Sunday, April 15, 2007

I'm Wearing My Aloha Shirt Today for Don Ho


Hawaii's last icon is dead.

Don Ho was an interesting phenomenon. In the 50's he was Hawaii's Frank Sinatra, he even had a little Hawaiian Rat Pack. Then in the seventies he was the embodiment of kitsch. He should have disappeared, like a one-hit wonder, but he didn't - he was and remained a Waikiki Hotel Staple. His sheer staying-power convinced everyone to love him. Soon even the scoffers and detractors loved him. When he underwent a major operation a few years ago and returned to the stage afterwards, everyone came out of the woodwork to play with him and praise him. He was a Hawaiian boy, a local, but at the same time he was the Icon That Didn't Go Away. You have to admire a guy like that, and everyone did. (Read stories in the Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser; photo above courtesy of New York Times.)

Now he's gone, and Hawaii has no more icons. There was Duke Kahanamoku the surfer, then Don Ho the Tiny Bubbles man, then Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum, and that was it. They're all gone now. People like Obama and Jack Johnson were just passing through, they're tourists. What is Hawaii with an icon? It's like America without Hollywood or Germany without beer. Hawaii needs a new icon.

But who can fill an Aloha shirt like his?

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