Bob Krauss was a man of words and he certainly had a way with words. The following is from an article he wrote noting the death of Sammy Amalu and highlighting some of Amalu’s activities. Here is what Krauss had to say …
Sammy Amalu, 68, died yesterday at Queen’s Medical Center. That’s the official word from the emergency room at Queen’s. But it may be difficult for some skeptics to believe that Sammy isn’t setting us up for another caper – the most outrageous of all in a lifetime that shifted between dreams and reality with bewildering ease.
Sammy’s life was what Shakespeare must have been thinking about when he wrote, ‘If this were played upon a stage now, l could condemn it as an improbable fiction.’
He claimed to be of royal descent: His Highness Samuel Crowningburg-Amalu, High Chief Kaplikauinamoku Prince of Keawe.
He graduated from Punahou School and two federal prisons. He said he also attended Oxford University in England and Waseda Doshisha University in Japan.
In 1956 he failed to show up for his own wedding but the bride went ahead with the champagne reception anyway. The next day he said he had been kidnapped by relatives who opposed the marriage.
In 1962, he talked Hawaii’s leading financiers and hotel executives into selling him $75 million worth of prime real estate in a deal that made front page headlines. Sammy didn’t have the price of cab fare to the airport.
He was so persuasive that he talked a guard at Folsom Prison into smuggling out a $175,000 bum check Sammy had written. At the time Sammy was in prison for writing a $200 bum check.
He was still in prison when he began writing his column for The Advertiser. Some readers think he wrote some of his best columns there.
Even while he was alive, reporters struggled to sift fact from fiction about Sammy. Now it’s probably impossible.
He claimed descent from King William Liholiho and Kaleimamahu, brother of Kamehameha I, and the Crowningburg family which came to Hawaii from Germany in 1870.
He was born on Kauai to Charles and Ethel Amalu. After graduating from Punahou, in 1935, Sammy attended the University of Hawaii. He served briefly in the U.S. Army during World War ll.
His first reported marriage in 1946 was to a daughter of a prominent family in Italy, Maria Anastasia di Torionia. A later newspaper report doubted whether the marriage actually took place.
His “second” marriage, in 1956, was to Jane Tomberlain, a wealthy divorcee whose former husband was a millionaire oilman. It later ended in divorce.
His last marriage was to Honolulu Realtor Ann Fetzer in 1973.
Throughout most of his life, Sammy was plagued with a weakness for writing bad checks.
In 1950, he was convicted of embezzlement for writing two bum checks in the Philippines. Shortly after his marriage in 1956, he was indicted by a federal grand Jury in Denver for passing bogus checks again.
He was found guilty and served a four-year term at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan.
While many of Sammy’s checks were bad, they were always written with style. He was a poet, too. Above all, he was an actor who invented his roles with headspinning profligacy.
His greatest triumph in turning make believe into reality began with a story in May 1962 in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin about a mysterious international syndicate in Switzerland which was offering a total of $75 million for various Island properties.
The story and the headlines, grew as the days passed and new developments took place.
The president of Sheraton Hotels in Boston accepted an offer for $34.5 million for the Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider and Princess Kaiulani hotels.
Sheraton had paid only $18 million for the same properties three years before.
Investor George Murphy received an offer of $5 million for his ranch on Molokai. He had paid, $300,500 for the property seven years earlier.
Financier Chinn Ho was offered $9 million for his Makaha Valley Farms. He had paid $1.25 million for most of the Waianae Coast in 1947.
Reports surfaced of syndicate offers of $11 million for 19 acres on Kapiolani Boulevard, $13 million for an acre on Waikiki Beach and $1 million for downtown parcels.
Real estate agents handling the deals said they did not know with whom they were dealing. United Press International called it “the deepest financial mystery since Captain Cook first introduced money to Hawaii.”
After a week of front page headlines, the executives of the syndicate turned out to be a couple of young hitchhikers Sammy had picked up coming in from the airport.
He had dreamed up the entire complicated hoax as a satire on Hawaii’s frantic real estate boom. Sammy himself skipped off to Seattle, where he was arrested for writing another bum check and sent to prison.
Sammy’s career as a columnist started in the form of letters to an old Punahou classmate, Thurston Twigg-Smith, publisher of The Advertiser.
The letters, describing prison life in Sammy’s graceful and impeccable prose were so funny and interesting that Twigg-Smith decided to try them as columns.
Paroled in 1970, Sammy returned to Honolulu as a fulltime columnist as well as a social and literary lion. He was booked months in advance to speak at public functions.
For his first public appearance, he wore what became his trademark: while trousers, white embroidered barong tagalog, white nylon scarf at the neck and an ornate Hawaiian sash.
In 1976, he suffered an embolism, resulting in paralysis from the waist down. After that, he spent his time in and out of hospitals and his Waikiki apartment, meanwhile writing occasional columns for the Sunday Star-Bulletin and Advertiser.
Briefly, he lived in the household of Mrs. Robert (Gertrude K) Toledo, who was exonerated of the murder of her husband in an August 1984 trial during which Sammy testified in her defense.
In 1970, Sammy wrote his own obituary. It goes like this: ‘Sing no sad songs over my mortal dust. Nor come to me weeping. I was born of an ancient line, of a high and princely house.’
‘I have known a true friend. I have loved a good woman. I have fathered a son. l have known laughter; I have known tears. I have tasted victory; I have sipped of failure. Is not all that enough?’
‘Say only this of me when I am no more: He was a child of princes, and the dust of this flesh was fashioned of Hawaii’s soil.’
Funeral arrangement are pending. (Bob Krauss, Hnl Adv Feb 23, 1986) (Amalu died on Feb. 23, 1986 at the age of 68.)