The TV and movie biz is like sports. Normally retirement chooses you, not the other way around.
Knee injuries curtailed Bob Apisa’s pro football career more than 40 years ago. But the Farrington High icon and Michigan State star left acting on his own volition, turning down several recent opportunities.
So don’t look for Apisa, 65, in the new version of Hawaii Five-0. The original show gave him his first TV role in the 1970s. "I got to meet the casting director, and they had me try for this little jailbird scene. Jack Lord came out and pointed, ‘1, 2, and 3, you stay. The rest of you go home.’ I was one of the ones who got to stay and it went from there.
"But now the incentive, the motivation isn’t there to get up at 5 in the morning and spend hours waiting around. I did it for 33 years, but it kept me away from my wife too long, sometimes for months at a time," said Apisa, home in Hawaii for a visit this week.
Plus, he’s going to be too busy.
In recent years Apisa has done some sports agency work. Now, he’s moving into the big leagues of that industry as a consultant for one of the dominant figures in the business.
"I can’t disclose the name for print right now, but I can tell you they only deal with first- and second-rounders (in the NFL Draft)," he said.
Trust me, it’s a heavy hitter—and Apisa was the one approached.
Because of Apisa’s contacts. No, not those in Hollywood (although that can’t hurt in today’s cross-marketing celebrity environment) … Apisa, who was born in Samoa before coming to Hawaii as a child, is extremely well-connected in the Polynesian football community.
"They want to make some inroads in the market," Apisa said. "I’m very excited. These are the big boys, and they provide so much support and research. I’ve got a couple of (college) guys they want me to pursue, some highly sought-after seniors on the mainland."
YESTERDAY, he participated in the Kailua Fourth of July parade with his cousin, Mufi Hannemann.
"If Mufi wins (the gubernatorial election), my days (on the mainland) might be numbered. I’d come back and help him here. I’m ready to make the move and I miss home a lot," said Apisa, whose daughters, Amy and Kelly, are ‘Iolani graduates.
Much of Apisa’s film work was as a stuntman; if playing football doesn’t fill you with senses of invincibility, competence and confidence, that will. Just ask his wife, Arlena, a stuntwoman who once stood in as Teri Hatcher’s double and drove in some high-speed screen chases: "If you’re going to set yourself on fire, you’d better know what you’re doing."
But the recent death of Charlie Wedemeyer, his teammate at Michigan State, made Apisa consider mortality. "Charlie and Dick (Kenney) and I were all on the national championship team (1965 UPI). Now I’m the only one left. Losing my good friend Charlie is difficult."
They were the big fullback from Farrington, the whiz kid from Punahou and the barefoot kicker from ‘Iolani. They were the local players who generated the first live satellite sports telecast from the mainland to Hawaii, the 1966 Michigan State-Notre Dame game between undefeateds that ended in a 10-10 tie.
"When people turn on the TV now and get it live and direct, it all goes back to that day. They bounced it off the old Lani Bird (satellite), from Australia to Hawaii. A lot of young bucks don’t know about that, but some tell me thanks," Apisa said. "I guess we were pioneers, but I tell them to thank Michigan State and the state of Hawaii for making that happen."
He won’t spend the rest of his week here dwelling on his show biz career and his impact on local TV, or dealing with super agents or in parades with politicians. Bob Apisa just wants to do what any local boy home on vacation does: hang out with his ohana and childhood friends.
"We don’t talk shop, we just tell lies about the old days. We sit around and BS each other," he said. "Nobody remembers what really happened anyway."