- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

HONOLULU — Legendary crooner Don Ho, who entertained tourists for decades wearing raspberry-tinted sunglasses and singing his catchy signature tune “Tiny Bubbles,” has died. He was 76.

He died yesterday morning of heart failure, publicist Donna Jung said.

Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.” Mr. 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, Mr. 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,” Mr. 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 graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1953 with a degree in sociology.

Inspired by the U.S. military planes flying in and out of Hawaii during World War II, Mr. 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,” Mr. 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 street.”

Honey’s became a happening place on Oahu, with other Hawaiian musicians stopping in for jam sessions. Mr. Ho began to play at various spots at Hawaii, and soon he was packing places such as the Coconut Grove in Hollywood and 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 Mr. Ho’s shows.

Mr. Ho also became a television star, and hosted “The Don Ho Show” on ABC from 1976 to 1977. One of Mr. 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.”

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