Moffatt’s book offers toy land of Hawaii memories
A lot of people have had a ringside seat to history, but no one has actually generated
history in Hawaii as much as Tom Moffatt.
For 50 years the amazingly modest Moffatt has created history by bringing everyone from Elvis Presley to Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson to the islands to entertain us.
Thankfully, someone convinced the legendary promoter to "download" his memories in a new book, "The Showman of the Pacific," so that all that history is collected in one place. I suspect that, left to his own tendencies to remain behind the curtain, Moffatt would have gone to his grave with this enormous poi bowl of memories. It's ironic that Hawaii's greatest promoter really isn't into promoting himself.
I dived into Tom's book the way I think a lot of people will, looking up particular names and events from my own memories. It's not the kind of book you read from cover to cover. Instead you splash around like a kid in a wading pool full of floaty toys, grabbing at whichever one catches your eye.
The parts of the book that drew my attention were his memories of another legendary promoter from Hawaii: Sad Sam Ichinose. Sad Sam promoted or managed some of Hawaii's best boxers, including world champions Bobo Olsen and Dado Marino.
So when I called Tom recently to discuss the book, we ended up talking mostly about Sad Sam, whom both Tom and I had a chance to hang out with. The difference is that Tom got to hang out with Sam during the "glory days" at Sam's Hotel Street bar after many big boxing matches, and I got to hang out with him shortly before his death in 1993 at the age of 86.
I had inadvertently gotten to meet Sad Sam while working on a feature story and realized that, like Moffatt, his mind was a vast database of Hawaii history, mostly sports- and boxing-related. So I set out to record as much of his life as I could in connection with the University of Hawaii's Oral History Project.
STAR-BULLETIN / 1987
Boxing promoter "Sad Sam" Ichinose was a colorful character in Hawaii's history.
The parts of Tom's book relating to Sad Sam recall vividly, perhaps a bit too vividly in one case, what a character Sad Sam was.
"Did you know you put the f-word in your book?" I asked Moffatt.
The incident involved a post-fight drinking bout at Sad Sam's bar during which Sad Sam was asked if he was going to miss his partner, Ralph Yempuku, who was on the mainland for a week.
"Are you kidding?" Sad Sam said. "I don't miss him when he's here!"
Tom then relates that Sam, invigorated by cocktails, shouted "F--, fight or shine the light!" except the whole f-word is in the book.
"Did I put that in?!" Moffatt asked me, alarmed.
"Yep," I said.
Tom concedes in the book that nobody really understood what Sad Sam's favorite drinking expression actually meant.
I was actually able to tell Tom something about Sad Sam he didn't know. When he was in England setting up a title fight with Dado Marino shortly after WWII, Sam took home movies of various graves of Hawaii servicemen who had died in the war and brought them home for the men's families. It was one of those "ain't no big thing" things Sad Sam did that nobody ever heard about.
Tom's book recounts the better-known side of Sad Sam -- the party side -- and there's an absolutely classic photo of Tom, Sad Sam, Bobby Darin and three cute chicks, including "the infamous Honolulu nightclub dancer known as Evil Jezebel."
The photo is typical of the slice of Hawaii history that would have gone unknown if someone hadn't prodded Tom Moffatt into putting out this book. It's called "The Showman of the Pacific" but could have been called "The Amazing Memories of a Quiet Man."
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org