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The orange man departs

By Staff | Aug 8, 2013

Colorful Arsene “Blackie” Gadarian, always irreverent, poses with wife Sara with a whimsical sign — a take on old tourist marker signs.

LAHAINA – “The most unforgettable character I’ve met” was once a famous column in Reader’s Digest. The late Blackie Gadarian would have been eminently qualified… except who reads Reader’s Digest anymore?

When the idea of writing what became two columns on Blackie in the Lahaina News came around in 2008, a friend asked, “Why would you like to write about that guy? He’s outrageous.”

Blackie wouldn’t fit in just one column, and the two columns became personal favorites.

Blackie was mostly outrageous… pushy… also funny and generous. He was also well-informed (we once had a conversation about who was the first

secretary of labor in the Roosevelt administration as a test of knowledge. I knew, and so began some mutual respect.

Fond of giving out funny orange business cards and adopting his orange-roofed machine shops and bar as a kind of trademark, Blackie gifted the latest card just last month – bright orange background, black type: “Every time I see you, you are in a bar.”

Blackie’s famous drinking was a myth, like many things about him. He would limit himself to two at a bar, his wife, Sara, said last week.

Sara, who has one of the most infectious laughs you will ever hear, probably got a bigger kick out of Blackie’s antics – and more patiently than anyone.

Blackie once told me that at his bar, he had a sink handy. When people would buy him drinks, he would secretly pour them down the drain and collect the tab.

Blackie did not like staying home in the evening. So, it was off to a long list of bars over the years: Tiki, Leilani’s, Roy’s, Honu and probably many more.

Blackie loved to bait visitors with outrageous statements. And this columnist loved to bait Blackie, once in awhile showing up to give him a zinger just to see how he would react. Laughter would always follow.

During the 2012 election, Blackie had noted – to put it delicately – that he was anti-Obama.

Blackie’s golf cart often in the evening rested in the handicapped space – Blackie carried a cane – near the ocean end of the Whalers Village beach parking. An extra Obama ’08 sticker found a place on the back of Blackie’s cart one night.

President Obama won. Two weeks after the election, I couldn’t resist walking up to the orange shirt and noting: “I see your man won the election. You had his bumper sticker on your cart.”

Blackie didn’t hesitate: “I have guns at home.” Time for a hasty retreat and a wait of several weeks before returning to bait Blackie with something else.

Earlier this year, Blackie, an aficionado and expert, ran a jazz festival at the Royal Lahaina.

The last few years, Blackie had a habit of calling up and wanting to chat… usually on a deadline. In a last phone message sometime after the jazz event, he said he was taking me off his list of friends, because I did not come. But soon, at Safeway or elsewhere, we were

talking again.

Blackie was always clear about his opinions, whether in letters to the editor or spouting off at a bar. One thing he was not clear about was which opinions were real, and which were fiction.

So Blackie leaves as an enigma. Just one thing is for sure: he loved the color orange.