Posted at 12:11 p.m., Thursday, May 6, 2004
Zulu, of 'Hawaii Five-0,' is dead at 66
By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
Born Gilbert Lani Kauhi on the Big Island, he was better known by the nickname classmates gave him in high school — "Zulu" — but for TV audiences worldwide, he was Detective Kono Kalakaua.
Zulu died in Hilo Medical Center of complications from diabetes, said his mother, Emma Kauhi.
She said his health had not been good for a few years. Zulu, who lived in Hawaiian Paradise Park, had suffered from kidney problems, she said. In 1994, he had suffered several strokes.
Zulu was a popular Waikiki beachboy in 1968 when he joined the CBS drama for its first season. He was cast as the burly Hawaiian sidekick to the show’s star, Jack Lord.
"I know those were his enjoyable days," his mother said. "He was always full of excitement and he had many friends. I know he enjoyed that life very much."
The show helped launch a successful entertainment career for Zulu, who sang and joked to packed houses in and around Waikiki.
He stayed with "Hawaii Five-0" four seasons but was fired after an altercation with the show’s publicist in which he reportedly made loud racist comments.
"I need something different," he said in a newspaper interview at the time. "I’ve had it with the 'yes boss, no boss’ routine."
James MacArthur, who played Danny "Danno" Williams on the show, was on a train from Washington to New York today when told of Zulu’s death.
"Oh dear, oh my gosh," said MacArthur, bursting into tears.
"I didn’t know... several weeks ago, he called me," he said. "Oh dear. He made it on the list for a kidney transplant."
MacArthur was so shaken, he couldn’t compose himself.
"I have many happy memories of Zulu," he said. "On 'Five-O,’ he helped us understand how to say those Hawaiian words. I’ll miss him."
Zulu was involved in a deadly Big Island traffic accident in 1986 that led to a second-degree negligent homicide conviction for the death of a bicyclist training for the Ironman Triathlon. Kona triathlete Ronny Lee Fennell was struck from behind by Zulu, who was fined $500 and put on a year’s probation for the crime.
Funeral arrangements have not been set for Zulu, his mother said.
"He had always stressed to me that he wanted to be buried in Waikiki," Emma Kauhi said today. "He wanted a beachboy funeral."
Advertiser Staff Writer Wayne Harada contributed to this report. Reach Mike Gordon at email@example.com or 525-8012.