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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 7:34 p.m., Saturday, April 14, 2007

Don Ho's life: from Kane'ohe to stardom

By Esme Infante Nii
Advertiser Staff Writer

Aug. 13, 1930 — Born Aug. 13 in Kaka'ako to James Ah You and Emily L. (Silva) Ho. The family, with eight children, later moves to Kane'ohe. Ho would remember ages 6 and 13 in his close-knit Windward O'ahu neighborhood as "the most lovely years of my whole life."

1938-44 — Attends Benjamin Parker School in Kane'ohe. When Ho is 9, his family buys a Kane'ohe bar for $500 and names it Honey's, for his mother's nickname.

1949 — Graduates from Kamehameha Schools after a high school career of football, basketball and baseball, during which he earns the nickname "Quack" for the way he walks.

1950 — Attends Springfield College, Mass., but returns homesick.

1950 — Marries high school sweetheart, Melvamay Kolokea Wong, on Nov. 22. They have six children.

1953 — Graduates from the University of Hawai'i with a bachelor's degree in sociology.

1954-59 — Serves in the U.S. Air Force, up to the rank of 1st lieutenant.

1959-62 — Performs at Honey's. It had been packed during the war years; "When I took it over, the place was empty," Ho recalled. He starts a band with some friends but has no intention of making a living as an entertainer. "I was terrible," he said. "So, I just played very softly." Yet the crowds begin to come.

1964-70 — Ho's career takes off as he plays with The Aliis at Duke Kahanamoku's club in the International Market Place in Waikiki. "That's when things started happening for us with records, TV shows and everything," he recalled. Tourists and celebrities fill the club.

1964-72 — Performs at Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas.

1965-1968 — Fame starts to accelerate on Mainland as he performs at the Coconut Grove, Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. More big-city gigs would follow, in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Chicago and New York.

1965 — First album, "The Don Ho Show," is released.

1966 — Second album, "Don Ho — Again!" is released.

1966 — "Tiny Bubbles," Ho's iconic song, is released and reaches No. 8 on Billboard. Ho also would be known for "Pearly Shells, "I'll Remember You," "One Paddle, Two Paddle" and other tunes.

1970-81— Performs at Cinerama Reef Towers' Polynesian Palace. He is said to earn more than $25,000 a week at times. His trademark cry of "Suck 'em up!" is infamous.

1976-77 — Stars in an ABC variety show filmed at the Outrigger Reef Hotel's Ocean Lanai, "The Don Ho Show."

1978-87 Serves as an ambassador of the Variety Club, Honolulu.

1981-82 — Performs at Don Ho's, Waikiki.

1982 — In an interview with Honolulu magazine, Ho denies any links to crime syndicates, saying the rumors are "all bull----." Ho also says in the interview that he actually dislikes being on stage, and that "I don't think I have any talent. I think what my talent is is mainly sociability." Asked how he then became so famous, he says, "Beats the hell out of me, to tell you the truth."

1982-90 —Performs at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

1991-92— Performs at The Hula Hut.

1992-94 — Performs at the Outrigger Reef Towers' Polynesian Palace.

1994-2007 — Performs at the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel.

1998 — Opens a restaurant bearing his name, Don Ho's Island Grill, in Aloha Tower Marketplace.

2000 — Hoku Ho, the only one of Don Ho's 10 children to work in entertainment, makes her network TV debut on "The Donny and Marie Show." Over the years, between recording and acting, Hoku periodically performs with her dad.

2005 — Cardiomyopathy, a heart-related problem, forces Don Ho to take a break from his Waikiki shows.

Nov. 28, 2005 — Undergoes VesCell Adult Stem Cell surgery in Bangkok, Thailand, to strengthen his heart muscle. The procedure uses stem cells taken from the patient's own blood, which are multiplied in a laboratory and inserted back into the patient's heart to restore damaged tissue. Ho later reports that he feels "like new" and calls the procedure "a Christmas miracle."

Jan. 22, 2006 — Returns to Hoku Hale Showroom stage, crooning, flirting and wisecracking to a sellout crowd of 300, after his heart procedure. In typical sly fashion, he tells audience he'll be around for another 30 years, but "I'll look like hell. If you come and see me in 30 years, you'll look like hell, too." The audience, peppered with numerous local celebrities, gives him two standing ovations.

2006 — In September, marries Haumea Hebenstreit, his second wife; she is a longtime associate, and executive producer and hula soloist for his Waikiki show.

April 14, 2007 — Don Ho suffers a heart attack at his Waikiki home and dies at The Queen's Medical Center.