HAWAII NEWS| LEE CATALUNAJack Lord’s stunt double lived with integrityBy Lee Cataluna
February 18, 2018
Updated February 18, 2018 12:05am
- COURTESY LORI NORDLUM
John Nordlum is shown on the set of “Magnum, P.I.” in Ko Olina, where he worked as a stunt double for Tom Selleck in the 1980s. Nordlum, a former teacher, was a gentle soul, according to his wife, Lori. He died Jan. 31.
ADVERTISINGJohn Nordlum did some of the most daring stunts of 1970s and ’80s television but never broke a bone. He didn’t complain about being put in terrifying situations, but he called himself a coward. He had the looks of a ladies’ man, but he was devoted to only one woman.
Nordlum, stunt double and stand-in for both Jack Lord on the original “Hawaii 5-0” and Tom Selleck on the original “Magnum, P.I.,” died Jan. 31. He was 81.
He is survived by his wife, Lori; son Michael Nordlum of Red Lodge, Mont.; stepchildren James and Robbie Watland; and grandchildren Morisa, Presley and Jaxon.
ADVERTISING“Jack Lord once said of my husband, ‘John Nordlum is the most honorable man I know,’” Lori said. “And he was. He was a good, good man.”
A memorial for John Nordlum will be held March 24:
>> Where: Borthwick Mortuary, 1330 Maunakea St.
>> When: Visitation at 9:30 a.m. with services at 10:30
Nordlum was born in International Falls, Minn., on May 9, 1936. He served in the U.S. Army and attended St. John’s Catholic Seminary in Minnesota, hoping to be a priest. He changed his mind and decided to teach English and literature instead. He taught all over the world — Greece, Singapore, Virgin Islands — before arriving in Hawaii to teach at Saint Louis, Punahou, Kahuku and Farrington.
He was working as a research diver at Makai Pier when “5-0”was filming nearby. Jack Lord spotted Nordlum, liked the way he looked and the way he moved, and asked him to work for him. Nordlum declined the offer, but the following year, Lord approached him again. By that time, Nordlum was teaching at Saint Louis. Lord called the school’s headmaster for help.
In the entertainment business, Nordlum became known as a dedicated stand-in. “He would say, ‘I’m the curtain-puller.’ That means he put other people in the limelight. He made them look good,” Lori said.
John and Lori met on the set of “Hawaii 5-0.” “I used to work as an extra, just for pin money,” Lori said. “Back then, we all knew the protocol. We didn’t bother the actors.” One day, one of the female stand-ins came over to her and teased, “John loves Lori. John loves Lori!”
“I said, ‘That is so stupid! You sound like we’re in fifth grade or something. And who is John?’”
Then, Nordlum came over to introduce himself. “She’s right,” he said. He had noticed Lori on the set and had developed a crush on her. “He was so gorgeous. I just fell in love with him right on the spot,” Lori said.
They began dating, but Lori, who was raising her children after a divorce, was wary of “Hollywood types and Hollywood values.”
She was working as a secretary in a downtown law firm, and John would often pick her up after work and take her to dinner. One day, he called and asked her to meet him outside on Bishop Street. As she stood on the curb, she saw him walking toward her in the middle of traffic. “Everybody stopped. Nobody tooted their horn. He got down on one knee and said, ‘Lori, please come. Will you marry me?’” She told him she wasn’t going to give him an answer until they got out of the busy street.
But then the answer took much longer. “I didn’t have an answer for 20 years,” she said.
He was patient. Though they were together for 32 years, they got married only 12 years ago.
Even after leaving education for entertainment, Nordlum carried the values of a teacher. He established the Hawaii Stunt Association to train Hawaii residents in stunt work when TV production was booming in the islands.
He served on the board of directors for the Screen Actors Guild Hawaii from 1988 to 2017 and also chaired the Stunt and Safety Committee on the board. When “Hawaii 5-o” ended, Jack Lord gave Nordlum the show’s signature car, a 1974 Mercury Marquis. Nordlum loaned the car to the current “Hawaii 5-0” production. Though he could stand in for a tough guy and do tough stunts, his wife said he was a gentle soul. “He never hurt anyone. He would take the hit first,” Lori said. “And he didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone.”
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.