Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Where Did Everything Come From on the Set?

I had intended to start posting some set photos today.  My scanner suddenly says I have to install the software that I already installed a couple of years ago.   I need to find or download it again since I must have a forgetful scanner.  Must have learned that from me.

Given the range of sets on Magnum from back alleys to mansions to huts in Vietnam villages--where did all that stuff come from (and what happened to it after)?

First, the studio did have a small set dressing storage area behind the construction mill.  It was an old military building with a tin roof and more than a few holes.  We had rats, cockroaches, and centipedes besides all the set dressing.  We kept a basic stock of items there from crates, barrels, old gas pumps and rustic things stored outside to kitchen items, drapes, office and desk equipment, basic chairs, dishes, etc.  Most of these items were fairly nondescript and could be used over and over with not much fear that someone would say, "I saw that coffee mug 3 episodes ago!"  Well, maybe YOU would have, but most viewers wouldn't!  lol

Second and most important source was a place called The Consignment Center.  I would give anything for that to still be here, but the owner, John, passed away in 1990 and soon after so did his establishment (with great scandal).  If you had a chair (or a house full of items) you wanted to sell, you would take it to this consignment center.  Your chair would be placed on sale for say $100.  If it sold, you would get $60 and John would get $40.  Now imagine a HUGE space packed with thousands and thousands of items from antiques to junk--that was The Consignment Center.  I think half the things there belonged to people who had long since moved away or had died.  John was a real character and was very successful at making deals.  The best deal he ever made was to allow the decorator from "Hawaii 5-0" and later Magnum to rent these items that technically belonged to other people for 15% of the value for a week.  We would pick up the items, use them, bring them back and John would get a check.  If we damaged or lost anything, he got another check for the full price.    A true "win-win" situation.  Once in awhile John would get a call from someone who saw a painting or sofa they owned that showed up on a set from Magnum.  Instead of apologizing or offering them compensation right away, he would start with, "Yes, isn't that WONDERFUL?!"  Usually the person would then agree that it was wonderful that Grandmas chair was seen by millions of people not knowing John had just made 15% on it.  In some cases they might not be so happy and I would be warned not to rent any more of their items.  The stock there kept rotating so that it seemed an almost endless choice and was a perfect arrangement since I seldom needed (or wanted) an item again since it might have been seen already.

Third, and most unbelievable now, was C.S. Wo.  The Wo family has had a virtual monopoly on furniture stores in Honolulu for more than 30+ years.  Even now, all major furniture stores (even with different names) are still owned by the Wo family.  Today if you want to buy something, it all comes from their warehouse.  Even walking in to one of their stores with cash, you cannot buy anything off the floor and plan on 24-48 hours to even pick something up at their giant warehouse.  However, in the "good old days" I could walk into their main store on Kapiolani Boulevard with my crew in the 5-ton truck, pick out anything I wanted right off the floor, and out the door it went!  No one even believes me when I tell them that today.  So any high-end looking furniture, lamp, pictures etc. were almost certainly from this store.

Having to buy everything would have meant storing or trying to sell it later since it would not be able to be used again in most cases.  It also would have been a lot more expensive than paying 15 % a week to rent--which was usually all the time we needed it.  If we did need it longer than a week, we would just pay another 15%.  This also applied to a dozen other places from Chinese to antique or a lamp store.  In cases when I would do a set for Higgins or Agatha, I used many of my own items from my house.  At the time it seemed like a good idea since they would be available again if needed and were appropriate for the characters.  In spite of the sense it made at the time, it was used against me 3 years later in a political move to get rid of me.  More on that one later!

Sorry, no pictures yet, just more words!  I promise to get my scanner going soon.  Aloha


Marco said...

This story is just awesome! I am still laughing here :-)

Maybe someone misses the Gauguin "Three Tahitians" which he stored at John's? Well, maybe watch an episode of Magnum,p.i. :-) 15% of that ... well ...

I honestly wondered about where the stuff all came from. One thing I would really like to have would be Magnum's couch. It probably is gone for good already but it would be nice!

Did you also find the items for "Vietnam" settings there?

Magnum Decorator said...

Hi Marco, One of Higgin's fake leather wing back chairs has survived. The sofa and matching chair are gone. The round table in his den was in such bad shape I used it in a grungy, outdoor African cantina set for an "E.R." episode they did here. I'm sure I was the only person on the planet that knew where that table had come from--kind of a fall from grace! Once the things came off the set and went into storage, they just became "stuff" and lost any real provenance. Water leaked, rats peed, termites ate and no one really cared. I'll tell you the inner workings of that situation privately sometime! Vietnam set dressing was mostly baskets, rustic pots, food items, fabric. We once did an entire Vietnam village set near the Nuuanu Valley reservoir for a flashback. We had a big storm and it all blew away before they could film it! Somewhere I have the photos of this incredible Vietnam bar we created--in the middle of the living room set!

Anonymous said...

I think I would like to have the bridge that Higgins built from the Bridge on the River Kwai. I am sure the bridge is long gone by now. Do you know what might have happened to it?

Annette said...

Can you please confirm for us that the desk in Higgins study was indeed the same desk used in Mcgarrett's office? Also, what became of the white desk chairs?