"Entertaining In Paradise" hostess Dita Holifield, left, has a laugh with the show's executive producer Susanne Kurisu during a break in filming on the set at the Sub-Zero showroom on Piikoi Street.

Island life
of the party

In the 1950s, who would've thunk that country music would win the hearts of music lovers outside of the Southwest and be understood and appreciated worldwide?

"Entertaining in Paradise"

Airs 9 p.m. Mondays, repeating through the week on Oceanic Time Warner Cable's OC16

Equally unimaginable, who knew that the spirit of Hawaii would travel beyond these isolated islands, and in the era of HGTV have the potential to be absorbed by millions?

The magical always has the potential to transcend boundaries, and isle entertainer Dita Holifield embodies both, a little bit of country and a little bit of Hawaii. As hostess of OC16's "Entertaining in Paradise," the country music diva and spark plug of Dita Holifield and Red Handed plays tour guide, taking viewers into some of the isle's most luxurious homes, sharing tips on decorating and party planning with island flair.

It's a lifestyle show that appeals to everyone from "bruddahs and sistahs in Waianae" to society women said Holifield, who moved here from Lubbock Texas 15 years ago.

"I was in Waianae, and someone was yelling at me and waving, 'Hey Dita! We love your show!,'" she said, still surprised by the attention directed her way since the show began airing last fall.

She finds more fans flagging her down now than when she is singing on stages.

"Everyone watches. We've got the guys who look for the home improvement tips, and the women who say they love the recipes and the interior design segments. So they all find something of interest to them."

Guests from left are Justin Cruz of KQMQ 93.1, Kurisu, Holifield, Sub-Zero operations manager Jean Nakanishi, and Lyle Fujioka of Fujioka Wine Times prepare for filming an episode on potluck parties.

THE SET OF filming one particular day was a renovated home in Kahala on the market for $4 million. Summoned as party props -- a k a supper guests Nos. 3, 4 and 5 -- a few Star-Bulletin staffers were treated to a synergistic experience that draws together multiple elements of a dream lifestyle.

The segments are a tribute to fine dining and entertaining. The walls of the homes are galleries for artists, the interior of the homes a showcase for designers, furniture stores and builders.

"A lot of the furniture has sold because of the show," Holifield said.

For a holiday party, fine china and silverware were properly set on the long, narrow dining table, like a page out of Martha Stewart Living, with place cards for each guest.

"In every show we take a tour of the home, we highlight special features within the home, whether it be the kitchen or floors to what have you," said executive producer Susanne Kurisu. "There's also a cooking segment, although it's not a cooking show."

Kurisu said she's always on the lookout to feature do-it-yourself homes, but "it's harder to find those; people in Hawaii tend to be a little more reserved vs. people on the mainland who have no problem showing off their home."

"PARADISE" IS her baby. "I sat on my butt with this idea for a long time and finally decided to do something before someone beat me to it" said Kurisu, a self-described risktaker and former events planner who said she could never have a nine-to-five job.

With the help of producer Ted Jones of Liquid Planet and director Scott Culbertson, who took her ideas and made them work on camera, the show has taken off.

As with any new mom with an infant, the beginning stages were trying, but she's also having fun.

"In the pilot project, the furniture didn't show up -- we just had to wing it -- but that's just how it goes with any event," she said, referring to the trials and anxieties of party planning and entertaining in general.

"Most events never go exactly right, and when that happens you just wing it."

She recalled a wedding episode when the florist was unfashionably late because the show's staffers weren't aware they had blocked the florist from the set with a giant ice sculpture.

"The main thing is that as long as the guests are happy, they don't need to know what's going on behind the scenes," she said.

And the intention isn't to diss the beloved local-style garage soiree.

"We want to show people they don't have to have just tinfoil pans on the luau tables," said Kurisu. "If people can take just one idea from our show and incorporate it into their gathering, we've done our job."

Holifield and floral consultant Robz Yamane ham it up before filming. Yamane was on tap to show how floral arrangements add color to a party.

Although Holifield hasn't done much home entertaining herself, she's eager to start and said she can't wait to implement some of the show's tips on the Kailua fixer-upper she just bought with her hubby, musician Ellsworth Simeona.

"I'm there to inspire (people who watch), but I represent the person watching, as if I'm seeing it for the first time, and I'm learning along with the viewer," said Holifield.

Although the television market already is saturated with you-can-do-it-better programs, both Kurisu and Holifield are confident that "Paradise" is not your ordinary lifestyle show.

"For one thing, we're a Hawaii platform," said Holifield, making it appealing for isle businesses and giving isle residents a lead on local products. "It's stuff that you can get at your neighborhood store." Tips and solutions for isle residents could be used by mainland viewers as well.

"Paradise" is being eyed by a national network, Kurisu said, and if it's picked up, "We'd probably just tweak it a bit," putting more emphasis on the tropical angle to give it mainland appeal.

"Our show stands up to anything nationally, with the production quality from Liquid Planet," added Holifield, "and even if you lived somewhere like Minnesota, wouldn't you rather see a show about a Hawaii? Who wouldn't rather see a show about an Easter gathering at a gorgeous home in Kahala."

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