Colorful, humble Blackie; a boatyard and bar
Article in the Lahaina News, July 24, 2008 edition. Written by Norm Brezane / Beyond the Beach.
LAHAINA – The best word to describe orange-shirted Blackie Gadarian – 87-year-old machinist, former bar owner, jazz buff and irascible writer of pithy letters to local publications – is colorful.
Growing up in New York City, Arsene Gadarian won the moniker “Blackie” because of his thick black hair (now entirely gone).
After World War II, Blackie started Blackie’s Boat Yard in Newport Beach, California, later opening a second one on Maui in 1979. To paint his new boat maintenance buildings in California, struggling Blackie got some strange, lead-based red paint for free. A year later it turned an ugly color, and Blackie was told the only new color he could paint over it was orange.
The orange buildings became a trademark and orange shirts followed, worn the last 29 years on Maui. (His closet now has 40 of them, and none of another color). Wife Sara drives him around in an orange golf cart and truck with an orange stripe and logo. Sara usually wears light blue shirts.
Blackie is most famous around these parts for Blackie’s Bar, an infamous hangout on land that once stood in the middle of his boat yard near the current Shell station across from Lahaina Cannery Mall.
To build his bar, the innovative Blackie bought the top of Windsock Lounge, well-known as the place to go have a drink before boarding a plane at the old West Maui Airport at “Airport Beach” in Kaanapali.
Blackie wanted the bar, which he put on a truck and hauled to Lahaina, because it was the stomping ground of renowned bartender “High School Harry” Given, revered for his powerful Bloody Marys. Blackie’s Bar kept the Bloody Marys and also added Sara’s famous, home-cooked meat loaf sandwich ($5.50).
Sara: It’s Blackie against the world.
BEYOND THE BEACH By Norm Bezane
LAHAINA – Soft-spoken Sara Richardson Gadarian, who has lived here for nearly two decades, has been married to “lovable, humble Blackie” for 48 years.
When they met, she said, “I saw a feisty man – tall, dark and handsome. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He made me laugh and he loved music and the beach. And he was a wonderful dancer who could do the Lindy Hop.”
The marriage has survived, in part, because Sara – owner of an infectious laugh – has a sense of humor, too.
Behind the rough, gruff, seemingly unapproachable facade of former Lahaina bar owner Arsene “Blackie” Gadarian is “a man who is extremely gentle with the people he loves,” Sara said.
“But usually it is Blackie against the world.”
Many KPOA listeners were introduced to humble Blackie by radio commercials featuring the iconoclast himself.
“Blackie’s Bar is for grownups. Leave your kids and dogs at the hotel. This is your wonderful, lovable, humble Blackie,” he would say.
Visitors to the beer, burger and jazz joint just north of town were first accosted by a special sign.
Blackie explained, “Most tourists used to be told that the streets of Lahaina were lined with free coupons. And everything was aloha. We had a sign that said, ’Aloha is a two-way street.’
“If you come here and are nice, we are nice. If you come here and are (unprintable), we will be (unprintable).”
Above a long stairway lined with photos of old shipwrecks, there were more signs and more rules:
“PROMOTE SAFE BOATING. STAY ASHORE AND DRINK AT BLACKIE’S BAR!”
“No pipe or cigar smoking permitted. Keep your feet and legs off the chairs.”
“IF YOU ARE NOT DRINKING, YOU ARE LOITERING!”
Blackie’s own drinking was supposed to be legendary, but he had a trick up his orange sleeve.
Customers would buy him drinks, and he would pour the contents down a convenient drain when they weren’t looking. He claims his other secret was having more than two drinks actually made him sick.
On jazz nights, Blackie would open the show with a monologue. Now, with the bar closed since 1991, he’s taken to baiting tourists – he does not call them “visitors” – many evenings at Leilani’s on the Beach.
Blackie, with a cane, and Sara stroll in. Bar patrons scatter, and the two get stools.
“What else am I going to do? I am not going to sit home and throw bread to the birds,” said Blackie.
Outrageous things come out of Blackie’s mouth all the time – best left unchallenged. Yet, for anyone who loves to debate issues, the cantankerous Blackie is a joy.
Once accepted, he’s fun to talk to, because he is well-informed and a self-described “news junkie.”
Obama? “If he can’t stop smoking, how is he going to stop the war?”
Development? “We have people who gripe about too much development. ’It is too crowded.’ When I was born, there were 120 million people in the country. Now there are 300 million – what are we going to do?”
At 87, Blackie Gadarian shows no sign of stopping. In orange shirt, when and if he reaches the Pearly Gates, he must remember one thing: “No loitering.”