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Modern Screen (July 1972)

"Cooking with a Star"

For the nearly five years that he has starred in Hawaii Five-O, James MacArthur has lived in the penthouse apartment of a luxury high rise condominium on Oahu.

The view is staggering -- the Pacific stretching as far as the eye can see, Diamond Head looming in the background. In the distance there’s Pearl Harbor and to the right, a panorama of commercialism known as Waikiki Beach. For those not used to tropical climes, it’s a vista that takes the breath away.

Happily for family (like Jim’s mother Helen Hayes) and a host of Hollywood friends, the MacArthurs are not averse to having their guest rooms put to use. Often boarders are old family friends like the Hume Cronyns or the Henry Fondas. To add to their guests’ pleasure, Jim is a regular Graham Kerr when it comes to performing in the kitchen.

“I’ve always liked to cook,” he says simply. “Of course i had a lot of years as a bachelor, and then after my divorce and before I married Melody I was on my own again. When I moved here I was exposed to new foods. It’s a trip. Have you ever had squid?” he grins. “Cooked in cocoanut milk, it tastes like lobster in one bite and chicken breast in the next. Eel and octopus can be fixed the same way. Fabulous!”

Adding to Jim’s enjoyment of such exotic dishes is a beer accompaniment. White wine, he informs, may be good with oysters, but it is much too pallid to stand up to strong tasting seafoods.

Although their apartment looks more like sophisticated New York than lazy Hawaii (it’s modern in feeling with a few antiques) the MacArthurs entertain casually, in the easy lifestyle of the islands. Socially they see very little of Jim’s co-star Jack Lord and his wife. “They get along well when they’re working,” says Jim’s publicist, “because they’re both extremely professional. But they don’t have anything in common beyond the show. And when you work with a guy day in and day out you don’t necessarily want to look at him across the dinner table.”

On the other hand, Jim has made friends with the cameramen, the crew and regulars like Kono and Zulu [sic]. The guest stars are often friends whom Jim hasn’t seen in some time. These are the people who will tell you that the MacArthurs tend to play everything down, that the easy mood of island living reflects itself in their everyday life. Melody, for instance, has a wild collection of muu-muus, while Jim’s favorite outfit is a white dress shirt favored by the natives, white trousers and no shoes.

On call six days a week, Jim almost never works all day every day, which gives him time to indulge another passion, tennis. When his children by Joyce Bulifant, his first wife, visit -- Charlie, 12, and Mary, 5 -- Jim will drag out the surf boards and sand pails, but tennis is really his game. To keep up with him Melody is taking lessons and playing almost every day.

An actress who at one time starred in F Troop, a now-defunct TV series, Melody admits she’s itching to get back to work. Since marrying Jim, she’s been semi-retired, modeling a little. It’s only been in recent months that she’s gotten around to reading scripts again. Children? They’re not planning to have a baby anytime soon. “I want to keep her barefoot and not pregnant,” says Jim -- not jokingly.

As to her abilities over the hot stove, Melody is the first to admit that when she got married she knew nothing about the culinary arts -- absolutely nothing.

“But it finally got to her,” says a friend. “It’s contagious. You sit there and watch someone flying around in the kitchen having a ball and you can’t resist giving it a try. And there’s the ego aspect. Jim was doing all the work and getting all the compliments. So Melody settled down and began experimenting with recipes. Now she’s equally as good as Jim, even better according to him.”

Jim’s Hollywood agent characterizes him as a nomad actor who has literally worked in the four corners of the world, a young man who thrives on change and a fast pace. When he first moved to Hawaii, Jim admitted he had claustrophobia, a common ailment among mainlanders who move there. But he insists he’s gotten used to it.

Melody had an even harder time adjusting to island life. Jim would go off to work and what was she to do? During her first few months rattling around in that high rise penthouse, she experienced a crushing case of homesickness.

“Curiously enough,” says Jim, “getting involved with cooking was one of the best things for her; getting jazzed about entertaining, experimenting with exotic foods. The modeling thing was a natural, too. Now she’s the most in demand girl with every advertising agency. Life is good and getting better ...” Jim grins. Still when Hawaii Five-O goes on hiatus, Jim and Melody are on the first plane to Los Angeles, heading for their home in the San Fernando Valley.

It’s therefore fitting that the recipe they chose to pass on is one that they enjoy in both places -- Jim’s favorite beer marinade. Although the octopus in cocoanut milk is great, unless you’re living in Hawaii or a similar locale, the ingredients are hard to come by!

Jim MacArthur’s Favorite Beer Marinade

Use for beef.


1-1/2 cups beer
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons marmalade
2 cloves minced garlic

Simple but superb, says Jim. And the longer the beef is marinated, the better!

James MacArthur

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