The Jack Lord Only His Secretary Knew
It was all about the music, serious acting, his hair and that dramatic Waikiki wave that opened every Hawaii Five-0 episode, which paralleled Jack Lord’s bangs perfectly draped over his forehead. From 1968 to 1980, he dominated our living rooms as the star of the long-running CBS TV series.
Today, reruns continue to be beamed worldwide. Toward the end of the series, Jack Lord “was” Steve McGarrett both on and off screen — a well-kept secret that the actor’s secretary, Margaret Doversola, has been keeping for nearly 35 years.
“On the day we filmed Hawaii Five-0‘s final episode, Wo Fat was sitting in his jail cell, he twisted the heel of his shoe, pulled out a lock pick with his eyes glinting, as if hinting he would not be locked up for long. Jack turned to me with excitement, he grinned from ear to ear, his eyes lit up and his voice pitch rose, ‘Margaret, go get a photographer. We got Wo Fat and we’re making history!”
At that very moment, she realized actor Jack Lord had morphed into Lt. Steve McGarrett.
“It was as if there was no difference any longer,” explains Doversola.
The star’s loyal friend remained close to the elusive actor, who chose to live out his golden years with wife Marie watching daily sunrises and sunsets from their Kahala condo. They made Hawaii their home purposely to stay far away from the paparazzi, and glitz and glamour of Hollywood — Hawaiian style.
Jack and Marie frequented Longs Drugs and the old Star Market in Kahala, but what most people don’t know is that
Doversola, who ended up becoming one of Hawaii’s revered movie-casting directors, frequented Lord’s condominium and continued to work for the couple even after her Hawaii Five-0 paychecks stopped. She was Marie’s lunch mate and often brought brown rice to their home from health food stores.
“Marie was into healthy living way before it was a trend, and Jack always had funny stories to tell,” she recalls.
The most memorable was when he was a merchant marine looking to buy a home in upstate New York. He came across an old house with character. Jack knocked on the door and a sophisticated French lady by the name of Marie De Nard answered. She was a strikingly elegant dress designer, some eight years his senior. De Nard invited him in, and in the course of Jack trying to convince the homeowner that she should sell him the house, they got to be more than good friends and ended up tying the knot.
“Call it destiny. Jack always seemed to get what he wanted one way or another, but when he swept Marie off her feet, he got more than he bargained for — both the house and the girl,” chuckles Doversola.
Jack Lord drew, painted and created jewelry. Doversola treasures one of his original prints that hangs in her living room. She also keeps dear to her heart one of the actor’s signature 1970s McGarrett shirts and his official Hawaii Five-0 badge, which the tough cop carried with him when he said his signature line, “Book ’em, Danno!”
Doversola portrays Jack as down to earth, one who had a strong work ethic and was loyal to management.
“He knew that he couldn’t go out painting his superiors badly in public, yet he did have strong differences with creator/producer Leonard Freeman. He was making decisions on the set and changing the script, which did not go down well with Freeman and caused major friction between them,” she recalls.
He appreciated women who behaved like ladies and had a tough time with females who had foul mouths. During the 11th season, an actress who played a female detective on Hawaii Five-0displayed “unladylike behavior” on the set.
“He called her into the producer’s office and gave the actress a real tongue lashing about the way she carried herself. Loud verbal punches were exchanged. When the door opened, Jack smiled as if nothing happened, winked at me and asked, ‘Margaret, may I have a cup of coffee?’ He was a classy role model but he didn’t appreciate people not taking their jobs seriously.”
My family are still faithful Five-0 fans, and once in a great while when we unwind to watch the original show, we catch our thrills to see my brother Nephi’s episodes on reruns. Hearing the Hawaii Five-0 theme music brings back a flood of memories of the ’60s and ’70s that were created in the Hannemann household. I was hooked as a teenager, and when I turned on the TV, homesickness was alleviated during my dorm days at Harvard. It wasn’t YouTube, but it sure made me feel closer to home watching the local landscape from across the miles on the tube, even when I was a Fulbright scholar in New Zealand. It was a big deal seeing the likes of Zulu, Al Harrington, Doug Mossman and Jimmy Borges on the big screen because I also enjoyed them as entertainers in Waikiki.
Jack Lord’s morning ritual was clipping local newspaper stories to include in his scripts. During the last five seasons of the series, Doversola spent time in his trailer typing script changes and helping him with his personal secretarial duties. It is only fitting that she would have imprinted in her memory the very last scene she would have with Jack, playing the part of a close friend.
“Marie invited me in. He was sitting in his living room wearing his favorite weathered, gray tennis shoes, which he often wore trekking across the streets of Kahala as an avid runner. He looked up at me, his eyes lit up once again — but this time, Alzheimer’s had taken over his body and his ability to speak. It was the saddest moment of my life,” she says.
He died from congestive heart failure at age 88 in 1998 in Honolulu. Doversola was there for him and Marie. She was one of a dozen friends present during the scattering of Jack’s ashes from a two-man canoe in the waters off the Lords’ Kahala condo. In the end, Jack was no longer the debonair, commanding authority he once played on television, but his devoted friend, Doversola, is convinced that, to Lord, Hawaii was truly the star of the show, and the actors were just simply telling the stories that emanated from the Islands of Aloha.