Thursday, October 30, 2008

Agatha's Living Room Set

This was one of my favorite sets as Gillian Dobbs was one of my favorite actresses.  I first met her in 1975 when I designed the sets and lighting for "The Music Man" at the main theatre here in Honolulu just up the hill from the film studio.  Trust me, she wasn't acting--Gillian WAS Agatha!  Not that she wasn't a good actress, but her character really was herself in real life.  I don't think the producers really knew what to do with her.  She was a bit odd, but a perfect romantic foil for the stout and dour Higgins.  She lived here in Honolulu.  Other guest actors and actresses were always picked up at their hotel and driven to and from the studio.  I would see Gillian sitting outside the studio on a concrete bench waiting for her bus that went by the facility on 18th Avenue.  She never complained, but I always felt sorry for her.  In this business, the squeaky wheel gets the oil and Gillian never squeaked very much.  After the show she didn't do anything that I was aware of.  Marco my Magnum expert told me she had passed away.  Her character of Agatha will live on!

Here are some photos of her living room.  There is much to tell about this set and I will have to do that in 2 parts.  As you can see, there are some photos of some of the carpenters actually building this set.  My only complaint was about the fireplace.  I think it was left over from another set but it seemed so dark and rustically inappropriate for the more fussy feminine nature of this set.  Well, with all that I packed into this set, it wasn't all that noticeable!


paperwar said...

Rick, i have a question regarding building the set: Usually the sets are built without having a ceiling cause of lighting purposes. I have noticed, that some sets do have a ceiling, for example Magnum`s guest house. Do you know before you built the set, wether there`s a ceiling required or/and do you have a kind of moveable ceiling which you can place/cover quickly on the set in case it`s required? Thanks + Aloha

Magnum Decorator said...

Good Question! Tom's guest house was almost 2 stories high. Our "soundstage" was really a warehouse with a much lower ceiling than a real soundstage. Any time the camera shot up to the entrance platform from the stage floor, it was almost guaranteed you would see above the set. Ceiling pieces are only used where they might be seen or they are blocking the lighting from above. A ceiling piece only needed a small, muslin covered frame (we call them "flats" in the theatre) to give the illusion of a ceiling. They would just be used in whatever shot they were needed and then taken down. Things happen so quickly in TV that knowing details ahead of time is difficult. Having standby, fast solutions if the key!

rubber chicken said...

Such a sweet lady, and one of my favorite characters on the show. I wonder if she perhaps declined to be driven to and from the studio, not wanting to be fussed over. (?)

Do you know if she continued to work in the theater during the Magnum P.I. years?

According to the link below, it seems when she passed away she was living in Lancaster, New York (outside Buffalo). I wonder if this is where she came from originally? If she wasn't born in Hawaii, I'd be curious to know what caused her to decide to move and live there for an extended period. Perhaps she moved there during the war? I've also wondered whether or not she was married, etc. etc.

more info here

I kind of like the fireplace. I could picture a fireplace like that being found in an English cottage set in the countryside. : )

Magnum Decorator said...

She was married to a man named Marvin Dobb when I first met her. He was involved in some shady business that landed him in jail and they were divorced. He later married another actress (ironically from that same production of "Music Man" where I first met Gillian) and they were also later divorced. I know I talked to Gillian a couple of times after Magnum but there really isn't work here that pays regularly for an actress and she didn't strike me as the Hollywood type who would move to Los Angeles for a career. I don't really know that much more about her. So much of this business is being in the right place at the right time and that only seems to have happened to her once.

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Anonymous said...

I met Gillian in 1992, when she moved into Nakolea, on Young and Isenberg; perhaps you know the place? You're right, she was Agatha. But I wish we'd never met. She was only there a short while, and when she moved out, she asked me to help her move some furniture, just a few things; "nothing a big strong man like you couldn't handle." There was a deliberate poke at my manhood in the nuanced way she said that, and I thought-oh lady, what is your trip? Anyway, this other sad sack who was supposed to help, for whatever niggardly sum she'd agreed to pay him, got drunk that day, and poor Gillian, whatever would she do? So, idiot me, I carried a dresser and a couple other things down the three flights of steps and hoisted them into the truck. They weren't very heavy, but big, and I had to keep my arms out in front of me as I carried them. Like I said, I'm a registered, dyed-in-the-wool idiot. A few days later my back went out, and I ended up in the hospital. Now, I'm not saying it was all her damn fault, I had problems brewing in my lumbar area before she ever showed up, but Goddamn it, you'll never, EVER, get me to carry anything that big down a flight of steps again, not without assistance. Thank God for S.H.I.P., that's all I can say. The muscle popped out a few years later, when I was riding a bicycle, and now every thing's hunky dory, Bob's yer uncle. But that was my association with Lady Gillian Dobbs, and I wish her well in the great beyond, but she owes me one.

Richard said...

Hey everyone, I was an extra on Magnum for years and still known for the scene I did with Frank Sinatra when he guest starred. Gillian was a personal friend of mine also, took her shopping, dropped her off in her first floor apt. off of Kapahulu, and yes she was just like her character. One Easter when I invited her to meet some family at my condo in waikiki she walked in as "Agatha" much to the thrill of my Canadian family. I escorted her to the Magnum final cast party on one of the large boats, after the show ended she very quietly from what I heard went back to Canada as there was no "final" goodbye. She was sweet!!

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