Entertainer Don Ho died Saturday, of heart failure in Waikiki. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin has a fine recap of his life and career.
To any non-Hawaiian under 40, Ho may be a symbol of tourist kitsch, or simply an entire unknown. But he was a symbol of pride in his native islands for many years. He was also a bridge to the old-time days when any entertainer had a particular shtick and a signature song — in Ho’s case, “Tiny Bubbles,” an encomium to the intoxicating power of love and Champagne.
Ho had his own variety show on ABC from 1976-77 and made guest appearances on other popular shows of the era, from I Dream of Jeannie to Sanford and Son and Fantasy Island. The Internet Movie Database lists a pair of 2005 appearances as his last: as a “special musical guest” in the animated film Aloha, Scooby-Doo, and as himself in the cast reunion special The Brady Bunch Cast Back in Hawaii.
Columnist Eddie Sherman explained Ho’s charm to the Star-Bulletin this way:, “He had a gift. He had magic. You could not really describe it. He didn’t have much of a voice. You couldn’t understand what he said. He mumbled all the time. But when the show was over, people fell in love with him.”