Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, March 8, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Larry Manetti says he's a bad boy no longer.

Larry Manetti’s
Magnum opus

'Aloha Magnum' recounts
glory days of the
TV show

By Tim Ryan


Larry Manetti swears he's a changed man, no longer the wayward, brusque, full-of-himself self-described "Chicago bad boy" he was during his "Magnum, P.I." days as part of the famous foursome led by Tom Selleck.

On this afternoon Manetti is holding court at buddy Fred Piluso's Scruples Bar, wearing an off-white suit, smoking a long, thick cigar, and sipping a beer. Manetti is now an author.

"Aloha Magnum," written with Chip Silverman, amounts to 258 pages of "Magnum" days' memories -- both on and off the set -- Manetti's favorite recipes, and Silverman's summarizing of each episode during the show's eight-year history, 1980-88.

"This is an interesting, wholesome, clean book," Manetti says.

It may be clean, but Manetti -- by his own admission -- comes off far from being a role model for aspiring actors, husbands or just plain citizens. It's easy to see why "Chicago Bad Boy" was considered as a title.

At an Italian restaurant in Waikiki, when Manetti and Selleck got bored sitting with several Hawaiian Tropics "Suntan Girls," Manetti writes that he pulled out a Baretta .22 automatic and fired several shots into the ceiling. Selleck hustled him out before police arrived.

"I wrote this to talk about the fun and good experiences we all had," Manetti said. "It won't hurt anyone; the book is a fast and bumpy ride."

If you want to read about the wild and crazy times of the show's stars -- primarily Manetti and Selleck -- look for the tabloids' accounts because apparently Manetti has kept most of salacious stuff to himself. Even a one-paragraph mention of an alleged romance involving Selleck was removed to appease Selleck.

Manetti dismisses the situation as a misunderstanding, saying Silverman had inserted the information in the book without his knowledge. Manetti must have been terrified of jeopardizing his long friendship with Selleck. In the book, Manetti mentions several instances in which Selleck "saves my ass" on and off the set.

And Manetti insists he and Selleck remain close friends, even though Selleck is the only one of the show's four stars who didn't provide a personal endorsement printed on the book cover. A lengthy, complimentary story about "Aloha Magnum" appeared this year in a two-page spread in the National Inquirer, a publication Selleck has sued for libel. It's the same publication that during the "Magnum" series wrote that Manetti had "a revolving door" for women visiting his beach house.

While "Aloha Magnum" often gives the reader examples of Manetti's out-of-control ego, it also shows a man possessive and proud of his friendship with Selleck.

"Tom was always in my corner," Manetti said. "He's as good a friend as someone is going to get. And he's not someone you ever want to piss off or push too far. "He'll come after you ... If you're his foe you'd better leave town."

Manetti said when the show started he felt intimidated by his more experienced co-stars.

"I was young and full of myself, more interested in the way I looked, if my hair was combed."

Selleck and Manetti couldn't have been more different. Selleck was pure Southern California: 6-foot-4, tan, athletic, charming, good looking. Manetti at 5-foot-8 was abrasive, gruff, and into cooking, not beach volleyball.

Manetti makes more than one mention in "Aloha Magnum" at how surprised he was when women bypassed him for Selleck.

"Am I chopped liver?" he writes.

Married since 1980, Manetti is uncomfortable talking about his time in Hawaii as an actor on a top-rated series living pretty much as a bachelor. When his family was not visiting him in Hawaii, Manetti writes he often stayed out as late as 5 a.m.

"I was a playboy, and the show was as hot as a firecracker."

He started drinking a lot and spending a lot of money.

"If I saw a sport coat that I liked I would just buy it ... . If I had someone with me I'd buy two. I blew a lot of money being stupid like that."

Manetti rented a home for $3,500 a month. The first night a cane spider appeared about "four inches in diameter" and "hopped like a frog" so Manetti and family moved to an apartment, though he still had to pay the six-month's lease on the home, at $21,000.

And there was arrogance.

As a non-investing partner with Selleck in the now defunct restaurant The Black Orchid, the pair had "unlimited comps" for food and drink. Unhappy with the restaurant's management, Manetti ordered a doubling of the expensive champagne and caviar available, and in one weekend gave it away free to customers. The Black Orchid went bankrupt within the year, Manetti writes.

He insists his career is on the upswing with frequent guest appearances on television shows. But being in Hawaii for eight years kept him out of the Hollywood mainstream and hurt him when he returned.

Still, Manetti says he's gotten out of the business what every actor wants: "money and fame.

"Anyone tells you different they're a liar."

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