Maui has always had an ample supply of very rich people, but lately, we've been deluged with billionaires. Larry Ellison of Oracle fame bought Lana'i. Oprah bought property here, and when it took too long to get from the beach to the mountain, she built her own private connector road. Now comes Arianna Huffington and Pierre Omidyar and their new co-venture in Hawai'i.
Whatever else you might say about Arianna Huffington and Pierre Omidyar, they throw an excellent party.
In case you haven't been keeping up on your boldface names, she's the formerly conservative queen of commentary, whose politics moved dramatically to the left in recent years. Presently, she is editor and chief of the Huffington Post, an online aggregator of news, blogs and tabloid-style headlines (which are often as misleading as they are attention-getting).
Connect The Dots
Huff-Po--as it is known in media circles--is a high-traffic, national platform. AOL purchased it in 2011 for $315 million ($300 million in cash and $15 million in shares, as reported by the Guardian).
How popular is the Huffington Post? It makes the top-100 list, both internationally and domestically. Alexa (the Internet ranking firm) puts it at No. 90 globally and No. 21 in the U.S.
How much traffic is that, comparatively? Well let's just say The Maui News is ranked worldwide at No. 61,858 and nationally at No. 9,998.
And Pierre--how does he fit in? He's a billionaire founder of eBay and currently the moving force behind CivilBeat.com, an award-winning Honolulu news and public affairs site that carries no advertising and has a distinctly wonky tilt.
Poor Pierre, all that money and good intentions and his site is ranked 243,969 in the world and 46,261 in the U.S, trailing behind Maui Publishing.
Well, that just might be about to change.
This unlikely pair has teamed up to launch a HuffPost Hawai'i (www.huffingtonpost.com/hawaii), ostensibly to give Civil Beat and Hawai'i-based bloggers a wider audience. But to be perfectly frank, most observers suspect it might have something to do with potential advertising opportunities.
Whatever their motive, the pair, decked in lei and surrounded by a phalanx of handlers, were on Maui Wednesday, Sept. 4, to introduce their new product to a select group of invited Mauians. The event was billed as a "Farm-to-Table Reception."
So what's not to like about a party at Bev and Joe Gannon's house in Makawao?
Who'd pass up an event where everything is deluxe? We're talking the ne plus ultra of casual upscale chic--from the valet parking at the door to the velvety lawn and casual, comfortable seating under an open air tent.
Who wouldn't appreciate the lineup of food from the best Maui restaurants with star chefs in full whites preparing the tidbits?
On hand were Chef Beverly Gannon, Bev Gannon Restaurants; Executive Chef James McDonald, Pacific'O, I'o and The Feast at Lele; Executive Chef Cameron Lewark, Spago at the Four Seasons Wailea; Chef de Cuisine Isaac Bancaco, Andaz Wailea; as well as a group from the University of Hawai'i Maui College's Culinary Academy.
Maui produce exhibitors included Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm, Aina Lani Farm (Fresh Island Herbs), Haleakala Ranch, Malama Farms, Olopawa Farms and Surfing Goat Dairy.
Additional tables were ranged around the tent, and the staff from Gannon's catering company passed around a seemingly endless array of little ingenious pupu.
Thirsty? Try a cocktail or an alcohol-free beverage. You want flowers? We got flowers on the tables in spectacular arrangements. More flowers? Please accept a colorful tropical bouquet to carry home, compliments of Olopawa Farms in Hana.
Let the record show the root beer from Maui Brewing Company was delicious (I drank two and tried to buy more the next day, but apparently it is not yet available for the masses).
The lamb curry prepared by Spago Chef Lewark surpassed divine. Everything else--and there was an endless array of everything else--ran a close second.
For the first half-hour, a hundred or so doubtful Mauians milled around uncertainly wondering just where the "hook" was in all this largesse, but the magic of good food, good company and a beautiful setting overcame even the most skeptical mindset. It was a lovely evening and a reporter's field day--a true mother lode of gossip we can't print and leads for future stories (none of them likely to run in HuffPost Hawai'i).
It was well past dark when Arianna and Pierre made their way to the stage. She stepped up to say a few words in Greek-accented English. She, too, liked the root beer and went on to introduce a concept she called "the third metric: redefining success beyond money and power." That phrase was something of an oxymoron considering the present setting, but no one seemed to notice.
She and Pierre invited those interested in becoming (unpaid) community bloggers to email the editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the night fell, the lights from dozens of cell phones flickered in the twilight as guests shot souvenir "selfies," and blogged and tweeted the news of the good life to their less fortunate friends who hadn't managed an invitation.
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, your Maui Weekly correspondent reserves comment and will wait with interest to see how the public receives this new entry into Hawai'i's media mix.
So far, there's been little in the content department to excite, but the impressive color, promotional handout used the word "inspiring" repeatedly.
Clicking on the new Hawai'i edition, the headlines are still uniquely Huff-Po: How does "Lava Flow is Totally Trippy" grab you?
Or as their press release said in bold face type, "Showcasing authentic island culture, people and places."
So much for irony.