Exchanging jokes, the featured actors of the television series, "Hawaii Five-0," try to pose for a fan's snapshot at a convention in Burbank, Calif., celebrating the isle-based show that ran for 12 years. They are, from left, Zoulou, James MacArthur and Kam Fong.
By Tim Ryan
For two days, fans of the long-defunct television show join Five-0 actors to talk, laugh and cry about the Hawaii-based series they love so much.
They came to schmooze, to exchange trivia, to rub shoulders with the stars and celebrities.
For two days, they came to live and breathe "Hawaii Five-0."
"My goodness, I can't believe I'm in the same room as Danno, Kono and Chin Ho," said Debbie Coley of Westport, Conn., breathlessly. "I mean they're real people and they're talking to us."
While "Mahalo Con: The Hawaii Five-0 Reunion" didn't draw the hundreds who flock to the ubiquitous "Star Trek" sessions, the first celebration of "Five-0" during the weekend attracted about 75 hard-core and some less intense fans.
"This is history," said Michael Timothy, a Chicago attorney. "And not just television history but cultural history."
Three of the featured actors in "Five-0," the longest-running hourlong drama in TV history, gave attendees their money's worth with candid conversations and revealing insider stories.
James MacArthur (Danno), Kam Fong (Chin Ho) and Zoulou (Kono) took part in panel discussions, autograph and picture-taking sessions,and episode viewing.
(The show's star, Jack Lord, did not attend. Sources close to Lord say he is too ill to travel.)
The convention at the Burbank Airport Hilton Hotel was the work of fan Rita Ractliffe, whose plans for the conference were smaller at first.
Fans look over some of the memorabilia on display at the "Five-0" convention. Jack Lord, the show's star, was not at the celebration.
That "Five-0" family will move to Honolulu this week for the second leg of the conference. Local entertainers Doug Mossman, Al Harrington, Harry Endo, Glenn Cannon, Jimmy Borges, Eddie Sherman and Herman Wedemeyer - all of whom had roles on the show - will join MacArthur, Fong and Zoulou for three more days of "Mahalo Con."
"Fans are very special people ... 'Hawaii Five-0' wouldn't have existed and we wouldn't be here without them," she said. "They should be recognized, too, and they obviously know more about the show than I do."
Yes, they do and they spent hours trading stories, repeating favorite lines of dialogue, recounting memorable scenes, odd clothes the characters wore, bloopers and what they perceived as inside jokes by the writers.
Mike Quigley of Vancouver, B.C., is a major fan. He maintains an elaborate "Five-0" web page that includes summaries of all 278 episodes, which he brought to "Mahalo Con" as a reference guide. The guide lists the number of people killed in each episode, key lines uttered by Lord or Danno and other trivia.
Some fans not only know the names of each episode but the script number: "'Lion in the Streets,' number 260, and the first show of the 12th season, sure showed an increase in staff at 'Five-0' headquarters," someone says during a discussion.
Others sought more trivia.
Karen Rhodes of Middleburg, Fla., has written a history and trivia book on the show. But she wanted to know why every time McGarrett went aboard a Coast Guard boat, he always ordered them to "go left five degrees," never port. "What was that about?" she asked during a discussion with the cast. Who knows?
Why did Fong leave the show after the 10th season? "I had had it," he said. "It was my decision to leave. I needed to leave. You know when it's time to go no matter how good a situation seems."
Why, conventioneers asked, did McGarrett's automobile tires squeal even when he was on a sandy beach? And are there words to the show's theme? Rumors say yes, but no one has ever seen lyrics.
Although the cast members didn't know all the answers, they shared a lot of insider information:
The bad guys on the show were referred to as "the rat of the week."
Screenwriter Bill Stratton, who wrote more than 15 episodes, believes the wave shown in the opening sequence is Waimea Bay reversed.
In the show's first season, 4-foot-11 Anita Dew was the stand-in for most of the featured women actors and one man, columnist Eddie Sherman.
Fong said he had been reluctant to audition for the show.
"I was selling real estate and worked in an office above the Columbia Inn. My partner had made an appointment for me for the audition and I didn't want to go because it was usually the same: 'Thanks, we'll call you.'
"Well, I went and as I stood waiting in the back of the room, I saw this guy - turned out to be producer Leonard Freeman - pointing at me."
Although the audition was for the role of McGarrett nemesis Wo Fat, Freeman wanted him to play Chin Ho. He was signed for a seven-year contract on the spot.
"I was stunned," Fong said laughing. "All the way back to my office I kept thinking about fate and decided that this must have been fate. I came into audition for a villain and got the role of a good guy that altered my life - and income. What if Lenny Freeman had had to go to the john before I walked into the room. Nothing would have happened. Fate, man."
"We saved money on Zoulou's salary," he joked.
"Hey, brother, he not joking," Zoulou said. "Remember the time you put that kick-me sign on the back of my gray suit, the only one Jack ever bought me."
That statement revealed the conflicting feelings the actor has had about his "Five-0" career.
Zoulou (he later changed the spelling his name from Zulu) played Kono for five years, but was released after a series of run-ins with Lord.
He defied Lord's dislike for the "featured actors" using the show as a stepping stone in their careers. So when a CBS official told him that the show had only one star - Lord - and suggested he not allow himself to be introduced as "a star" even for charity events, Zoulou dismissed the notion.
"I said tell Jack to go to hell unless he can...raise as much money for charity as I was doing. Probably not too smart, yeah?"
He said that at times he resented his role, which seemed to present him as a "dumb Hawaiian."
"When I was just starting out, I was too dumb to know what was happening to me. So much of my role was just saying 'Yes, boss.' I started feeling like black actors must have felt in their early days of acting. But I had to adjust to it ... The way I fought back was to learn the trade of acting."
The animosity between the two was never resolved. When he ran into Lord in a supermarket after he had left the show, Zoulou turned around and walked away.
"What was there to say?"
Yet, at conference's end, he may have found some words.
Speaking slowly from the effects of a stroke suffered several years ago, Zoulou told the fans that their "aloha" had touched "my heart and soul like I never thought it could."
Unsuccessfully fighting back tears, he said "Mahalo Con," like his time on "Hawaii Five-0," was something "I will never forget."
"Thank you, Leonard and Rose Freeman, Jimmy, Kam.
"And thank you, Jack Lord."
What: "Mahalo Con: The 'Hawaii Five-0' Reunion Convention"
When Thursday through Saturday
Where: Various Honolulu locations
Actors attending: James MacArthur, Zulu, Kam Fong, Herman Wedemeyer, Harry Endo, Doug Mossman, Glenn Cannon, Moe Keale, Jimmy Borges; Rose Freeman, wife of the show's creator Leonard Freeman.
Call: Doug Mossman at 923-2902
7:30 to 8:30 a.m.: Continental Breakfast at Ilikai Hotel's Canoe Restaurant. Cost: $7.50
8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Customized bus tour of former "Hawaii Five-0" film locations with series regulars as guides. Cost: $23.50
5 to 7 p.m.: Cast and crew will visit the old "Hawaii Five-0" studio where a special presentation will be made by Gov. Ben Cayetano to Rose Freeman, widow of Leonard Freeman, the show's creator. This event by invitation only.
4:30 to 5:30 p.m.: Picture taking at the Ilikai Hotel penthouse apartment where Jack Lord is featured in the opening of the TV show. Cost: Free
5:30-8:30 p.m.: Luau. Cost: $25. Call for reservations at 836-0249