Maui gave ex-Beatle Harrison the quiet he craved
By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
WAILUKU, Maui The Quiet Beatle lived up to his nickname on Maui in a big way, rarely leaving his estate, keeping a low profile and never performing in public, as far as anyone can recall, during the 20 years he counted himself as a part-time resident.
George Harrison, 58, who died of cancer Thursday in Los Angeles, escaped suffocating celebrity by coming to Maui and embracing the local community in Nahiku.
"He gravitated toward the people of the earth. He had a fondness for them,'' said Michael Spalding, who represented Harrison in his real estate and financial dealings when he first purchased his 63-acre East Maui property in 1981. He would later buy more than 100 additional acres there.
"When he came to Maui, he didn't seek out the mighty, the rich and the powerful. He sought out the Hawaiians. He was very loyal to the people he befriended, and they were very loyal to him,'' Spalding said.
Nahiku residents, such as Arnold Allencastre, knew Harrison simply as Keoki.
"He was a good guy, a nice guy,'' said Allencastre, whose father once owned the land Harrison had acquired. "He liked the local people, too.''
Harrison hired Allencastre, a heavy-equipment operator, to help clear his land so he could build his house and plant his gardens. But their relationship wasn't just a working one. Allencastre and his wife, Cynthia, would socialize with the Harrisons. George and his wife, Olivia, would come to their parties and they, in turn, would be invited to an occasional lunch.
The last time Allencastre saw Harrison was about a year ago when he and Olivia stopped by to say hello and catch up on what was happening in town.
Former caretaker Dot Pua remembers Harrison as a sweet and thoughtful boss. One time, when she was cutting his hair, Harrison asked about her favorite songs. Her reply was, " 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' by Kenny Rankin," and a couple other tunes. Harrison didn't say anything.
It was only years later, while leafing through a Beatles songbook, that she discovered that "While My Guitar Gently Weeps'' was written by Harrison.
"My goodness, he must have thought I was so dumb,'' she said.
Pua, now a beautician at the Hotel-Hana Maui, said her time at the Harrison estate was a wonderful experience.
"But it made me appreciate my simple life,'' she said. "When I was hired, Olivia told me my life will change and it did. We got a dog and locked the doors, something we never did before. Strangers kept coming onto the property.''
Strangers were something Harrison worked hard to avoid and that aversion exploded into a lawsuit with neighbors who were allowing visitors to use a path over his property to get to the ocean. The lawsuit was finally settled this year.
"He used to tell me that he wanted to be famous, but after three or four months it was the worst thing that happened to him,'' said restaurateur Bob Longhi, who was introduced to the former Beatle in 1977 and continued as a friend.
"George was a super guy, a humble-type person. He wasn't like, 'I'm George Harrison.' He was fun-loving.''
Harrison fell in love with Maui, Longhi said, and in 1979 wrote "Soft-Hearted Hana,'' dedicating it to Longhi on his "George Harrison'' album.
Paul Weinstein, owner of Bounty Music in Kahului, remembers the former Beatle coming into his shop anywhere from six to a dozen times over the years.
He said Harrison was fascinated with the 'ukulele and bought perhaps as many as a dozen over the years.
During one visit, Weinstein allowed him to try out various instruments in an office behind the Hana Highway store.
"It was one of the thrills of my life,'' he said. "Whoever thought I'd be able to sit in a room, just me and him, and be able to hear him try out some instruments.''
Maui guitarist Harry Troupe, a former Bounty Music manager, said he was stunned to find Harrison in the shop one day.
"He was so humble to me,'' he said. "It really floored me to see a guy of that stature treat me the way he did. You could just feel the warmth from him.''