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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, January 1, 2006

Karaoke contest to resume next Sunday

While attending the karaoke contest, guests can order one of chef Jimmy dela Cruz's homestyle dishes.

Don Ho's Island Grill

Where: Aloha Tower Marketplace

Call: 528-0807

Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Parking: Validated

Note: To enter the "Al Waterson and You" contest, contact Nancy Bernal at 947-5736 or by e-mail: nancybernal@aol.com

Thinking that he was helping, veteran entertainer and emcee Al Waterson instructed a young keiki contestant that it would be better if she turned around and faced the audience.

"She looked up at me and said, 'This is how I start my first song,'" recalled the effervescent Waterson, host of the "Al Waterson and You" karaoke contest at Don Ho's Island Grill. "The whole crowd heard and broke out laughing. I was upstaged by a little girl and I'll never live it down."

For the past three years, Don Ho's has been the site of a weekly Sunday karaoke contest that has promoted burgeoning Island talent, giving them a glimpse into the entertainment world.

"When we first started this karaoke contest 21 years ago, we were the only ones to provide a professional platform for adult singers," Waterson asserted. "We set up a stage area, played 8-Track tapes and passed out lyric sheets. We really wanted to give them a taste of the real thing and not a rag-tag production."

With such popular shows as "Hawaii Stars" and "American Idol," more people are willing to take the stage and grab the mike, according to Waterson's spouse Nancy Bernal.

"The grand winners from each age category get to record two songs in a professional studio," said Bernal, who manages the "Al Waterson & You Show," as well as such entertainers as Jordan Segundo and Tani Lynn Fujimoto. "They also get a chance to perform with Don Ho at his Waikiki show."

Starting next Sunday, keiki aged 6 to 9 years old will compete in this year's first contest, followed by kids 10 to 12 years of age, teens, adults and seniors during each Sunday for the rest of January. One winner from each month will compete in the grand finale in December.

To register, call Al Waterson and You at 947-5736.

"It's really a lot of fun," Waterson said. "The crowd gets into it and the kids have such great stage presence. Some of them will just grab the mike and handle it like a pro."

This includes 9-year-old Jasmine Idica, last year's grand winner in the 6- to 9-year-old category.

"I like to sing power ballads," said Idica, sounding more like a mature teenager than a young 9 year old. "My favorite singers are Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston."

And while this Kapolei Elementary fourth grader aspires to be a singer and dancer, she pointed out that she wouldn't mind being a pediatrician or even a professional basketball or football player.

"But it would also be neat to sing with Don Ho," she said. "I've seen him on TV and it would be cool to be on stage with him singing 'Tiny Bubbles.'"

Scott Evans says he pours more mai tais than any other cocktail.
Winner of the 2003 competition, Christina Youngs went from working part-time as a Safeway clerk to performing every Sunday at Don Ho's Show in Waikiki.

"I would have never had this opportunity if it wasn't for this contest," said Youngs, who, as part of her grand prize, got to perform with Don Ho in Las Vegas and then later recorded her own CD titled "Your Love." "I would encourage anyone who wants to be a professional singer to enter this competition."

After being in the industry for more than 35 years, Waterson still finds it gratifying when he announces the winners.

"I had a 10-year-old boy cry and grab onto my leg when I told him he won," Waterson smiled. "This contest is my way of sharing my stage."