HONOLULU (AP) - Legendary crooner Don Ho, who entertained
tourists for decades wearing raspberry-tinted sunglasses and
singing the catchy signature tune "Tiny Bubbles," has died. He
He died Saturday morning of heart failure, publicist Donna Jung
Ho had suffered with heart problems for the past several years,
and had a pacemaker installed last fall. In 2005, he underwent an
experimental stem cell procedure on his ailing heart in Thailand.
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 the song's swaying melody as the
audience enthusiastically took over the familiar 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
performed it twice 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.
"Hawaii is my partner," Ho told The Associated Press in 2004.
Donald Tai Loy Ho, who was Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch
and German, was born Aug. 13, 1930, in Honolulu and grew up in the
then-rural countryside of Kaneohe.
In high school, he was a star football player and worked for a
brief time in a pineapple cannery. After graduating in 1949, he
attended Springfield College in Massachusetts on an athletic
scholarship. He grew homesick, returned to the islands and ended up
graduating from the University of Hawaii in 1953 with a degree in
Inspired by the U.S. military planes flying in and out of Hawaii
during World War II, Ho joined the Air Force. As the Korean War
wound down, he piloted transport planes between Hickam Air Force
Base in Honolulu and Tokyo.
When he returned home and took over his parents' struggling
neighborhood bar, Honey's, he put together a band and started
performing at his father's request.
"I had no intention of being an entertainer," Ho said. "I
just played songs I liked from the radio, and pretty soon that
place was jammed. Every weekend there would be lines down the
Honey's became a happening place on Oahu, with other Hawaiian
musicians stopping in for jam sessions. Ho began to play at various
spots in Hawaii, then had a breakout year in 1966, when appearances
at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood helped him build a mainland
following, and the release of "Tiny Bubbles" gave him his
greatest recording success.
Soon he was packing places such as the Flamingo Hotel in Las
Vegas. Stars such as Lucille Ball, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank
Sinatra were known to be in the audience for Ho's shows.
Ho also became a television star, and hosted the "The Don Ho
Show" on ABC from 1976-77. One of Ho's most memorable TV
appearances was a 1972 cameo on an episode of "The Brady Bunch."
"I've had too much fun all these years," he said in the 2004
interview. "I feel real guilty about it."
Gov. Linda Lingle said Ho created a legacy that will inspire
future generations of musicians in Hawaii.
"Hawaii has lost a true island treasure," she said. "He laid
the foundation for the international prominence Hawaii's music
industry enjoys today."
Besides "Tiny Bubbles," his other well-known songs include
"I'll Remember You," "With All My Love," and the "Hawaiian
In the final years of his life, Ho's heart problems couldn't
keep him away from the stage. He was back performing at the Waikiki
Beachcomber Hotel on a limited schedule less than two months after
his heart procedure in Thailand. His final performance was
Thursday, Jung said.