I WAS DON HO’S HO
It isn’t a mistake, and I know what you’re thinking. Because although there is some irony in that Don LOVED Ho-ho’s, I still meant what I said- I was Don Ho’s ho; not Don’s Ho-ho. He enjoyed Ho-ho’s so much he would eat them at 3 a.m. He’d store them in the garage, the basement. He liked them with Skippy’s and Kool-Whip. Have you ever microwaved them? Take my advice, don’t.
You know the Don I’m talking about, right? The one hit wonder who sang Tiny Bubbles? Betcha didn’t know that song was about me. Okay, well, there’s more to the story than that.
We’d met at his second wedding. I’d been invited to join my best pal, Sukie. We flew for Aloha Airlines, and she grew up with Don’s cousin. I swear, everybody’s related in Hawaii, it’s just one humungous gene pool. I stood at the food table eyeing the pastrami finger sandwiches, cut into fours like my mother did when I was little. One second, Sukie was beside me. Yet when I turned to face her, I was glancing down on the groom’s head.
Instantly I realized that I was about six inches taller than him (we’ll get to the Napolean Complex later). I fixated on his cowlick. I have a theory about cowlicks. I’ve noticed that people with cowlicks often have other strange patterns, like predatory, or indecisiveness, in their lives. Serial killers are notoriously cowlick growers. Also senior VPs of major oil companies.
I was torn between the Mahi Mahi or the Whipped Fruit Salad. Then I noticed the tray with the cloves of baked garlic all laid out like clumps of bee poop. I reached out for one, so did Don. Our hands collided like two football tight ends. And just like that,
Don broke my wrist. My initial reaction was that my calcium supplement let me down.
Later he’d joke about it, like he didn’t know how powerful he was. But that day he insisted on escorting me to Kahuna Memorial. I must have been in shock because I said okay. I completely forgot this was Don Ho’s wedding day. Then, nobody could find Sukie to save my life. Turns out, she’d disappeared with one of her sex buddies, a man named Palani who we just called Lonny. Every Hawaiian that I know has a double name, and leads two lives. Maybe we all do. On the way to the hospital, in the back of his limo, Don sang something cheesy. He repeated each chorus in completely Hawaiian words. He tried to cheer me up but it made me even crazier, hearing such limited consonants. All those k’s, h’s, l’s grated on me.
The bagged ice helped to numb the pain, but leaked all over my Donna Karan serape. I wanted to slap him, or at the very least, tell him to shut up.
At the hospital, they gave me all sorts of pain meds. And that was kind of nice. I’m one of those people who forever helped herself to friends left- over pain pills. For instance, when my friend, Katie broke her leg skiing at Snowbird, she saved me the rest of her Nembutal. I’d go through complete strangers’ medicine cabinets. Even before we’d arrived at Kahuna Memorial I was banking on some good pills to mix later with tequila or daquiris. When they said I’d have to wear a cast, I freaked. Don apparently felt completely awful, as you can imagine. I wanted to sign my name Mrs. Ho on the hospital release form. But then I thought if there was the slightest chance I could sue the poor bastard that might not help in court.
As they applied the last plaster of paris, Sukie suddenly showed up, and sometime around then, Don split. When she gets nervous, Sukie expels gas. I knew this from working with her in tight spaces, like the kitchen compartment of 737s. I only hoped that she wouldn’t fart now that we were alone. God forbid the doctor, who looked a little like Richard Chamberlain in The Thorn Birds, might think it was me.
Don called me the next day, and the next day after that. He was relentless. When he would stop by, I’d usually go for a drive with him. I couldn’t work, so all my time was free. To avoid him, I’d go to the beach, getting there early enough so that the surfer dudes would see my cast.
“Gnarly, dude!” they’d say. I’d smile in my two piece Jantzen suit, sipping my first batch of margaritas with my good hand. “Surf’s up, shaka!” I’d watch their tight asses jutting like two cantaloupes out of their wetsuits as they carried their surfboards into the water.
Some days Sukie would join me. We’d go to the Halikalani Hotel pool. Sukie knew the hotel manager, Camilla, so we had free access. She did those early morning workout routines along with the television. Her body was a knockout and it worked like a magnet.
We’d play this game called Married, Divorced, Single or Gay. Each hotel guest had to fit one category or another, even if we thought they might be married, and gay, for instance. That day, there were plenty of potential crossovers.
“Oh, there’s Don Ho,” she said. She poked me with her hand, which looked about eighty from too much sun.
I turned, and everything was kind of fuzzy from the Percodan. “Big deal.”
“Honey, get with it. He’s a big deal. It’s only you howlies who poke fun.”
“Spare me, Sukie. You were the one who said he has a Napolean Complex.”
Basically, Sukie had explained, he was like those jack terrior dogs, big dogs inside a little dogs’ body. And I could see how that was true, the way he strutted over like a prize fighter, like Ali.
Don said hello. He was wearing a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt that was about five sizes too big and white Ray-Bans. It was the Speedo that hooked me. I have a thing for bathing suits that go up people’s cracks. Go figure, I just think it takes, well, balls.
“Hey, ladies, want some company?” He sat down before either of us could respond.
“Hi, Don. You’ve got something…” Sukie pointed to her mouth. I looked and sure enough, Don had a smear of chocolate on the edge of his. The ho-ho addict. He wiped it off with a flowered handkerchief. I wondered if he had a stash in the hotel somewhere.
Sukie excused herself to use the bathroom, we both watched her flounce off.
“Why so glum, Don?” I twirled the fuscia umbrella stuck in my Maitai. I was a little irritated because he’d interrupted our game before it even began.
He shrugged. “My wife’s a bitch.”
“Why’d you marry her then?”
“No alternative.” It was the first time he let down that ridiculous public persona, and I felt for him. But I also thought of my stupid husband who, feeling trapped with a similar lack of alternatives, had jumped from the Na Pali cliffs. That forced me to make a similar choice, but I chose the opposite. I couldn’t bear to see someone that would remind me of him every day.
I smiled at Don. “You ride your Harley here?”
He grinned, and he did have nice teeth. There were some good dentists in Honolulu.
When Sukie came back, we told her we’d go pick up some Tequila and pomegranate juice. It was lots cheaper to mix your own, and the Halekalani pool staff never said anything even if they knew.
On the back of his Harley, holding on to Don like that, I felt a sudden kinship. We’d been through a similarity, and he had the tiniest love handles. I told him that in aisle seven and he whooped and slapped his thigh. He decided to get champagne instead of tequila. Don was cheap, they had a special on Brut. And when we poured it poolside, between the chaise lounges, he said, “Look at all the tiny bubbles!” As if it was his first damn time drinking champagne or something.
The last time I combined champagne and pain meds, I got the silly notion to wind surf into Waimea Canyon. It was a windy winter day and I had no fear as I left the ledge.
It was better than any ride at Disneyworld. Better than the Ice Capades on mescaline. It was nirvana.
After some time, when the buzz kicked in fully, I leaned over to Don, careful to lift my cast in the air. He’d replaced Sukie on her lounge. Through thick lips, I whispered in his ear, “I wanna be your ho.”
Surprised, he took my cast, and gently kissed it. “Okay.”