A few hours after the shocking news of Presley's death, I called Honolulu. I had known for several years of the personal relationship which existed between the Lords and Elvis. They had never wanted to talk about I publicly, but now, I thought they might want to share their knowledge of Elvis with those of us who care.
Mare answered the phone. Cautiously, I asked her if she'd heard of the latest news. There was a pause; then she said, 'You mean about Elvis?' I could hear the shock in her voice; she went on, 'Yes, we heard. It's so ironic because Jack was just sitting here writing Elvis a letter and getting ready to mail him a package when his secretary came in and told us the news. He was so stunned. So am I. It just doesn't seem possible'. Her voice faded, her words seemed to hang in the air.
Elvis, Marie and Jack Lord
I told her of this special memorial issue to Elvis, and she and Jack readily agreed to allow me to include something that I'd know about for several years but had never written before.
Early in January, 1973, Elvis Presley was due in Hawaii. There, on the 14th, a little past midnight, he was to appear live at the Honolulu International Center in a concert that would simultaneously be beamed by satellite all around the world live except for the United States. Shortly before the day of the concert arrived. Colonel Parker had personally come to the condominium where the Lords live. By way of the manager, he had left a message inviting them to be Presley's guests at the concert.
The following day Elvis' road manager Joe Espositio had called the Lords to re-emphasize how much it would mean to Elvis if they could come. As Jack had told me several years ago, 'Ordinarily, Marie and I live like monks during the time I'm shooting. Both of us are up by five in the morning, so we never go out late during the week. But the invitation was so gracious that Marie and I just couldn't turn it down'.
The Lords went to the concert and were seated in the special section along with the rest of the Presley party. Midway in the show, after Elvis had introduced everyone of the members of the band and vocal group, he said, 'My favorite actor in the world is sitting in the audience and I want to introduce him'.
Then he called Jack by name. The Lords, celebrities that they are, told me that as if they had been floored by the introduction and that it had been an almost unbelievable tribute from one artist to another. So Jack stood up and taken his bows, live for all the world -- except the U.S. to see.
Afterwards, they had gone backstage and met Elvis up close for the very first time. Elvis was resting in his dressing room right after the 'Aloha From Hawaii' television special. One of the guys came in. 'Elvis, there's a guy out here that wants to see you. It's Jack Lord'. But as Jack would later say, 'The moment we met and shook hands it was as if we had known each other all our lives'.
'The show okay?' Elvis asked.
Jack smiled. 'You didn't see me standing up on my chair and whistling?' Elvis laughed. 'The spotlights pretty well blind me, after I'm out there so long', he said.
'You know, a whistle can be the highest compliment', Jack said. 'It's a tradition of the theater world, a high compliment between one actor and another. At that moment, I wanted every person in this auditorium to stand up and cheer. 'I don't mean that as flattery. It means I suddenly got a gut feeling of the kind of thing you were going through on stage. 'I have never heard such dramatic music in my life. Not anywhere. From anyone'.
Elvis then told Jack and Marie that he'd love to see them before he left Hawaii and asked if they could have dinner together. Marie, at the time, had said, 'Well, I'm sure you don't go out to restaurants'. Elvis had smiled back and said, 'Well, no, but I could come to your house'.
The next days were busy ones for Jack on the set. Quite frankly, he and Marie had almost forgotten about seeing Elvis again - perhaps subconsciously thinking that with Presley's schedule and Jack's, a second meeting would never come off anyway.
Still, one evening a few days later, according to Marie: 'I was in the kitchen fixing us an early dinner. The phone rang. Jack answered and then came in and told me it had been Elvis. It was his last night in Hawaii, and he'd said that most of his group had already gone back to the States but he asked if he could come over and say good-bye to us. They had arranged it for eight o'clock'.
Promptly at eight o'clock, the doorbell rang. Marie called out over the intercom and asked who it was, and a voice answered, 'Elvis'. Marie opened the door and he was standing there - 'a slim Adonis, looking gorgeous in a white suit with a white silk shirt that had a ruffled collar and cuffs'. He kissed her as he came in - bringing seven members of his party!
As soon as Elvis sat down, Marie offered them drinks. Then, much to her horror, she discovered that none of the Presley group touched hard liquor! It was ironic because neither she nor Jack drink except on rare occasions. So, fortunately, their icebox was also full of diet sodas. A few of the guys did have beer, Marie said, but the six-pack was gone in a minute, so all of them sat there sipping soda drinks - and Marie could have dies. But Elvis didn't seem to mind; he just seemed happy being there.
After about 15 minutes, he said to Jack, with a kid-type smile on his face: 'I brought you a present, Jack. I tried to think of something to bring you that you don't have. The only think I could think of was this'. Inside the box he presented to Jack was a solid gold Walther revolver. Elvis explained that he had ordered a matched set from Germany a year before but that they had just arrived. 'But I don't need two guns, so I want you to have this one', he said to Jack, 'plus six bullets - just in case you ever need them!'
Jack and Marie were speechless. The golden gun was a pure work of art. While Jack was still recovering from Presley's generosity, Elvis had turned and said, 'And I haven't forgotten you either, Marie'. He then handed her a tiny jewel box and watched eagerly as she opened it. There, sitting on a mount of velvet, was a gorgeous ring. Elvis took it out of the box and slipped it on her finger. As a former fashion designer, Marie knew only too well what the status of the gem was, but Elvis, like an eager kid, told her, 'Those are emeralds and diamonds'. She was absolutely floored.
Half an hour later Elvis asked if he could see the rest of their home, and Jack took him on the grand tour.
'over the years, Jack and I had a collection of rare musical instruments from all over the world', Marie had told me. 'When we first moved to Hawaii, we had given most of them to the UCLA Music Department. Jack had only kept a few, which he considered real treasures. One was a rare six-string banjo which had been tuned to play like a guitar. The moment Elvis saw it he sat on Jack's bed strumming it. Marie was in the living room when Elvis suddenly ran in shouting, 'Marie, Marie, Jack gave me a six-string banjo!'
His eyes were wide again like a kid, and he just couldn't get over it - as though he, himself, wasn't the world's most generous person and as though he hadn't just given Jack the golden gun and Marie the emerald and diamond ring.
Before Elvis left that night, shortly before midnight, he asked Jack and Marie to please be sure to come and see him in Las Vegas whenever they could or to come to his home and stay there anytime as his guest.
One month later and a short break from the Hawaii 5-0 series, Jack and Mare were headed for San Francisco and Los Angeles and, by coincidence, they learned that Elvis was just about to open in Las Vegas. So, they called Colonel Parker and told him they would like to come.
The day they arrived in Las Vegas was one that neither the Lords will ever forget. As they walked off the plane, there, standing at the foot of the ramp, was a tall Hawaiian man holding garlands of fresh flower leis. Colonel Parker had called him, and he was flown in especially from Hawaii with the flower, just to be at the airport to greet the Lords. Then, when they arrived at their hotel and walked into their suite, Marie remembers that they could hardly moved around for all the flower baskets that surround them. It was an unforgettable moment.
That night the Lords sat at Elvis' table and the lights went down and Presley came on stage. The curtains opened and there, on stage center, was the six-sting banjo that Jack had given Elvis, on display, a spotlight beaming down on it. Then, as he had done at the concert, half way through the show, Elvis introduced his group. 'I was in Hawaii recently and this great star and his wife took me into their home', he said the. Marie commented later: 'He said it like he was some poor little orphan we had adopted. Then he called out Jack's name, and Jack stood up. The applause was tremendous. Elvis grinned and said, 'Sit down, Jack, you're getting more applause than I am'. Everyone laughed'.
After the show, The Lords went backstage with Elvis and then up to his suite where he had his own chef prepare a low-calorie dinner which he always ate between show. During the meal he looked at them sort of wistfully and asked if they would come and see his midnight show.
The Lords corresponded often with Elvis
The Lords, still on their TV series schedule, were early-to-bed people, but for Elvis they couldn't resist. After the late show, they again met with Presley, and he coaxed them to stay on the following day and come to see his show again that night. The Lords would end up staying three extra days and seeing the Presley show six times! They never left Elvis or their hotel. It was as though neither could get enough of the other, and for hours on end Jack and Elvis had talked like old boyhood chums.
On the last evening, Jack and Marie were in Elvis' dressing room when they had previously seen Presley's fantastic array of handmade costumes on one wall and, lining the other, hangers full of custom-made jeweled belts like the hi-huggers that Elvis wore over each of his jumpsuits.
One of those they had seen had been a special belt that did not match any outfit. Elvis had explained that this costume designer had spent years making this particular one, though it didn't go with any of his outfits, but he always carried it with him because he loved it so. 'It was an unbelievable thing', Marie said, 'all embroidered with coral and jade and turquoise and amethyst'.
Anyway, on their last night when the Lords walked into Presley's dressing room, Elvis stood up and in his hand he had the special belt which he now held out to Marie. She began to protest, but Elvis cut her short. He explained that he couldn't wear it because it scratched him, and he even showed where there was a gash on his hand. But the Lords knew that Presley was just saying that as Marie had personally seen a girl at the last show grab for Elvis' hand and then bite it in her enthusiastic joy at being so close to her idol. But Elvis wouldn't take no for an answer. Marie now has that very special Elvis Presley jeweled hi-hugger framed on black velvet and it hangs in a special place of honor in the Lord's home.
There were subsequent meetings and exchange of correspondence between the Lords and Elvis. There were phone conversations and yet, when you totaled it all up, they really only knew Elvis for such a brief few years. In fact, once he said rather longingly, 'Gee, Jack, I wish I'd met you many years ago'.
No he's gone. Elvis Presley that rare, talented, beautiful generous and yet lonely man. Lonely as only a few people are who ever reach such dizzying heights. A prisoner of fame and fortune and of a self-made legend surrounding him, but for those brief few years - especially during those times when Elvis, Jack and Marie Lord were together - when they were able to share the special area reserved for the famous. Inside it, together, none of them were lonely.
There will never be another Elvis Presley, and Jack and Marie Lord feel his loss so deeply. They will never forget their special friend -and neither will any of us.
Elvis acknowledged Jack Lord's presence in the audience during the 1973 'Aloha From Hawaii' broadcast. You can hear this on the new BMG CD release.