THE HAWAII FIVE-0 NEWSLETTER
Volume 2 April, 2006 Issue 2
Legacy Entertainer Award
by Jerry Pickard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Al Harrington and Jerry Pickard
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 March 16, 2006 in the famous Waikiki Lau Yee Chai dining room in the upper levels of the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.
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.
Jimmy Borges with wife, Vicki and Jerry Pickard
Kimo Kahoano and Jerry Pickard
Carole Kai and Jerry Pickard
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.
Al Harrington and Rosa Navarro-Hoffman
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 Islands to stay. It was confirmed that he would be quite involved politically, with respect to seeking support for long, long-time Senator Daniel Akaka's campaign for re-election. In any event, his son Tau did an outstanding job of recapping dad's numerous life highlights and achievements, before introducing his father to everyone so eager to see and hear him.
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 Islands, the saying "it like geev me cheeeken-skin, brah!"
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 jist of it:
To Al Harrington, with aloha a/k/a Ben Kokua, For entertaining, regaling, delighting, and inspiring your numerous fans of Hawaii Five-0 from the series' first run up to present times. Some life lessons you shared, as compiled by your ardent admirer and fellow-teacher Rebecca Garth of Texas:
1. Always work as a team member (from all the scenes you did)
2. When jumping, it is important to land on your feet (from your opening credits, plus Episode 119, The Diamond That Nobody Stole)
3. When you know you are wrong, it is better to accept defeat & criticism than to try to explain your way out (Episode 115, With The Real Mr. Winkler Please Die)
4. Always treat old friends with respect (Episode 97, Death Is A Company Policy)
5. Do not ever forget where you came from, and be honest with yourself (Episode 97, Death Is A Company Policy)
6. If it looks like you won't win when confronted with a dog or similar problem, RUN (Episode 152, The Two Faced Corpse)
7. When life gets difficult, go to the gym (Episode 112, The Listener)
8. Always be a listener to a friend (from all the scenes you did)
9. In all aspects of life it is best to take the gentle, kind and friendly side of the road (from all the scenes you did)
10. In almost all instances the boss is right or at least don't tell him to his face that he is wrong.
Presented this 16th day of March, 2006 at the Hawai'i Music Foundation Gala Evening at the Waikiki Lau Yee Chai, with deepest respect and most sincere gratitude on behalf of all Five-0'ers who treasure you,
Mahalo nui loa kakou
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 HAWAII FIVE-0 book credits him in nine, he figures he was in some forty. No big thing, perhaps at this point, although Bob was careful to reveal that, if a movie related to the series were to be shot soon, he would not turn down an appropriate role.
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 Honolulu's Kahala section, to commemorate Marie Lord several weeks after her passing. Bob let it be known that he was most interested in finding out if anyone knew what had happened to a portrait of Jack, painted by the acclaimed Anthony Gruerio and eventually commissioned for the office of Ben Cayetano, who was Governor at the time. As things developed, yours truly was fortunate in tracking it down at the Hawai'i Film Office in downtown Honolulu and thus easing Mr. Witthan's concerns. He himself, he confided, appreciates fine art considerably, and has two pieces of work created by Jack.
Bob and the writer met at one of Hawai'i's many Zippy's folksy & friendly family restaurants on a fine post-Valentine's morning to enjoy some breakfast and talk about The Show. With most expressive eyes beaming behind tinted glasses, he shared recollections of his times as a cast member. Priest ('Two Doves and Mr. Heron'), military commander ('The Ninety-Second War'), barber ('Draw Me A Killer'), and more, were some of the roles he carried out. These followed award-winning radio acting talents honed after majoring in speech and history at the Midwest's prestigious Northwestern University. Timing almost always plays an enormous part in all of our fates. In Bob's case, weary of long and cold Illinois winters, he decided to move to Hawai'i in 1967 - a perfect juncture for local talent agent Greg Kendall to advertise his availability for Leonard Freeman's proposed venture. (It did not hurt that he had previously had some parts in the venerable General Hospital series, either!)
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.
A word from our sponsors:
Anyone interested in copies of Hawaii Five-0 episodes (mostly all full versions) can contact Barbara Brindle at 105 Warren Road, Sparta, NJ 07871. Unfortunately, Barbara does not have an email address so you’ll need to phone her at 973-729-9232. Her rates are reasonable and she’s very reliable.
Ron Evans, owner of e/p Partners, also offer VCR tapes of Hawaii Five-0, Jack Lord and James MacArthur, among others. His email is email@example.com.
Hard copies of the newsletter are available
The Hawaii Five-0 Newsletter is available in print form. Membership is $10 per year for four issues (foreign subscriptions are $14.00 US funds). Checks for membership may be made out to Annette Nixon/H50FC. You can email her for her address at Spinkick@colint.net. Any additional financial contributions are always welcome. The newsletter will be available on the 15th of January, April, July and October.
Submissions, which are always welcomed, to the newsletter can be mailed to me at TW1151@Comcast.net. Deadlines are one month before each issue. Currently, the Central Dispatch has a new home.
Last November, 2005, Debbie put together two different 2006 calendars. One is of just Jack Lord and the other of Hawaii Five-0's 5th season. If you want one, you'll need to email her to see if there are any left. Unfortunately, calendars from the previous years are no longer available. The price is $10 ($14 for outside the US-payable in USD). Payment can be by check or US money orders and mail to Debbie Fitzgerald/HFOFC, 682 Durham Road, Adams, TN 37010 or pay using Paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org). The proceeds go to charity so when you order one you need to indicate which one. The charity with the most votes wins. In previous years, the money has gone to the Jack and Marie Lord’s Trust and to the Jack Lord Memorial. She is also suggesting maybe sending the money to the Hurricane Relief Fund. But if no one suggest something, she’ll just pick one.
See you in July 2006
Be There! Aloha!