Maui Time

The Life of Mark D’Antonio: Remembering MauiTime Co-Founder (1971 – 2018)

With Hurricane Lane barrelling down, we find it time to say aloha to MauiTime co-founder Mark D’Antonio. The simple truth is there would not be MauiTime without Mark. Mark was the first person to believe in the opportunity for two school friends to move to a foreign place and create a media company. Mark spoke music to musicians and art to artists in a way that drew so many people into our efforts with MauiTime.

As you can clearly see from the small sample of photos in this piece, Mark lived life to its fullest. He looked for and found the good in people, and wanted to share positive stories with everyone. Many publications have come and gone since Mark and I started MauiTime, but we, along with countless others, birthed something special.

Despite the weather, we’re planning a celebration of life this weekend. On Sunday, August 26, at Launiupoko Beach Park we will come together to remember Mark with a paddle-out at 11am. Stick around for a prepared lunch and potluck, and share stories with friends.

Aloha, Mark. Rest in love.

-Tommy Russo

It seems surreal to be saying farewell and paying tribute to Mark D’Antonio. He was much too young, far too talented, and, frankly, too ridiculously handsome to be gone so soon. He was also very kind and funny, and embodied the aloha spirit. I met Mark for the first time in 1996 when he was the drummer/percussionist for the uber cool, college band Sunset Red – a Chico band that routinely sold out shows and venues throughout California. This was the band’s first live tour on Maui.

At the time, I was the morning show host of Maui’s alternative rock station, The Point 101.1 FM, and Sunset Red was invited to the studio for an interview and to talk about their upcoming live shows at Lahaina’s legendary World Cafe on Front Street. The guys in the band were great, there was a lot to talk about, and I remember the interview ran long. But it was after the interview that Mark and his soon-to-be business partner Tommy Russo stayed behind at the station, and shared their vision of relocating from Chico to Maui and launching a new publication: an island lifestyle, alternative newspaper similar to those that were the voices of college towns and hip cities across the country.

“MauiTime.” Brilliant name, innovative concept, and just what the island needed. I was excited for Mark and Tommy, and at the same time, cautiously optimistic about the prospect of the publication being a profitable venture. After all, the Hawaiian Islands had taken a few economic hits in recent years with the Gulf War and devastation of Hurricane Iniki. Tourism wasn’t what it had once been, and many businesses were doing all they could just to keep their doors open. Advertising in an unproven publication that appealed to “surfers” would be a difficult sell for upstart, long-haired Californians.

However, any uncertainty about MauiTime Weekly didn’t stand a chance against the blind faith and youthful optimism of its soon-to-be publishers, and roughly one year after our radio station brainstorming session, MauiTime came to fruition and released its debut issue in 1997. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over the years, I had the pleasure of working with Mark and Tommy on numerous events that The Point 101.1 FM and MauiTime co-promoted: battle of the bands, live concerts, nightclub events, and one that was near and dear to my heart – the Endless Summer Annual Longboard Surf Classic that I created and co-promoted with MauiTime. Among his many talents, Mark was also a brilliant graphic artist and he donated his time creating the iconic logo we used for each year’s event. The surf contests broke attendance records at Launiupoko Park, and traffic along the Pali highway was ground to a halt most of the day.

This was a magical time on Maui. Lightning in a bottle, and I’m proud to have been a part of that – and feel privileged to have known the creative spirit of Mark D’Antonio. His business partner Tommy Russo continues to carry the torch for MauiTime, and it has been inspiring to see the “surfer” magazine evolve into one of the most influential, policy changing publications in all of Hawai‘i.

Mark’s legacy will always be a part of that, in addition to all of the other accomplishments he celebrated in both business and the music industry.

Godspeed, Mark.

-Glen Gerrard (Thuncher)

After two days of mostly shock and confusion, I just had my first legit breakdown. Losing a close friend never gets any easier, even the older you get. I just finished writing a letter to our work colleagues letting them know of the passing of Mark D’Antonio, and the act of having to hit “Send” on that letter was just too much. It made it too real. Having to tell the entertainment companies that had been hiring us as a DJ/Conga duo for the last 12 years… like there’s no escaping the reality of it now.

He was supposed to be here on Maui at the end of the month to do a wedding with Del, then the three of us were gonna do another Future Funk party while he was here. What happened to all of that?

Mark and I go back to 1992 when we met during our college years in Chico, California. His band and my band shared the stage countless times throughout Northern California, Tahoe, and Reno area. We were neighbors directly across the street from each other for a portion of that time. My band practiced in the basement of his house. He even took some drum lessons from my dad a couple of times. We were aspiring musicians chasing the lifestyle that being wannabe rock stars afforded us.

Too many good times to remember… but I find myself trying to sort them all out now, to take stock, and hold on to them as if they were invaluable. Indeed they are. And I’m pretty sure some college-ing happened somewhere in there too, in between all the gigs and all the parties… if y’all knew Chico like we knew Chico, then ya’ll know what I’m talkin about.

He moved out to Maui maybe about five years before I did? He was one of two people that I knew when I moved here. Tommy Russo is the other half of that equation. They started MauiTime mag together. It was a real treat getting to reconnect with him out here as a DJ/Conga duo. We played quite a lot of gigs around the island (with Del on quite of number of those also, as a two-DJ + Conga trio on our Future Funk sets), but the opportunities that (mostly) Envisions Entertainment afforded us to play together allowed me and Mark to spend some quality time on some really quality gigs throughout the islands that we, no doubt, wouldn’t have been able to play otherwise.

So for that… for all of that, I am truly grateful. I know it sounds cliche, but if there was anyone I ever knew that really lived life to the fullest, Mark D’Antonio was that person. Mark had a life “Volume knob” that went up to 11. I don’t think he knew how to do anything halfway. He was good at everything: He was an incredibly skilled musician, an incredibly smart, witty person; he was good at being nice and genuine, and he was very good at not having any sort of ego about any of it.

Mark D’Antonio, everyone that knew you, loved you… and we always will.

-Jay Langworthy (Boomshot)

I was lucky enough to work with Mark D’Antonio very closely on a variety of different projects over the past 20 years. Ideas and creativity always flowed effortlessly between us. We kept everything light and fun! He worked tirelessly with me for some really long hours to make everything perfect. He edited and published all of my articles for MauiTime Weekly. He did the layout and design for all of my CD covers.

He played percussion on some of my tracks as well [like “Daydream” by Kika Kane]. Very cool playing here! His spirit and talent will be missed by MANY who feel like we’ve lost a good brother! It does seem like a daydream. Rest in peace, Mark, and a hui hou.

-Clark Naberschnig

I’ve known Mark for just over half of my life. We met in college, graduated together in 1994, then went on to play in the band, Sunset Red, for over a decade. When you’re in a band for that long, you can’t coexist by just being polite. It’s like being in a marriage and working with your spouse every day. Since Mark came in to the band with long hair we would sometimes put him in a skirt. We had a very unique connection.

We were more than just five musicians who came together to play music, we were the closest of friends. We traveled together, roshambo’ed for shotgun, flipped for the spot on the couch or driving duty, carried our gear up endless flights of stairs, and laughed ‘til we cried.

I have hundreds of stories about Mark and so many incredible experiences on stage together.  We would get to the end of our set and for some reason none of us wanted it to end. Club owners hated when we would take the last song, and just when you thought it was going to end, launch into the land of make believe from which there was no return.

This was Mark’s happy place. 

We would speed up and approach total chaos. Then this incredible thing would happen. The floor would rise up under our feet and we would settle in this whole new musical dimension. Mark would see the light go on in my eyes and this huge smile would appear. He would then yell, “Sully, welcome!” It was as if he had been to this magical place before and was taking comfort in showing me around now that we had arrived.

That was Mark, a gracious host in the 4th dimension of music. Eager to bring you in, and show you what he had learned and what he was working on. While packing up the equipment he would say, “That was like the New Year’s Dead show in ’89, except totally different.” His quick wit and humor were always packaged with humility and confidence – the perfect combination that defined his character.

He was always there to share a new experience and invite you in to his beautiful world. He was a true creative genius. This layered dimension made Mark complicated. Having your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground poses challenges to even the strongest committers of balanced imagination. Mark was a true “music maker, and a dreamer of dreams.” 

One of the trademark songs in our set was called “Mental.” It’s about tapping in to your true self and not wearing a pretentious mask or being phony. Ironically, we started this thing where we would put on a mask or wear a costume before we started the song. This ritual started taking on a life of its own. Being the brilliant underappreciated rhythm section that we were, we decided (by ourselves), to bring my father’s backyard leaf blower on stage as an added prop. At the perfect time during the ending Mark snuck up behind me and strapped this engine on my back. He then proceeded to pull the cord in an attempt to get it started on stage.

A look of confusion came over his face when he realized he needed more leverage. In a moment of genius, he placed his foot on my floor tom (drum) and pulled with all his might. The floor tom tipped into several symbol stands and everything came crashing down… including Mark. The blank look from our fellow bandmates and audience gave the word “priceless” a new meaning.

Being the true wingman that I am, I instantly turned and gave him a look of violation as if I knew nothing about our premeditated plan. With a confused half grin, I said, “Dude, what are you doing?” His complete ownership of this failed event was classic Mark!

He humbly shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sorry about that, the stage was getting a little dusty.”

I could go on and on about this guy. 

I know how much I learned from him and it’s overwhelming to see the outpouring of respect from so many people he touched during his life. What bothers me is I sensed he was holding on to something. Afraid of being vulnerable to the core. He was guarding something and it was affecting his inner light’s ability to shine. 

“Some birds weren’t meant to be caged, their feathers are just too big and too bright, the part of us that knows it’s a sin to keep them caged must rejoice at the sight of flight.” 

-The Shawshank Redemption

Although I miss him dearly and want him here for myself, I am rejoicing at the sight of flight.  His feathers were too big and too bright to keep caged. Spread your wings my friend and, with that big smile, soar in the endless notes of your greatest symphony. I love you and will never forget you, Mark. You are a true, authentic, shining star in a dark world. Don’t change a single note!

-T. Sullivan

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Cover illustration by $ayfoo