The 1999 Five-O Reunion

Click here to see reunion photos.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin story prior to the event.

The 30th anniversary Hawaii Five-O reunion was held on Friday, January 22nd, 1999 in the Hawaii Five-O Soundstage at the Hawaii Film Studio in Honolulu. The event had originally been announced for early December, but was postponed to a year and a day after Jack Lord's passing. The organizer of the event was Carey Anderson, a propmaster on the show in its last seasons, who worked very hard to bring the event off despite many obstacles.

Invited guests arrived at the studio at 5:30 p.m. There were various displays of artwork including some by Jack Lord, the 1974 Mercury Grand Brougham driven by Steve McGarrett in later seasons of the show, tables of merchandise for sale and a stage. Marie Lord was seated to the left of the stage. As the crowds filed in, she was being interviewed for the TV show "Inside Edition," which was later broadcast on Monday, February 1st.

Master of ceremonies Doug Mossman, who played a wide variety of parts on the show including detective Frank Kemana, introduced a priest who gave a blessing in Hawaiian and English both for the show and for the late Jack Lord. A painting specially created for the occasion by Honolulu graphic artist Dexter Doi was then unveiled. This was followed by local entertainer Eddie Bush who gave a rendition of Schubert's "Ave Maria" on ukulele for Mrs. Lord.

Following this, Carey Anderson, with the help of Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue (himself an extra on the show many years ago), presented silver Five-O badges to several cast members who were present.

Harry Endo, who played the lab technician Che Fong (Mossman joked that Endo got to say a lot of big words), gave thanks, saying that he was always amazed when people recognized him on the street -- even in foreign countries -- for the role he played.

Kam Fong, who played Chin Ho Kelly, was represented by his son Dennis Chun, who played several minor roles on the show. Still recovering from surgery last fall, Kam is in good spirits, but his stamina is not what it used to be. Dennis said that Kam had phoned him just before the presentation to give his thanks to his fellow cast members and fans. Chief Donohue presented Dennis with a picture of himself and Kam on the set many years ago, and Dennis showed another photo of Kam in a lineup as an HPD recruit back in the 1940's.

Moe Keale, who played HPD officer Truck in the final season and a variety of "heavy" roles on the show (he was known to the cast and crew as "Animal"), also received a badge as did Mossman. Dee Dwyer, the daughter of Richard Denning, who played the Governor on the show and who passed away October 11, 1998, accepted a plaque in her father's honor.

On a sad note, Mossman announced that Herman Wedemeyer, who played Duke, was very ill and could not attend the ceremonies. He lay in Queen's Hospital in intensive care following a stroke. Mossman asked for get-well cards and prayers. (Wedemeyer died the following Monday at 74 years of age.)

Several character actors from the show, among them Seth Sakai, Fred Ball, Rod Aiu and Jimmy Borges also spoke of their experiences on Five-O. Borges said that Jack Lord had an amazing repertoire of X-rated jokes (none of which Borges related) and told of Lord visiting his old neighborhood in Brooklyn to find the home where he grew up.

Helen Kuoha-Torco, the woman in the show's opening montage who danced the hula, recalled that it took 16 hours on a hot sound stage just to capture those few moments. She was single then and very young. She said has just retired from teaching at Leeward Community College.

At around 7:00 p.m., a few hundred fans who were supposed to be admitted at 6:30 and who had waited patiently outside entered the soundstage. Many of them flocked to the merchandise tables where T-shirts, badges, and prints of the Dexter Doi painting were on sale. The Five-O theme played in the background and a large projection screen behind the stage showed Leonard Freeman talking about the show with behind-the-scenes clips of workers preparing for the day's shoot. Many fans posed with the Mercury Grand Brougham, owned by John Nordlum, Jack Lord's stand-in and stunt double.

The evening concluded with an auction of several items donated by Mrs. Lord, with proceeds going to the Variety School of Hawaii (one of the Lords' favorite charities). They included:

There was an attempt to auction off another painting of Jack Lord by local artist Kevin Suarez, showing Lord sitting on the beach. The reserve value of the painting was put at $8,000, but the bidding stopped at $1,000. (It was reported that it was sold after the event for $2,000.)

I spent a lot of time chatting with members of the cast and crew, several of whom I had met during the 1996 Five-O convention. Some of the character actors from the show provided me with interesting insights into working on the show:

Fred Ball -- Fred played a frozen corpse who was resuscitated in the episode Frozen Assets. Fred told me that the "thawing out room" in the cryogenics company was one of the most expensive sets ever created for the show, and it was built in the Five-O studio where the reunion was held (a rather small building compared to the new soundstage). He told me that he was lying in his "coffin" and everyone on the crew went to lunch. Fred was afraid to open the coffin lest he ruin a take, but finally poked his head out to find that everyone had left him! Incidentally, when I originally saw this show, I thought Peter Lawford acted like he was drunk. Fred confirmed this, saying that Lawford was so sloshed that he kept blowing his lines.

Ed Fernandez -- Ed originally worked for the phone company where he had some kind of military connection (no pun intended) and one of his friends told him about the casting call for Five-O back in 1968. When he phoned them up, the person asked, "Are you a haole?", maybe because of Ed's name -- they were trying to hire local people. Ed's first role was the Consul in The Ways of Love, the show's seventh episode. While he delivered one of his lines in this show, a car sped away, showering him with gravel from the tires which caused him to lose his place. Jack Lord came over, grabbed Ed by the shoulder and said, "Concentration ... that's what it's all about ... concentration!" Ed said this was pretty scary, since he had never acted before, but later he and Lord became good friends.

Seth Sakai -- Seth played the slimy villain Vince Kauoli in Double Exposure, one of my favorite episodes, aside from the ending. He said this was the first time he shaved his head for a part. The director of this episode, Sutton Roley, told Seth that the plot of the show was clichéd and ridiculous (the photographer takes a picture, and people try to kill her as a result), so they made the two villains (Sakai and Doyle Weston, played by Thayer David) as wacky as possible to compensate. As for role where he played a character named Seth Sakai, he said that Jack Lord renamed the character because Lord didn't like the character's original name. Someone from the stage joked that the reunion had brought Sakai "out of retirement." He told me that some people have funny ideas that you are supposed to retire when you're 65!

Robert Witthans -- Witthans played a wide variety of roles, among them McGarrett's barber, an assistant district attorney and military men. He said in The Ninety-Second War where he had a role as Lieutenant Commander George Smallitt, an army bigshot, he had to introduce Steve McGarrett and said "I'd like you to meet Steve McQueen" instead of "McGarrett" to the assembled brass. The whole room broke up in hysterical laughter, even Jack Lord who was normally a no-nonsense type of guy. Witthans said it was too bad that there weren't any blooper reels of Five-O.

The evening wrapped up at 8:30 p.m., far too quickly! Estimates of attendance were 300 invited guests and 436 paying customers at the door.

According to organizer Carey Anderson, the Dexter Doi painting was to be shown at the Imax Theatre in Waikiki where Doug Mossman was the manager, and there was hope that part of the theatre lobby or nearby office space could be turned into a Five-O mini-museum.

(Thanks to Susan E. Matsunaga for help in preparing this report.)