Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi, known as the actor Zulu who played Det. Kono Kalakaua on “Hawaii Five-O,” died May 3 in Hilo, Hawaii, of complications from diabetes. He was 66.
Zulu was a nickname given to him in high school in Honolulu.
James MacArthur, who played “Lt. Danny “Danno” Williams, said that as the only Hawaiian member of the detective team, Zulu helped the mainland actors understand how to pronounce Hawaiian words.
“What a shock, what a truly terrible thing,” said fellow entertainer Don Ho, a close friend. “We were beach boys together growing up in Waikiki. Zulu was a typical happy child of the land, a true spirit.”
Ho also remembered Zulu as a very ambitious entertainer in Waikiki during the 1960s. “He was always looking for some place to sing where there was a crowd,” Ho said. “He was one of the nucleus of my latenight ‘Suck ’em Up’ show.”
Zulu, who left “Hawaii Five-O” in 1972 after four seasons, was a disc jockey for Honolulu radio station KHVH and a stage comedian when he was cast as the burly detective.
“Hawaii Five-O” helped launch a successful nightclub career as a singer and comedian in and around Waikiki, including several years at Duke Kahanamoku’s in the International Marketplace.
His ashes will be scattered in Waikiki by old friends from an outrigger canoe.