Don Ho biography
SynopsisFor more than four decades, Don Ho was one of Hawaii's biggest entertainers, drawing huge crowds to his shows. The success of his albums in the 1960s, especially his hit single "Tiny Bubbles," brought him legions of fans worldwide and led to numerous appearances on TV. The charming entertainer pursued a number of TV projects in the 1970s and briefly had his own variety show, The Don Ho Show.
Singer, entertainer. Born Donald Tai Loy Ho on August 13, 1930, in Honolulu, Hawaii. For more than four decades, Don Ho was one of Hawaii's biggest entertainers, drawing huge crowds to his shows. The success of his albums in the 1960s, especially his hit single, "Tiny Bubbles," brought him legions of fans worldwide and led to numerous appearances on television. From a Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and German background, he was one of nine children and grew up on the island of Oahu. His parents ran Honey's, a bar named after his mother's nickname.
An excellent football player in high school, Ho went to Springfield College in Massachusetts on an athletic scholarship in 1949. The East Coast held little appeal for him, and he chose not to return after his first year. Back in Oahu, he eventually returned to college. Ho graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1953 with a degree in sociology.
The next year Ho joined the U.S. Air Force. While in the military, he started playing the Hammond organ as a hobby. Ho rose up the ranks in the air force, leaving as a first lieutenant in 1959. He then started helping out in the family's bar. Business was doing poorly so Ho's father encouraged him to play his music to draw people in. Soon Ho started a band and played his organ while serving drinks.
His modern take on traditional Hawaiian music started to attract patrons and a lot of attention. He began playing gigs at other places on Oahu, which led to Ho scoring a deal with Reprise Records. With Reprise, he released several albums, including Do Ho Show (1965) and Don Ho-Again! (1966). Ho took his act on the road, hitting nightclubs and other hot spots in Hollywood, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Chicago among other places in 1966. Big celebrities, such as Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra, are said to have watched the Hawaiian crooner's show. That same year, he released his biggest hit, "Tiny Bubbles."
With his laid-back attitude and casual Hawaiian style, Ho was in demand, making numerous television appearances on such shows as Batman, I Dream of Jeanne, The Hollywood Place, and The Andy Williams Show in the late 1960s. Back on Oahu, he became a popular tourist attraction. Over the years, Ho's show became an amalgam of songs, stories, jokes, and even some Hawaiian history. He created a party atmosphere, encouraging the audience to have a good time and to drink up, or "Suck 'em Up" as the song he usually sang says.
The smooth-talking, charming entertainer pursued a number of television projects in the 1970s. He tried his hand at having his variety program, The Don Ho Show, in 1976, but it only lasted a season.
Ho had more success appearing as himself on other programs, including The Brady Bunch, Charlie's Angels, Sanford and Son, and Fantasy Island.
In the 1990s, Ho dabbled in acting, appearing in the comedy Joe's Apartment (1996) with Jerry O'Connell and the independent film First Daughter (1997). Still much of his time was spent in Hawaii, entertaining visitors with his show. Ho lived in beautiful home on the slope of Diamond Head crater, not too far from Waikiki were he played regularly. A family man, Ho had ten children, six with his first wife Melva May Wong who died in 2002.
Death and Legacy
In his later years, Ho struggled with a heart problem. He traveled to Thailand in 2005 to undergo an experimental treatment that used stem cells to repair the damage to his heart. The next year, however, Ho had to have a pacemaker implanted to regulate his heartbeat. Despite his health issues, he returned to performing, but had a reduced schedule of shows. Around this time, Ho married his former assistant Haumea Hebenstreit.
A dedicated performer, Ho made his last appearance at the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel only two days before his death. He passed away on April 14, 2007, from heart failure. Family, friends, and fans turned out to good-bye to this Hawaiian icon at his memorial service on May 5 at Waikiki Beach where his ashes were scattered off shore.
His show at the Waikiki Beachcomber goes on as the Ohana Ho Show--ohana
means "family" in Hawaiian. Some of his family, band members and
several other people involved in his original show are part of the
production, which is in part a tribute to Don Ho. Several of his
children are also following in his footsteps, most notably his daughter
Hoku. She is a singer who had a hit single with "Another Dumb Blonde" in
2000. She got her start performing on stage with her legendary father.