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Ron Cruger
The Spectator
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          Before Don Ho there was Alfred Apaka, the man called “The Golden Voice of Hawaii.” In the 1940’s and 1950’s Alfred Apaka was Hawaii’s most famous entertainer. Apaka and his show at the Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village was the “must” place for all tourists.
          Apaka was the most influential of Hawaii performers of his time. The standard for modern Hawaiian music was set by Apaka. Apaka came from Hawaiian royalty, his great aunt, Lydia Aholo, was the daughter of Queen Lili'uokalani. The great singer’s son, Jeff, who is currently an entertainer in Hawaii, said of his father, “I like to think that dad’s musical training came in a direct line from the Queen.” George Kanahele a critical observer of Hawaiian music said about Alfred Apaka that he was, “The possessor of one of the most remarkable voices to come out of Hawaii.”
          In 1952 Bob Hope saw Apaka at Don the Beachcomber’s and immediately hired him to perform on his radio and TV shows. It appeared that Alfred Apaka was on his way to world wide stardom.
          On January 30, 1960 Apaka was enjoying the mild Hawaiian weather, playing handball with friends at the YMCA in Honolulu. The handsome singer fell to one knee and then keeled over, victim of a fatal heart attack. He was only 40-years old.
          At that moment the world was robbed of the strong baritone voice of Alfred Apaka, but his recordings from the 40’s and 50’s live on as does the memory of this remarkable Hawaii icon.
          A few days ago another Hawaii legend passed away. Don Ho the charming and relaxed Waikiki entertainer, famous for his rendition of “Tiny Bubbles” died at the age of 76.
          Two years after Alfred Apaka’s passing, in 1962, Don Ho moved from singing at his mother’s small club in Kaneohe to star at a night club called Duke’s in Waikiki. Named for the famed Olympic swimmer and Hawaiian Good Will Ambassador, Duke Kahanamoku.
          Duke’s was another “must” place for tourists. It was at Duke’s that Ho caught the attention of mainland recording artists and in 1965 his debut album was released, “The Don Ho Show,” “Tiny Bubbles” was followed by another mega-hit, “Pearly Shells.” By now, Don Ho had become “Mr. Hawaii.” He was the most famous person in Hawaii. He appeared on television shows like “Charley’s Angels,” and “Fantasy Island.” In 1976 and 1977 he had is own syndicated television show seen across America.
          In 2005 Ho’s health began to suffer. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. A pacemaker was installed and Ho began to feel better. He returned to his regular show in Waikiki. Performing was his life. He reported, “I’m feeling much better…”
          On April 14, 2007 Don Ho felt a series of sharp chest pains. He was rushed to the hospital where he died of heart failure on April 14, 2007.
          The two men who had brought Hawaiian music to the world are gone. Hawaii today is mourning the death of Don Ho. When millions around the world think of Hawaii, that beautiful land of Aloha, they think of Don Ho, his charm, his fun and easy way. They think of “Tiny Bubbles” and “Pearly Shells.” They think of swaying palm trees and hula dancers and smiling people offering the magic of “Aloha.” Don Ho considered himself just a humble Hawaiian guy. He was just that and so much more.
          Because Hawaii is a land far removed from all others, the most distant populated place on earth, the people of Hawaii hold on to their traditions – their history – dreams. The splendid voice of Alfred Apaka remains in the memories of the Hawaiians. His magical voice filled the sweet Hawaiian air with thoughts of love and dreams of what could be. When Apaka sang a hush fell over those listening. Most had never heard such beauty weave through the air. It was romantic and strong. It made you dream. Hawaiians hold close to their hearts the feelings and the sounds of Alfred Apaka’s music.
          And now Don Ho has joined Alfred Apaka in the memories of the Hawaiians. Two men who represented Hawaii to the world. And they did it so well.
          Aloha Don.
          Aloha Alfred.