New cells for old

May 17, 2009
*Special to asia!

American celebrity Don Ho’s successful stem cell treatment in Thailand may force President Bush to soften his stand against it.

Now that Don Ho is up and walking when he should have been dead or dying, it has become nearly impossible for Bush to dodge the issue. It is one thing to take a strong ethical stand on untested research. It is something totally different when there is a living and famous person who has benefited from it. Already reeling from the unpopularity of the Iraqi War, Bush is hardly in a position to stand firm against stem cell research. To appease the masses, he will have to award more money for existing stem cell research. He may even allow some of the more controversial studies to take place. Ho’s journey east to Thailand cost him $30,000. But it may end up netting scientists in the US hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants.

All About Don

Even after more than four decades in show business, Don Ho still reigns as Waikiki’s entertainment king. From behind his Hammond organ he presides over his legions of fans. At his show at the Waikiki Beachcomber, Ho performs his trademark "Tiny Bubbles" twice for his audience, most of whom are in their senior years. "I sing it at the beginning," he tells them, "in case some of you don’t make it to the end of the show."

Born Donald Tai Loy Ho on August 13, 1930 in Honolulu, the singer grew up in Oahu. His life was typical Asian-American: a bachelor of science degree at the University of Hawaii, a stint in the Air Force where he flew fighter jets in Texas and Hawaii, and, with his mother ailing, he returned to civilian life to start his own band in 1960.

Claiming he played “badly, hence softly” when he started, Ho quickly improved and became highly popular. In 1966 he played in Hollywood and broke all attendance records. In 1967 his “Tiny Bubbles” reached No. 8 on the charts. This was followed by other popular tunes such as "I’ll Remember You," "Pearly Shells," "Hawaiian Wedding Song," "Hanalei Moon" and "Kanaka Wai Wai."

In the mid-1970

s Ho hosted his own variety show on national television. He also appeared in a number of TV serials including Charlie’s Angels, Batman and I Dream of Jeannie. For more than four decades until his heart condition, he had performed full time. While he may now be forced into retirement, the performing legacy is carried on by his daughter Hoku, a singer in her own right. She sang the title song for the 2001 hit movie, Legally Blonde.

lee han shihLee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.


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