“Five-O” star ageless – not nameless



Advertiser Staff Writer

December 16, 1975


Hawaii Five-O’”s Steve McGarrett, alias Jack Lord, alias John J. Ryan, took the stand yesterday in an $18 million lawsuit that casts him as the chased instead of the customary chaser.

The first five minutes were spent haggling over whether an attorney would call him Mr. Lord, or by his legal name, Mr. Ryan.

The next 25 minutes dwelled on how old Jack Lord is.


The lively show is over whether Lord and Viacom International Inc., a former CBS subsidiary, breached a contract two years ago with Great Ideas, Inc. and Grover Kam to produce “Five-O” theme shirts.


The courtroom scene opened briskly after Lord was sworn in by Circuit Judge Toshimi Sodetani’s clerk.


Poised and nattily attired in a navy blue suit with red vest and striped tie, the television actor somberly took the stand as an “adverse” witness since he had been called by the plaintiffs’ attorney, David Schuller.


“What is your name?” Schuller asked Lord.


“Jack Lord,” Lord replied.


Schuller then asked him if he had ever registered Jack Lord as his real name. Lord replied that he hadn’t. Then Schuller asked him what his real name is.


Grimly, Lord responded, “John J. Ryan.”


“Mr. Ryan,” Schuller began.


“I would prefer you address me as Mr. Lord,” Lord interrupted.


“You never changed your name legally,” Schuller parried.


The judge quickly motioned both counsel to approach the bench. It Is not: considered nice to engage in petty arguments before a jury.


As Lord stared straight ahead and the jury stared at him, defense attorney Jack Halpin and Schuller squared off in whispers in the Sodetani-called huddle.


When Schuller returned to the podium, the audience leaned forward expectantly.


“Would you prefer to be called Mr. Lord?” he asked. The audience leaned back.


“I think I made that clear,” Lord said, with a fierce look at Schuller.


Schuller then complained about Lord’s response. The actor averted another crisis by restating, “I would prefer that [you call me Mr. Lord] if you don’t mind.”


That settled, Lord said he had been an actor for 20 years. When Schuller asked him how old he was. Lord said:


“Everyone knows that I’m over 45.” That marked the start of what veteran courtroom observers called one of the longest interchanges over a birthday. Usually, depending on the amount of numbers involved, the response takes maybe five seconds, unless the witness coughs.


Schuller pointed out that in “Men and Women in Hawaii” and “Who’s Who In America,” Lord’s birthdate is given as Dec. 30, 1930. The attorney remarked that if that were correct Lord would still be under 45. .


Lord then said that the Dec. 30 part was correct, but he firmly resisted giving the actual year.


He told the jurors that age had always been a joke in show business. “It was always, ‘how old would you like to be this year?’” he told the jurors with a smile. Lord said that the 1930 was meant to be funny.


Schuller retorted that it wasn’t a funny matter to be giving out an erroneous birth date. He added that if 1930 was right, then according to figures in a TV Guide article, he would have graduated from high school when he was 7 years old and married the first time when he was 11,


The TV Guide article, Lord said, was written by a person who spent, three days drunk in Hawaii, bent on doing a detrimental piece on Lord. The writer was banned from the Hawaii Five-O set.


Pressed further, Lord said he did not graduate from high school when he was 7 and did not first marry when he was 11. Pressed even further. he said he graduated in 1938 and married in 1942.


Scratch pads all over the courtroom became exercises In subtraction.


Lord embarked on a long discourse on being an actor and never giving your right age. He said it started when “we were kids on Broadway ... and in early TV ... and scrounging for jobs.”


He said it was a standing joke to be the age of the character one auditioned for “because jobs were hard to come by. There was nothing malicious and evil about it. We were trying to survive.” Lord then told the jury an anecdote about fellow actor Bob Conrad who did many of his own stunts. Once he was knocked senseless. As he was being placed in an ambulance, someone asked his age and Conrad, Lord said, “reared up and said 29 and went back into a state of unconsciousness.”


Lord reiterated, “The listing of the chronological age of any actor is dangerous.”


Questioning finally turned to other matters. Lord, sipping occasionally from a yellow paper cup, denied he had ever called Edward McGrath, president of Great Ideas, Inc., a plaintiff, “a young punk.”


He said he did not approve of McGrath’s designs for the “Five-O” theme shirts, maintaining that he and the deceased Leonard Freeman, “Five-O” creator, retained that right to approval. Plaintiffs deny this.


Lord said he asked local businessman Don Over to check out McGrath’s credentials and found that Great Ideas was allegedly no more than a letterhead. Lord said he was angry with McGrath for showing the proposed designs “all over town.” He alleged that McGrath approached the Honolulu Police Department with the idea of Lord sponsoring a police scholarship, to tie in with the new shirt promotion without the actor’s knowledge or approval.


McGrath and Kam witness Leroy “Bud” Koranda, president of World Sports Specialties in Los Angeles, estimated the plaintiffs would have profited $4.8 million If the “Five-O” shirts had been produced.


Lord is expected to resume the stand at 8:30 a.m. today.