Jack and Cha Thompson, from left, Don Ho and Dick Jensen reminisced about "the good old days" at a April 29, 1979, party announcing a concert at the Hilton Hawaiian Village called "Waikiki -- The Way it Was." The concert was a benefit for the newly formed Society of Hawaii's Entertainers.
Henry Kapono, entertainer
Don Ho put Hawaii on the map, and kept it there
"Back in the day ... music in Hawaii was flowing like a hot lava stream all along Kalakaua Avenue, just like Bourbon Street in Louisiana. You could go anywhere and see great bands. It was really a renaissance, a time when Hawaii's musicians were taken serious and rightfully so because there were some great musicians like, for instance, Kui Lee, Steve Logan, Jimmy Borges, the International Set, the Three of Us, Dick Jensen, Gabby (Pahinui), the Sons of Hawaii, Auntie Genoa Keawe, the Surfers, Iva Kinimaka to name a few.
"Hawaii was exploding with talent and places to play. Great groups from the States would come and play the clubs, and it just made it even more exciting. I was just a kid in a candy store taking all this in any way I could. I'd have friends sneak me into clubs and eventually got my own fake ID. But I remember sitting outside of clubs and listening to this music that would just blow me away. What a time and what an inspiration. Celebrities from all over the world would come to Hawaii and really bring their appreciation and enthusiasm.
Don Ho held his grandson, Kaleo, accompanied by Kaleo's parents -- daughter Donalei, and her husband, Rick Lau -- at a celebration of his first birthday. Star-Bulletin reporter Harold Morse reported that the luau held at Diamond Head Crater lasted six hours and was attended by 1,000 people or more, including about 500 relatives.
"All of this was an incredible time, and you know all of this was synergized and made possible because of one man ... Don Ho. I remember sitting outside Duke Kahanamoku's (in) the International Marketplace and watching the greatest show on earth. I remember the Aliis. They were world-class musicians from Hawaii, and they could back up anybody like (Frank) Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., all the stars that would come and take the stage, but when they accompanied Don Ho, it took everything to the next level and the house went crazy. People always walked out like they've seen it all.
"I remember all the beautiful women that would fight to get in, and he'd (kiss) them all. He was the man and, yes, he was and is Mr. Waikiki.
"I just want to say thank you, Don, for being a big inspiration to me. For being a big part of my life and for all those you have helped through the years. You always gave from your heart, and you always made me feel like a dear friend. You are a good man, and you will be missed but never forgotten.
"I will always remember you ... God bless!"
Singer-songwriter Henry Kapono posted these reflections about Don Ho on his Web site blog.
Ho posed with Petula Clark at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood in this 1966 photo.
Michael P. Augusta
Big fan always came away from Don's show feeling entertained
I got to see Don Ho at Duke's in the International Marketplace. He had a crowd-pleasing full house, every night with the Aliis. I got to see Dick Jensen called up to the stage to perform.
Don Ho's respect and honor for the military always received recognition during his show. He sincerely recognized Canadian visitors to his show, having them sing their national anthem.
Throughout the years of seeing Don Ho many times, I always came away with the feeling of being entertained with his inimitable style of audience participation and audience unity fostered by his Hawaiianess.
DENNIS ODA / STAR-BULLETIN
Hoku Ho, Don's daughter, was all smiles as she sang a duet with her father at his 70th birthday celebration on Aug. 16, 2000.
Young neighbor remembers Don eating breakfast with his dad
I remember when I was 7 years old living at my grandfather's house in Kaneohe.
I would get up early in the morning and come out to the kitchen to find Don Ho eating breakfast with my dad, Dennis Kuki Among, and my mom, Beverly Among, and also my grandfather, Francis Lum Leong.
Don would play with me and tell me to play with his son Dwight Ho outside in the yard.
My dad played guitar for Don Ho at the Honey's night club his family had many years before Don's famous shows in Waikiki.
My family lived right down the street from Don in Kaneohe and his family was a big part of our family during the late 1960s.
We will always love Don Ho and his beautiful family.
Thanks Don for keeping the love for all the locals and people of Hawaii shining in your heart. God bless you for being a part my family's lives.
Don Ho was flanked by legendary NFL quarterback Johnny Unitas, left, another NFL star Willy Davis and actor Jim Nabors in this 1970 photo.
For a malihini, Don's aloha filled Duke's and drifted out with the trades
In '65, for malihini, Don Ho's aloha at Duke's permeated the room and drifted out with the summer trades. We'd go to the first show, then move to the front for the second show. He encouraged his audience to see Kui Lee at Queen's Surf. We did; we're grateful.
In '67 he invited my husband's visiting tutu up on stage. Many an evening we enjoyed watching him mesmerize his audiences. Perhaps one reason he was able to connect so well with visitors -- aside from his obvious charisma -- was because as a young man in the Air Force he learned for sure that mainland haoles are just people too.
His magic conveyed to them the positive aspects of our unique local ways.
And in the process, for those of us who made Hawaii home, he gave us a jump-start on living, and hopefully perpetuating, aloha.
Tony Conjugation, singer
Singer has fond memories of days with "Uncle" Don
Of my generation of entertainers, I feel extremely fortunate to have worked with some of the legends in Hawaii's entertainment industry, including "Uncle" Don.
I have fond memories of working with Uncle Don on the Warner Bros. release of "Aloha Scooby-Doo" in the fall of 2004, when we worked on the soundtrack for that movie. I remember how proud he was and in his words to Tom Chase (musical director of the movie), "You have the best here to work with in the islands, you no need anymore than this." This he said of Kapono Beamer, myself and the others who were involved on the project.
Though the opportunities were brief with him, he always reminded me of our kuleana -- responsibility -- to share the aloha spirit with the rest of the universe as he did throughout his life. I will certainly miss him.
Ho was often surrounded by admirers, as seen on April 10, 1972.
Joanie Komatsu, singer and songwriter
Don set 'blazing example' for entertainment hopeful
"Wait, wait, wait -- OK everybody, let's take it again ... and Carl, get this damn ting sounding right!"
Time and again, I heard Hawaii's greatest entertainer barking orders during rehearsals. In 1970-1972 I worked at the Polynesian Palace, setting up dining tables and refilling buffet boats during Don's 800-guest dinner shows. I wasn't a musician yet, but my heart was always on that stage. I was SO thrilled, witnessing world-class showbiz at the top.
For all his hang-loose style, Don was truly a master showman. And perfectionist -- he'd often drive his singers, backup vocalists, hula dancers and full-on orchestra, rehearsing till near-showtime. Music Director Johnny Todd tactfully smoothed Don's oft-ruffled lion's mane; when soundman Carl EQ-ed the onstage monitor just the way Don liked it, all was right with the world.
Ten years later I played my own first gig right beside Don's Palace at the Reef Towers pool bar, humming and strumming as he wowed 'em inside. Like countless island entertainers touched by Don, I carried the high standards of professionalism he exuded and always strove for perfection throughout my 24-year showbiz career. Mahalo, Uncle Don, for your blazing example.