April 14, 2007

Don Ho, RIP

The legendary singer of "Tiny Bubbles" died this morning of heart failure at the age of 76:

Ho entertained Hollywood's biggest stars and thousands of tourists for four decades. For many, no trip to Hawaii was complete without seeing his Waikiki show a mix of songs, jokes, double entendres, Hawaii history and audience participation.

Shows usually started and ended with the same song, "Tiny Bubbles." Ho mostly hummed as the audience enthusiastically took over the song's swaying, silly lyrics: "Tiny bubbles/in the wine/make me happy/make me feel fine."

"I hate that song," he often joked to the crowd. He said he saved it for the end because "people my age can't remember if we did it or not."

The son of bar owners, Ho broke into the Waikiki entertainment scene in the early 1960s and, except for short periods, never left. Few artists are more associated with one place.

I remember first hearing the song when I was a young child, and even then, the fun of the song was in its cheesiness. What I didn't know much about was Don Ho. The relaxed crooner had starred as a football player, winning him a college scholarship in Massachussetts until he got homesick for Hawaii. After graduating with a degree in sociology, Ho flew for the Air Force during the Korean War. He began his career as a singer because his father's bar had started to struggle after the war and the business needed entertainment. It turned into a sensation that would last for decades.

He entertained millions in a gentle style. Don Ho will be missed.

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Comments (11)

Posted by Adjoran [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 11:07 PM

By all accounts, a warm and friendly man who didn't let his celebrity go to his head.

RIP, Don. My sympathies and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Posted by Kamper K [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 11:28 PM

Adjoran: I had the pleasure of seeing his show when I was in Waikiki in 2003 and "warm and friendly" definitely describes him. He was very charming, a charm he managed to project to the audience. He also patiently and with very good humor posed with audience members after the show for pictures and would engage with them. His biography indicates a pre-show business life with real achievements. That probably explains why he possessed a character that is virtually non-existent in today's entertainment world.

Posted by Rose [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 11:30 PM

I remember Don Ho, from lots of movies and TV shows and guest interviews. He was always so nice and gracious, and good natured.

He will be sorely missed.

Posted by Lew Clark [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 14, 2007 11:40 PM

Truly a Gentle Man. The world never has enough of these. He will be missed.

Posted by Rhod [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 6:18 AM

Vets who took their R & R from Vietnam in Hawaii will remember how good he treated us.

Posted by PersonFromPorlock [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 6:58 AM

KInd of puts the efficacy of that stem cell treatment he went to Thailand for in doubt, though. Or at least its permanence, since he did claim a great improvement.

Posted by Keemo [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 8:52 AM

My wife and I saw him while on our honeymoon in 1979. Don asked if their were any newlyweds in the audience; my wife raised her hand (much to my displeasure) and Don sang a song for us. Don will be missed....

Posted by Del Dolemonte [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 11:50 AM

I lived down the road from the club Don's folks owned (Honey's Restaurant in Kaneohe) when he first hit it big. Despite his fame, he always had time to give younger Hawaiian musicians a chance, often giving them solo spots in his shows.

Here's a strange: when doing a Google news search for more info on Don's passing, I also got stories about another news event. That's because Google was not only searching for news stories about "Don Ho", but also for news stories about "Don" and "Ho". You can guess the rest!

Posted by jeffsters [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 15, 2007 10:38 PM

When my father was on his second tour in Vietnam, he went to Hawaii on R&R. While he was there, he and my mother went to see Don Ho. He was wearing his uniform at the club and Don noticed that he was in the Special Forces. So Don made him get up and sing "The Ballad of the Green Berets" to the audience. My dad couldn't remember the words, so Don made my mom get up to help him. We still have the pictures that the club took of my father that night, standing at the microphone next to Don fumbling through the song. Don Ho was a treasure.

Posted by Tony [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 9:17 AM

I had thought this was going to be another Imus piece. Can you say "Ho"?

But seriously, Don Ho will be missed. I still remember the loud Hawaiian shirts (I wore ones like it in the 60's).

Posted by FlagGazer [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:12 PM

I grew up with Don Ho - my step-uncle played in his back-up band, the Aliis. He was a genuine good man. What I will remember is the many very irreverent verses they had all made up to Tiny Bubbles! At get togethers, they would roar into these verses, causing mothers to shoo young children away!!!!

His Mom's club was called Honey's - it was THE hang-out in the WWII years near the Kaneohe Air Station.