Hawaii entertainer Don Ho dies at 76

Monday, April 16, 2007

Don Ho, arguably one of Hawaii's best-known entertainers who entertained generations of tourists in Waikiki, died Saturday of heart failure. He was 76.

Ho was pronounced dead at 11:59 a.m. Saturday at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu after collapsing at his Waikiki residence.

In 2005, Ho was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and underwent experimental stem cell treatment that November in Thailand in an attempt to repair his damaged heart muscle. He resumed a reduced workload in January 2006 and continued his performances at the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber hotel until his death; his last performance was Thursday.

Born in Honolulu on August 13, 1930, Ho was raised in Kaneohe and graduated from Kamehameha Schools. After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Hawaii and serving in the United States Air Force, he started his entertaining career, first at his family's bar in Kaneohe, then in Waikiki since 1962. It was while he was performing at Duke Kahanamoku's club in Waikiki that his band caught the attention of record executives.

His best known hit, "Tiny Bubbles," reached #8 on Billboard magazine's charts. Ho would go on to record more albums and perform at venues across the United States as well as in Waikiki. A nationally televised variety show known as the Don Ho Show aired on ABC from 1976 to 1977.

Local entertainers remember him for his ability to connect with his audience as well as his laid-back, mumbled delivery that became his signature.

Ho is survived by wife Haumea Hebenstreit Ho and 10 children, including singer and actress Hoku Ho.