian food. For the gourmet menu, try The Third Floor in the Hawaiian Regent Hotel, under the aegis of Ziggy Poesch; and Michel?s, presided over by Horst Beneke. Try the local fish, mahi-mahi or opakapaka.
For a moderately priced Italian meal, go to Rudy?s in the heart of Waikiki. You?ll be sure to get a warm welcome from a wonderful host. Also visit Mateo?s where Vinnie will take good care of you. (Although my legal name is Irish and my mother?s maiden name is O?Brien, I?m sure a plate of Italian spaghetti and meatballs or a great lasagna does more to cheer me up than anything else man has so far devised.) Sometimes we go to Canlis for a steak, or their marvelously fresh calf?s liver.
I am sometimes asked how the influx of American businessmen and business into Hawaii has changed the landscape of local custom. I?m not really qualified to answer that. There is no doubt that we, as a tourist-oriented state, need an influx of new investment capital. But as a conservationist and ecologist, I feel we require stricter regulations and adequate protection of our natural resources. "Bigger" is not necessarily ?better." If I were in charge, I?d call an immediate halt to any new hotel development on Oahu. There is lots of room on the neighboring islands for expansion and construction.
In fact, the best thing that could happen to Hawaii would be a moratorium on building high-rise hotels, condominiums, and tourist facilities for the next five years so that things could level off. The worst that could happen would be for Hawaii to legalize gambling. Right now vigorous attempts are being made to bring it to Hawaii. That to me would be the Kiss of Death. Gambling brings with it syndicate connections, prostitution, dope, loan sharks, and the rat pack of evils that go with cheap money and cheap lives.
The women?s movement has had an effect here as well as on the mainland. For the first time in the history of the Honolulu city and County Council, a woman-Marilyn Bornhorst-has been elected chairman (she prefers that title to "chairperson" or "chairwoman") of this governing body, and more power to her. (By the way, I have a 6-foot-lady who is my stand-in!)
A recent survey taken by the Hawaii Visitors Bureau reveals tat approximately 25 percent of the new tourist, who come to Hawaii from all over the world, come because of what they have seen or liked on "Hawaii Five-0." If true, that to me is an enormous influence. (There seems to be a new word used locally. It?s Joklor. The kids greet me that way. I guess it?s my name in pidgin.) I am "working stiff." The most satisfaction I get is the thought that I help provide jobs for approximately 100 to 150 people a day here in Hawaii.
As for the future here, I would like to see someone like the late Walt Disney come to the islands and do a Hawaiian heritage village or complex showing the beautiful Hawaiian people in a proper light.