Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi, an original cast member of the “Hawaii Five-O” television series, died on May 3 of complications from diabetes. He was 66.
Nicknamed Zulu in high school, he was a popular beachboy who gave surf lessons on Waikiki and played with the band Zulu and the Polynesians. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served four years in Atlantic and Pacific ports.
When he returned to Hawaii, Zulu became a popular disc jockey. He was performing in a musical comedy act with Don Ho and fronting the group Zulu and the Sons of Hawaii when he auditioned for a new show called “Hawaii Five-O.”
Zulu was tapped to join the CBS police drama in 1968. Cast as Detective Kono Kalakaua, the Hawaiian sidekick to the series’ star Jack Lord, Zulu remained with the show for four seasons. Over the next decade, he made guest appearances on “The Brian Keith Show,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “Magnum P.I.” Zulu also performed to packed houses in Waikiki and hosted the “Big Z Movietime” TV show.
In 1986, Zulu was involved in an automobile accident in Kona that killed Ronny Lee Fennell, a bicyclist training for the Ironman Triathlon. Convicted of second-degree negligent homicide, he was fined $500 and placed on probation for one year.