Hawaii Five-0 – Searching for Steve McGarrett and Wo Fat
This is one of a continuing series of posts from a visit to the four main Hawaiian islands that Alison and I took a few years ago. It has been updated for accuracy as of 2021. In the last post we visited the sites of Pearl Harbor and the Bishop Museum. In keeping with the sombre nature of those places it was a gray and rainy day. Today it’s much nicer and we’ll spend more time outside as we go on a search for places associated with the original Hawaii-Five-0 TV show. Please join us.
Ever since our days in law school Rob and I have been dedicated fans of the original Hawaii Five-0, so much so that to the consternation of our wives we kept referring to each other on this trip as Steve and Danno. I had done a little research on line and today and tomorrow we were going to visit some of the better known sites from the TV show. There are a number of Hawaii-Five-0 websites, but none as comprehensive as The Hawaii 5-O Home Page which has everything about every character, episode, building, vehicle or anything else that appeared in the show.
Jack Lord, who for all intents and purposes was Steve McGarrett, was a beloved figure in Hawaii where he stayed for the rest of his life after the show went off the air after a record breaking run for a one-hour cop series. He and his wife became involved in charitable pursuits and despite many requests Jack refused to reprise the role of McGarrett or to cheapen it by becoming a parody of himself a la the Star Trek performers. He died of heart failure in 1998 and his ashes were scattered in the ocean near his condo in the Kahala section of Honolulu. With no grave to visit I looked for and found the next best thing.
Anyone who knows me knows I do not like shopping and detest shopping malls, so the others were more than mildly surprised when I told them we were heading to a shopping mall for our first visit of the day. Here, in a remote outside part of Kahala mall is the only tribute to Jack Lord, a bust that is a very poor likeness, but the best I could come up with. Like many statues in Hawaii it was garlanded with leis in a gesture of respect and remembrance, a tradition that we could do well to emulate back home instead of covering them with graffiti and pigeon shit. I know it sounds silly but I got a little choked up – this was a special moment for me and Rob.
Our next stop was not a Hawaii Five-0 site, but rather a mission to debunk a myth endorsed by one of the biggest blowhards in the world today – Donald Trump (When I first wrote this, little did I know he would go on to become the worst and most destructive President in US history). I am continually disgusted with the antics of far right Republicans who disparage and question the legitimacy of the election of America’s first black President. The ‘birther’ nonsense that Barack Obama was not born in the United States is beyond obscene given the overwhelmingly amount of documentation that proves that he was. Again, a little bit of online research revealed a ton of information about Obama’s early days in Hawaii, including the numerous addresses where he lived. Today we were headed to his first home at 6085 Kalanianaole Highway which turned out to be a very busy highway between Diamond Head and Koko Head. This was the home of his maternal grandparents, the Dunhams. Whether or not Obama’s mother lived here or not is open to question, but certainly little Barack did.
We parked on a side street and walked the short distance back. Although the entire residence is surrounded by a high stucco wall there is a nice plaque with the address on it for the purposes of proving you were there. With a little effort and stealth I was able to get the camera over the wall and the picture revealed a very tidy Japanese garden and well kept house – no log cabin that’s for sure. Well Donald for what it’s worth here is a picture of the house where little Barack was taken to directly from the hospital where he was born, whether you want to believe it or not.
Next up was a definite Hawaii Five-0 site, part of the famous opening sequence of Hawaiian vignettes accompanied by the crescendoing guitars of the Ventures driving theme song -Lady Columbia, the famous statue in Pacific National Cemetery.
I have a tradition of visiting military cemeteries whenever I travel and would have come here for that reason alone, so the fact that it contained an iconic image from Hawaii Five-0 was a bonus. The cemetery is in a beautiful location in Punchbowl Crater (much nicer than the dismal Diamond Head crater) and has an appropriate air of serenity and piety. At the time of our visit it was virtually deserted. Lady Columbia, as the large statue of the stylized female is properly called, represents all mothers whose sons or daughters made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow countrymen, although in truth she looks more like an angry goddess. Underneath are the words of Abraham Lincoln wrote in a letter to a mother who lost her son in the Civil War, “The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom”.
Lady Columbia did not disappoint, but what was a real surprise were the many extremely finely done mosaic maps of various campaigns in the Pacific during WWII as well as Korea and Vietnam. These are not mosaics created with tesserae tiles, but by various types of marble I believe. However they are constructed, they are beautiful to look at and informative to study. Here’s an example –
Also striking where the glass faces embedded into the walls of the small chapel at the heart of the memorial. They each glowed with an inner light that was a bit eerie. See if you agree –
Walking down the steps we paused to ponder upon the thousands upon thousands of names inscribed on the side walls of the memorial; all had made the ultimate sacrifice.
Here is the view from below Lady Columbia.
One of the repeated events on Hawaii Five-0 was Steve McGarrett in a car chase with his monstrous 1968 Mercury Parklane Brougham. More often than not the chase would involve a steep winding road which would produce the maximum of tire squealing and frantic looks on Steve’s face as he struggled to get the behemoth to make the next turn. Well there is no more famous place to do this type of scene than the legendary Tantalus/Round Top Drive which just happens to begin just outside the Punchbowl.
I have an affinity for narrow winding roads and have sought them out all over the world, often with Rob, who does not share this affinity, cowering on the floorboards. Well so far so good, we haven’t gone over a cliff yet. Given the fact we were in a van with an automatic transmission it was a bit difficult to get much of a sense of how much fun this road would be in say, a Porsche Boxster, but I tried my best. In all seriousness this is a drive every visitor to Honolulu should make once and not just for the driving, but also for the stupendous views. There are numerous lookouts, some of which look down on Honolulu and others that look out on the mountainous interior of Oahu. At the apex of the road there are lookouts on either side. Here it was incredibly calm with birdsong the only sounds – true peace and quiet only a few minutes removed from the city.
On the way down is Puu Ualakaa State Park which has what is undoubtedly the best lookoff in the state, in fact Diamond Head looks positively puny down below.
You can also look down at the Punchbowl and Lady Columbia.
Or just enjoy the view of Honolulu.
By now it was noon and time to head to Chinatown to look for McGarrett’s long time nemesis, Wo Fat. As far as Chinatown’s go, I would rate Honolulu’s on the B side. While it is not as shabby as some, it lacks the vitality and exoticness of San Francisco’s or even Toronto’s. Frankly it looked like an area in transition from an ethnic ghetto to a modern bland development. The most interesting building in the area is not Chinese, but Japanese, the Izumo Taishi Shinto Shrine. However, we did have a good lunch at Legend Seafood Restaurant which was patronized by a mostly older well-heeled Chinese clientele.
What about Wo Fat? Well, we did have a sighting, but it was the Wo Fat Chop Sui house, which apparently was the source of the name for one of TV’s all time great villains. Later on this trip we will look for Steve and Wo Fat at the Byodo Temple where one of the most famous episodes of Hawaii Five-0 took place. Tomorrow we’ll visit his office at Iolani Palace.
We returned to the condo and while Rob and Janet indulged in some shopping we headed for Waikiki and a stroll along the beach starting at Fort de Russy park. We walked around the artificial pond at the massive Hilton Hawaiian Village complex and tried to avoid getting in the background of the wedding pictures being taken for a very young Japanese couple. The pond is a shallow and safe place for youngsters and oldsters to try their hand at paddle boarding and it was in full use. We gazed up at the mural which runs up the entire side of the 30 story Rainbow Tower and is reputedly the largest in the world before moving down the beach to where a number of people were pointing out green sea turtles just a few yards offshore. Out on the water just about every type of activity that can be done on, over or under the ocean was underway. We sat at one of the beachfront bars and had a drink and watched the surfers, paddle boarders, parasailers, swimmers, waders, beach boys and sun bunnies. It was a perfect Waikiki afternoon.
Continuing on we passed the Royal Hawaiian, still as beautiful as we remembered it from our stay just ten days ago, and onto what is technically Queen Kapiolani Beach, but is really just an extension of Waikiki. Here there are park benches and picnic tables, largely occupied by latter day hippies. We ate dinner that night at Cheeseburger in Waikiki which is part of a small chain that has a good atmosphere, great cheeseburgers and better beer and not to be confused with Cheeseburger in Paradise, a much bigger chain. Another great day came to an end. Aloha.