Monday, March 30, 2009

Higgins' Den "Before" Look PART I

Unfortunately I don't have any more memory of doing this "before" of Higgins' Den than I do of the earlier guesthouse.  What these photos also show, however, are the architectural elements of Higgins' den.
     One of the first things I did as decorator was to  make the books in the "wild bookcase" section fake.  It was extremely difficult to move the bookcase wall with the books in it because of the weight.  Whenever you saw a camera angle of the desk from the bookcase side, it had to be taken out to fit the camera in.  The other side with the French doors was not a problem.
The (fake) white brick wall in Higgins' den were a left over design element from the pilot that was filmed partially at the Marks' Estate.  There was an enclosed lanai that had painted white bricks on a couple of the walls.  The double doors at the end of the room lead into the entry hall with the curved staircase.  Beyond that was the door I called "the door to everywhere else" since it went to several places depending on the episode.  Any of you ever notice this?
    Not sure where to insert this entry hall story, but this is as good a place as any.  When Ms. Lansbury came over to do the combined "Murder She Wrote" episode (later commenting that her show had "saved" Magnum when our ratings were down), she had a scene on the stairs with Tom.  I was not present when this happened, but I did hear about it from several people.  Ms. Lansbury was delivering her lines at the top of the stairs (as mentioned earlier that they only lead to the catwalks above the set) and Tom was at the bottom.  At some point in the afternoon around 4:00 p.m. while Tom was saying his lines, an alarm tone went off.  Ms. Lansbury suddenly walked down the stairs past Tom who had a look of bewilderment on his face.  One of her people then said, "Ms. Lansbury is done for the day."  Apparently part of her contract was to only work so many hours a day, which is not uncommon.  Having an alarm clock and leaving in the middle of a scene is uncommon.  I don't think anyone felt the love after that.  Tom, on the other hand, was always good about giving that extra to finish a scene--especially at a location where returning would have been difficult (and expensive).  

As long as I'm inserting sidebar messages, thank all of you who bid on my eBay Magnum items (especially you know who).  I really don't think I have anything left of interest (the box I used to store my papers in? lol)  If I ever do find anything, I will be sure to let you know.  In the meantime, as mentioned before, the eBay guys from Hauula (Hawaiiprops) are legitimate and nice people--and are doing VERY well!  I'd better establish some advertising / endorsement rates soon!

Mahalo again for your expressions of thanks for this blog!

Aloha,  Rick


Anonymous said...

Well done Rick!

It's funny you mention the "alarm" issue with Angela Lansbury, as Larry Manetti actually talks about that in his book. He talked about how Selleck and her were right in the middle of a scene, and she walked out on him, really upsetting the crew.

Anonymous said...

By the way Rick, that air conditioning vent above and behind Higgin's that part of the set or is that a functioning A/C unit (or both)? I also remember Larry's book mentioning the sets and how hot they would get! I guess the A/C units had to be shut down during takes, and it wouldn't take more than a few minutes before all the cast and crew would be medium-rare. Magnum would usually be comfortable in short-shorts and shirts, but poor Hillerman was the one to usually wear the suits. Anyway, those are just more comments Manetti made in his book. Keep up the great work!

Mike (N1095A) said...

Hi Rick,
I was watching an episode today that featured Hillerman in the den with a roaring fire in the fireplace. I've seen this in the guest house as well. Considering these were sets built inside anither building, and nearly everything was fake, how did you do fires?

Magnum Decorator said...

Whew, I didn't want to get in trouble with the Angela Lansbury fans (are there any?), so I'm glad someone else mentions that story about her. I don't think Larry Manetti ever knew who I was, but somehow I still managed to sleep at night. The actors on Magnum were all pretty civil to each other and the crew as well. John Hillerman could get a little uppity, but then, so did Higgins. It just seemed to go together with him and his character. As long as his stand-in / factotum kept his Perrier cold, he was fine.

The old A/C on that sound stage really only had 2 settings: on and off (or LOUD and off). When it was left on, it just got colder and colder. Most of the old insulation was sprayed on and was always falling off in big chunks. I always wondered if it had asbestos in it? I remember one time the little window in the main exterior door had fogged over--of course it was probably 90 degrees and 90% humidity outside. They used these giant tubes (like large dryer ducts) to blow the cold air around. I think there was one for that vent above Higgins' desk. I was never on the set long enough while they were filming to get that uncomfortable--especially in my short shorts, too!

All live fires fall under Special Effects. They would use a metal enclosure around the back side of the fireplace, propane gas connected with hoses to a pipe with holes in it and some fake logs. There was a little sheet metal chimney vent, but because it was a gas fire, it just dissipated into the air inside the sound stage. Contrary to what the rest of the world thinks about tropical Hawaii, I have 2 fireplaces in my house and they do come in handy. If my sister visiting from Minnesota in February says it was cold here this year, it wasn't just my imagination!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rick....Thanks for the Blog.I don't remember "the door to everywhere else" ever being used.Can you give us an example? When exiting the den through the double doors,was the living room actually set-up to the right? Is that the area used for the Saigon Bar set?


Magnum Decorator said...

Yes, the living room was on the right (as well as the Saigon Bar) through the double doors. The entry hall exterior door was on the left. It matched the exterior door of the Anderson Estate but her door opens onto the lanai and not into her house. Then there was a single door which was to the wine cellar, computer room, and I think maybe a closet. Then there were some doors that faced Higgin's den that went everywhere else--but I can't think of where that was. I think we had a dark room set and some others.

Dave said...

Hi Rick,

I haven't been able to check the blog for a couple fo weeks so was stioked to see all the new entries!

The photo's of the den are fascinating as this was my favourite set after the guesthouse. To my eye it never looked like a set and was very realistic. Great stuff...thanks!

Marco said...


The door Rick is referring to was used to lead to a dining room (seen in "The Big Blow" and the Kitchen (seen in "Compulsion" for example).

The door to the computer room/wine cellar was left to the "door that leads everywhere else".

Looking at the outside of the Anderson estate, I think it was supposed to be all located in the other "wing" of the building - of course it would've been way too small but I think that is what was anticipated.

Thanks again for all those details, Rick!

Stian E said...

The picture of the "ladyman" on the wall in Higgins den was actually used in Hawaii Five-O aswell. The episode 9 on the 7th season "How to steal a masterpiece" from 1974.

Anonymous said...

I noticed the bankers lamp on Higgins desk was green ,later changed to yellow/ orange. Why was this done?
Cheers, wishing you the best ,

Magnum Decorator said...

I have a vague memory of someone breaking the lamp shade and only being able to find the gold shade to replace it. I also have a vague memory that the gold lamp wound up on William Conrad's desk when we were doing "Jake and the Fatman" a few years later. Sometimes the reasons things change aren't very exciting, I'm afraid!