Saturday, June 13, 2009
By Bobbie Cimo
My first job at CBS was working as an Assistant Manager in the credit union. My boss Sophia was not your typical boss. She would do things like buy me a blonde wig for my birthday, (when I was a brunette at the time). Or give me a day of beauty, including lunch with her and her friends at the Beverly Hills Hotel for no other reason than just to be nice.
Then there was the time her boyfriend, the Vice President of Sales, gave me the keys to his red Corvette (that was once owned by actor Michael Landon) and told me to drive it back from lunch to the office for him. For those few brief miles that I drove through West Hollywood, I felt like a jet setter. But to be truthful, I couldn’t wait to get the car back on the lot. Not only was I fearful that I might collide with someone, but it wasn‘t very comfortable to drive. It was like being inside a race car, I felt like I was lying down behind the wheel.
Then there was the time I was all in a flutter because my heartthrob (Engelbert Humperdinck…yes, Engelbert) was going to be at CBS for a week, appearing as a guest star on a variety show. Being generous, she gave me the day off so I could sit on stage and enjoy watching him for a full day of rehearsal. Her excuse was that I wouldn’t have been much use to her anyway, knowing he was there. Now, that was a good boss.
But I think the most fun thing she ever did for me was when she arranged for me to work with the staff of Hawaii Five-O, for a day, while I was on vacation in Hawaii. For those of you too young to remember the CBS-owned show, it was about a fictional state police force in Honolulu, called Hawaii Five-O, named for the state’s status being the 50th of the Union. Heading the force was Steve McGarrett (played by actor Jack Lord) and assisting him was the young officer, Danny Williams (played by James MacArthur).
On the air for twelve seasons, all of the episodes, except for a few, were shot entirely in Hawaii. And of course, at the end of each show the criminals were caught and arrested, whereas McGarrett would turn to his junior partner and say, “Book ’em Danno”, and thus the famed catch phrase was invented.
Anyone who was lucky enough to work the show not only got to live in Hawaii, but they were paid well for it. Besides earning a full salary, they were given a weekly per diem allowance which covered the cost of their food and lodging as long as they were on the remote site. Some eventually sold their homes on the mainland, and arranged for their entire paycheck to go into their savings. They then took up permanent residence in Oahu, living solely on their allowance (since most of them received more than what was actually needed). Many became wealthy over the situation and yet many ended up divorced because of the long separation between spouses. I do know that Jack Lord himself was very active in any kind of monies spent on the show. And our own accounting department, here in Hollywood, would dread when he would make a long distance call to them. It usually meant he found an accounting mistake. Even if it was just for a few pennies--he wanted to know where the money went to. Which makes me wonder if any of those rumors that were flying around about him being a silent partner to the show were true.
Most CBS employees would use the credit union as a way to force themselves to save (this was when you could save money) by having a fixed amount automatically deposited into their savings from their paycheck. It was also a great way to repay a loan…but like any financial establishment, it had it’s share of deadbeats. One guy, after receiving a car loan from the CU, decided to quit his job and move to Hawaii. My boss would have been happy to see any type of good faith payment coming in from the guy, but he offered none. My mission was to try to contact him while I was in Hawaii and let him know if he didn’t come up with something, the repo people would be paying him a visit.
Sophia, called Bernie Oseransky, the Production Manger of Hawaii Five-O, and made arrangements with him for me to have my own office space for a day, while I was in Hawaii.
After a few days on the beach in Waikiki, I was ready to report to work. In my rented car, I drove to Fort Ruger which is on the eastern side of Diamond Head and to the production site of Hawaii Five-O…only there were no offices, only production trailers. And I found that all the staff were dressed Hawaii appropriate. Which meant the women were in mumus and the men in shorts and it was flip-flops for everyone. The atmosphere was so casual that I was surprised that they all weren’t sipping tropical drinks with little umbrellas in them at their desk, or maybe they were, and they were hiding them from me. I was given a desk, a telephone, supplies and a telephone book. After making a few phone calls, including one to my boss, I gave up on trying to track down our elusive deadbeat. Besides, the main purpose of my visit was accomplished--I was on the lot of Hawaii Five-O.
James MacArthur, who played Officer Danny Williams, couldn’t have been more charming. He would occasionally pop into the trailer to see how I was doing. When I was taken around on the set, they introduced me as “Bobbie, from the mainland”, which might have been a secret code to let everyone know they should be hiding their Mai Tais.
Jack Lord was a little more reserved than the rest of the cast and crew were. I later found out he was a bit of a recluse even with the people he worked with. The familiar dark curl that hung over his forehead on screen was the same way in person. I couldn’t help but imagine a gigantic ocean wave following him around on the set., nor ignore the Hawaii Five-O theme, playing inside my head. He was after all Steve McGarrett.
At the end of the day, I thanked everyone for their gracious hospitality and said my alohas. It was too bad I never caught the guy who stiffed the credit union. Because if I had, you know what I would have said, “Book’em, Danno.”
To see episodes of Hawaii Five-O on line, go to www.cbs.com scroll down to the bottom where it has 30 days of classics.