Zulu (Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi)


HILO, HAWAII--Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi, a Hawaii-born actor and comedian better known as Zulu or Zoulou, died here Monday, May 3 of complications from diabetes. He was 66. Perhaps best known as a co-star on TV's "Hawaii Five-O", MSTies will remember his role, as a character named Zulu, in episode 608- CODENAME: DIAMONDHEAD.

Born in Hilo, he was three-fourths Hawaiian, which was enough to get him accepted in schools that only took children of pure Island heritage. He loved sports, and it was his football buddies who gave him the nickname Zulu. By the age of 12 he was already working as a "beach boy," giving surfing lessons and outrigger canoe rides. He was also becoming a budding entertainer, delivering comedy while playing guitar and ukulele.

He attended high school in Oahu, where he performed in school plays but didn't attend to his studies--he eventually dropped out.

He worked in construction for a while, and served a tour of duty in the Coast Guard, and then returned to Hilo and was able to support himself as an entertainer, working as a disk jockey and performing with Hawaiian music legends such as like the Sons of Hawaii, Chick Daniels, the Kahanamoku Brothers and of course Don Ho. He did tours of Japan and entertained on cruise ships and night clubs.

In 1968 he attended a casting "cattle call" for a new CBS crime drama that was to be set on the islands, "Hawaii Five-O." He was cast in the part of Kono, the burly Hawaiian sidekick to the show's star, Jack Lord. He continued in the part for four seasons.

There are various stories about why he left the series. One says it was the result of an altercation with the show's publicist. Another says Zulu was fired over an incident in which the U.S. Coast Guard attempted to give Zulu an award that Lord felt should he should have gotten. Zulu himself would only say he had become dissatisfied with the role and felt he was not being used to his full potential.

After "Hawaii Five-0" he appeared, he was able to find plenty of work on whatever movies and TV shows happened to be being filmed in Hawaii. His movies included "Rampage", "Hawaii", "Gidget", "Day of Infamy" and several Japanese and Italian movies. His TV credits included "Magnum, P.I.," "Charlie's Angels," "The Midnight Special," "The Glen Campbell Show," "The Brian Keith Show" and "Roger That". He also worked for various Hawaiian charities.

In 1986, Zulu was convicted of second-degree negligent homicide after his vehicle struck and killed a bicyclist training for the Ironman Triathlon in Kona. He was fined $500 and placed on one year's probation.

In the last decade, his health worsened. He was hospitalized in 1994 with dangerously high blood pressure, and in 2000 he had triple bypass heart surgery.

He also battled diabetes and kidney failure.

In press reports, his mother is quoted as saying Zulu wanted a beachboy funeral in Waikiki.