My wife, Ginger, remembers seeing politician Louie “Smokey” Gonsalves (1907-1985) at chicken fights held at her grandma’s place in Kapaa Stable Camp on Kaapuni Road, Kapaa, when she was a kid growing up on Kauai in the 1950s.
Gonsalves liked cockfights; he once said he’d attended about 100 of them, and as county supervisor, he favored legislation legalizing them, but to no avail.
In 1963, he played the part of Mario in the movie “Diamond Head” filmed on Kauai and starring Charlton Heston, Yvette Mimieux, George Chakiris and James Darren.
And, on Sunday afternoon, May 10, 1964, he helped save the life of entertainer Frank Sinatra, then on Kauai acting in and directing “None But the Brave.”
Sinatra and Mrs. Howard Koch, the wife of Sinatra’s executive producer, were swimming near Sinatra’s rented cottage, located about where Wailua Bay View Resort now stands, when they were swept seaward and were unable to return to shore.
“Smokey” Gonsalves was at Coco Palms when he heard that someone was drowning and immediately drove to the area with assistant manager Harold Jim.
After swimming out 75 yards in rough seas to Mrs. Koch, who was OK, he swam another 100 yards farther to Sinatra, who was being held by actor Brad Dexter. When Harold Jim joined Gonsalves soon after, Dexter swam for shore.
Then Gonsalves and Jim, holding Sinatra, swam toward the old Horner house, which stood where Lanikai Condominiums stands now, and had served as a setting in “Donovan’s Reef,” shot on Kauai in 1963.
Near shore, Sinatra’s neighbor, Al Giles, and firemen Theodore Williams and George Keawe assisted them.
Afterwards, Gonsalves said, “Sinatra was weak. If he had never got help, I am afraid he never would have survived.”
Louie “Smokey” Gonsalves, who acquired his nickname because of his outstanding pitching in baseball, was born in Honolulu and came to Kauai in 1936 as a lifeguard, became a police officer, and served six terms as a county supervisor and four terms as a Councilman.
He and his wife, Mabel Gonsalves, had one son, Melvin Gonsalves.