He operates out of a supper club located in the heart of Waikiki next to Don Ho Lane. It is known as the Polynesian Palace, and for the twoshowsnitely the tourists are jammed in like cordwood. The people on tours, with prepaid tickets, get the best seats, the ones with tables. The minimum is two regular drinks or one "exotic" drink—a Mai Tai or a Chi Chi or a Tahitian Itch or a Surf Sunset, any of those sugary treats that come with pineapple slices and little parasols sticking out of them. Don Ho bellows, "Suck 'em up," periodically throughout the show and the haoles respond dutifully. If you order the exotic drink, you get to keep the special Don Ho glass.
Don Ho suddenly emerged as Mr. Hawaii several years ago, notably on account of his theme song, Tiny Bubbles. He succeeds, I am sure, because while everyone else in Alohaland puts on a stylized little happy face, he scowls. After days of hearing alohas rained on you like call letters of a rock-'n'-roll station, there is something dear about a mean little man who refuses to smile, who, in fact, glowers and shouts, "Suck 'em up, gran'ma." Don Ho also professes to despise The Hawaiian Wedding Song, and between numbers he enriches the audience with crude jokes about honeymoons, bathrooms and ethnics. The night I saw him, by far his own greatest amusement and that of the adoring crowd came from his considerable repertoire of gags about passing wind. That brought the house down. (Of course, to give the devil his due, Don Ho did restrain himself for 45 minutes—44� over the aloha average—before delivering a double entendre based on the word lei.)
Don Ho's constituency is older women, a singular honor that he shares with one other crooner, the rosy-cheeked Las Vegas staple, Wayne Newton. But whereas Newton is all confectionery, the consistency of cotton candy, Don Ho is lecherous and lewd, an exotic tough guy. Newton is the safe good son; Don Ho is the daring bad son.
When he growls, "Where are all my favorites, the gran'mas?" they hop up, the old gals, drop their canes and the scales from their eyes, and scurry to the stage where they gladly wait in line as Don Ho plants a wet, open-mouthed kiss on each. For the most favored, he also pinches rear ends and speculates on the sexual activity of the aged. At one point he takes his shirt off and carries on that way for a time, and whenever he deigns to sing, the room turns instantly reverent. Don Ho does not miss a trick. Near the end, juxtaposed with his final dissertation on stomach gas, came a reverie about the glory of being an American. The final number, I want to tell you, was not Tiny Bubbles but God Bless America
It was a mighty happy bunch that poured out of the Polynesian Palace, clutching their special Don Ho glasses. Certainly, all the gran'mas had them and almost all of the couples in matching muumuus and aloha shirts. I suppose Wayne Newton makes women feel safe in such a hard, evil place as Vegas, and I suppose Don Ho provides the reverse function in Hawaii, supplying a little candor and edge to all the sugar goo. A little eruption now and again is not all bad. Eruptions made the place, after all. Suck 'em up. Au Revoir.