John Nordlum, who doubled for Jack Lord on original 'Five-0,' dead at 81

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - John Nordlum, a one-time seminarian, high school English teacher and diver who became Jack Lord's stunt double and stand-in on the original "Hawaii Five-0" television series, died last week Wednesday at 81.

Nordlum died at his Nanakuli home after battling Parkinson's Disease, according to his wife, Lori.

Nordlum was working as a teacher at Saint Louis High School and a diver at the makai pier near Makapuu in the late 1970s. According to Lori Nordlum, the CBS television series was filming near the pier when Lord, the original Steve McGarrett, spotted Nordlum running down the pier.

"Jack Lord asked John if he would come work for him, and John said, 'Oh no, no, I already have a job, thank you very much," said Lori Nordlum.

"Well, nobody tells Jack Lord 'no.'"

Nordlum eventually agreed to take Lord's job offer. He often substituted for Lord in fight scenes that didn't require him to show his face. But his wife could tell the difference because of John's wavy hair.

"I always knew when it was John because he has a little wave in the back, so I could tell from that,"

Lord and Nordlum developed a close working relationship, one that developed into a friendship.

"John would always say, 'I'm a curtain-puller. You don't go in front of the camera. You stay in the back and you make the one in front of the camera look great.' And that's what he did for Jack."

When Five-0 left the air and Lord retired, Nordlum became the stand-in and stunt double for Tom Selleck on "Magnum P.I."

His resemblance with Selleck meant that when Magnum ended, Nordlum doubled for Selleck in movies like "Three Men and a Baby." That allowed him to travel to locations around the world.

There was always a lasting connection with "Hawaii Five-0," in the form of a gift from Jack Lord when the series ended in 1980.

"Jack told John, 'I'm going to give you the Hawaii Five-0 car. And that was a real surprise to John," said Lori Nordlum.

Nordlum kept the iconic 1974 Mercury Marquis. He often said that the spirit of Jack Lord lived in the car.

"People from all over would call John and would fly to Hawaii and come down to Nanakuli and ask John, 'Can you give me a ride in that car?'  And he would."

He later loaned the car to the new version of "Hawaii Five-0." It appeared in the pilot episode.

Nordlum was also praised as a pioneer for local stunt men and women, allowing them to work on movie and television productions here.

His wife says it was a beautiful life for someone who never intended to be in show business.

"He was never interested in film," she said. "It wasn't something he wanted to do. It was something he was asked to come into."

Services for Nordlum are scheduled for March 24 at 9:30 a.m. at Borthwick Mortuary.

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