Karen Rhodes's

Theory Time

I originally put this theory forward in alt.fan.hawaii-five-o, the Usenet newsgroup devoted to discussions of Hawaii Five-O.  Again, the warning:  don't spread the bare bones around as rumor; refer people to this site if they want to see this theory.  If I see the gist of this floating around as rumor, I'll track it down and take action against the spreader of any rumor related to this theory.  So DON'T DO IT!

Subject: Re: Jack Lord on TV??? (Jack Lord sick?)
From: blurb@aol.com
Date: 1997/01/22
Message-Id: <19970122162800.LAA08058@ladder01.news.aol.com>
References: <19970121110901.GAA08263@ladder01.news.aol.com>
Organization: AOL http://www.aol.com
Newsgroups: alt.fan.hawaii-Five-O
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In article <19970121110901.GAA08263@ladder01.news.aol.com>, mmargarett@aol.com (Mmargarett) writes:

>. Does anyone know the truth about Jack Lord's health?

In a word, no. However -- and I'm sticking my neck out here -- I can make a darn good guess. I've debated whether I should come out with this or not, but here goes.

I've discussed this with some of the fans, while we were in Hawaii for the convention. Be it noted that I DO NOT wish to start any more rumors. Anyone spreading this as a rumor will be hunted down and dealt with, and believe me I have an intimidation factor of +15. All right?

Here's what I think, and why I think it.

Observations: When I was viewing ALL the episodes of Five-O in doing research for my book (which should be out soon!) something dawned on me. I always wondered about the way he would shake his hands or wiggle his fingers a lot. I also wondered why he didn't use the standard police grip when holding his pistol, like the rest of the guys did. (The show did, in its first several seasons, have an HPD technical advisor who must have shown them the correct grip). But he didn't use the standard police grip that I learned in my Coast Guard training and which all federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel use. Instead, he would brace his gun-hand wrist with his other hand, and that is most unusual.

I thought all this was nothing more than slightly weirdball actors' schtick -- until I found myself doing the same because I had developed arthritis. The finger-wiggling and finger-stretching, like he does a lot throughout the series, feels so good when it's done as a means of stretching out stiff arthritic fingers. And when I get twinges in my wrists, I find myself grabbing them in the same gesture Jack Lord uses when holding his gun. In fact, there are instances when he does that when he's not holding his gun. Check out "Ten Thousand Diamonds and a Heart." In the scene where Five-O has found the apartment where the crooks had been meeting (before they moved to an alternate location), and Steve finds the marble dust that is a chief clue. Watch as he tests the marble dust. All of a sudden, he grabs his wrist. There's no reason, in the story, for him to do that, especially as rapidly and as abruptly as he does it. The only reason I can adduce is that Jack got a twinge in his wrist and it hurt. There's one more time he does something like that, but I can't remember the specific episode.

Also, take a look at "Assault on the Palace." When they've found the place where the kidnapped re-enactors have been taken and are raiding the place, he has his gun out. He doesn't brace his wrist this time, he braces his ELBOW. Again, this is a gesture typical of someone who has arthritis. Let me tell you that it doesn't take much, at times, for an arthritic joint to get a pain that can be enough to make you scream. Sometimes just taking the lid off the mayonnaise jar does it for me.

In light of those observations, I began looking more closely at his hands. At times they appear pretty much normal. At times, though, his mid-finger knuckles (second metacarpals, for you medically-oriented ones) look swollen, enlarged. The joints at the base of his fingers (third metacarpals) also at times look swollen and red. This is diagnostic for arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis, which I have had for 9 years now, does this -- it has exacerbations (bad times) and remissions (good times). His hands show that typical pattern. I wrote to another fan I know who is a registered nurse and who worked for 10 years in orthopedics, telling her my observations and asking her if she thought he might have arthritis. Her response was, "I'm 99% sure he does."

Now, couple those little facts with the following: There are two "types" of arthritis people: There are those who have a lot of joint pain but not much problem with fatigue, and who can keep up a pretty good energy level; then there are those who don't have much joint pain but have a real problem with fatigue. I'm one of the second type; I think he may be one of the first type. Certainly during those 12 years, he demonstrated considerable energy, not only in the episodes, but behind-the-scenes from 1974 on, when he was de facto executive producer of the series. And he was working 12- and 14-hour days, six days a week. I sure as heck couldn't keep up that pace! <grin> But it exacts a toll, and I think the toll it has exacted on him is that now he has very severe arthritis.

One lady I met in Honolulu, who knows Jack and his wife, and who is acting as his agent in some matters concerning sale of his artworks, said that his knees are pretty well shot. What could cause that? Arthritis, for one thing. And when I detailed my observations, she said it was like a light bulb coming on, that this must be what the problem is, because it fits everything she's seen.

Now some people NOT very close to him have apparently said -- though this has nothing more than the status of rumor -- that he seems "out of it" at times. If he does have severe arthritis, he has certainly gone way beyond the simple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications that patients at my stage of arthritis routinely take. He's probably into some pretty heavy stuff, not only for the arthritis, but for the pain, and let me tell you, arthritis can be excruciatingly painful. Anyone taking such medications would seem "out of it" from time to time, and I think this is the origin of the stupid Alzheimer's rumor.

One fan in Honolulu, when I was laying this all out, mentioned a newspaper article in which Jack's wife, Marie, mentioned that he isn't painting any more and attributed it (for the press) to laziness. The fan asked me why she would say that if it weren't true? My answer was that if it were my husband, and if he and I were as jealous of our privacy as Jack and Marie (which, in fact, we are), I would say the same thing. I sure as heck would NOT say, "Well, he isn't painting any more because he can't hold a paintbrush any more because it hurts too much or his fingers are too deformed by arthritis." No way would I say that to any member of the press, not if I wanted to keep our private life and our health, which ain't nobody else's business, out of the papers. And I'm sure she does want exactly that.

As for why he's not out in public much, consider this: If his knees are as bad as my acquaintance in Honolulu says they are, it may be that he'd have to use a wheelchair at times, when his knees are really bad. See, with arthritis, you can have good days and bad days. I have days when I can do heavy gardening work, lug loads of laundry, etc. Then I have days when I can hardly do anything because of pain and/or fatigue. So if he has arthritis, he has up days and down days, too. Can you imagine a man of his immense pride being seen in public in a wheelchair? Or even being seen in public if he appears not to be completely hale and hearty? Not me. Hey, I get upset if my family even LOOKS at me funny sometimes, like they are pitying me or something. So I can imagine how he would react.

There it is. I think that, if anything, he has severe arthritis and too much pride to be seen in public in that condition. Y'wanna know something ironic? The first thing I remember seeing Jack Lord in was a 1962 (I think) Dr. Kildare segment in which he played a surgeon who was losing his ability to operate because of rheumatoid arthritis. Now he and I both have it. Life is, at times, just too weird!

Update June 27, 1997:

If, as I theorize, Jack Lord has arthritis and has had it for many, many years, he probably (as I indicate above) took non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication for many years.  Information recently published in Health magazine indicates that people who take non-steriodal anti-inflammatory medications on a regular basis over a period of time (such as people with arthritis do) are SIXTY PERCENT LESS LIKELY to come down with Alzheimer's Disease.  I think the tabloid rumor is nothing but gas.

Contents of this message copyright 1997 by Karen Rhodes.