Following in the footsteps of Bruno Mars

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Kaye Holland goes in search of the Hawaiian singing sensation and rumoured (repeat) Super Bowl 2016 half time headliner…

Can’t get Uptown Funk out of your head? You’re not alone: the 70s-esque dance jam is now the longest running number one of the decade and the fifth biggest-selling single in UK chart history.

First released in November 2014, the catchy track has sold over two million copies worldwide, surpassing the total sales of Paul McCartney & Wings  single Mull of Kintyre.

The pop mega hit features Bruno Mars  on lead vocals, while the accompanying video  – which sees Hawaii’s hottest export  strut through New York in a distinctive pink jacket and white fedora – is the ninth most viewed YouTube video of all time.

The pint sized crooner loves his home state saying “Basically, you haven’t been to paradise if you haven’t been to Hawaii” so why not let the man formerly known as Peter Fernandez be your guide to the island of Oahu?

Make a beeline for the Neal S Blaisdell Center
Named after the Mayor of Honolulu who oversaw its construction, the 8,000 seat capacity Neal S Blaisdell Centre in downtown Honolulu, is where Mars performs when in town. Elvis Presley’s Aloha from Hawaii concert was also held here back in January 1973 – something the bronze statue of the King, that has been erected outside the entrance to the centre, bears testimony to. Elvis, Bruno and big name acts aside, the performing arts centre stages symphonic and chamber music concerts, hula competitions, arts and craft fairs, farmers markets, ballet recitals and more.

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Back to school
Mars attended Roosevelt High School where he and three classmates formed a band called The School Boys and choreographed pep rallies. The hit maker’s Father, Peter Hernandez Snr – who personally convinced the doctor delivering baby Bruno to play doowop songs on a tape recorder – believes Bruno’s personality is what saw him through high school. “I’d rarely see him carrying books, but he always had a guitar or a ukulele or something,” Hernandez Snr told Midweek. “It became like an inside family joke.” Fast forward to 2015 and Mars’ portrait – together with that of other distinguished Roosevelt High alumni including Canadian Football League player Chad Owens, radio talk show host Larry Price and Olympic wrestler Clarissa Chun – hangs proudly in the high school’s hallway.

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Say aloha in style
Casual aloha shirts – often incorrectly called Hawaiian shirts – are the norm on Oahu, the ali (chief) of Hawaii’s 136 islands. The Locked Out Of Heaven singer admits that he adores a “good aloha shirt” and is regularly snapped wearing one. Where does Bruno buy his prized shirts? Say aloha to Avanti – pictures of the pint sized crooner adorn the walls of the Kalakaua Ave store. If you want to make like Mars, pick up the ‘Palms Aloha’ – a silk shirt worn by the Grammy Award winner on his  Moonshine Jungle World Tour. Other options at Avanti – whose high profile fans include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jon Lovitz,  Adam Sandler et al – include shirts showing old Hawaii scenes, flowers and points of interest. Unsure of which shirt to select? The uber helpful Royce is usually on hand to dispense advice and style tips.

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Finding a fedora
Mars is mad about hats telling MTV: “the hat has to speak to you, from your soul.” The Platinum record producer has been spotted in trilbies, baseball caps and beanies but his favourite is the fedora. Why is the singer so sold on hats? The answer is down to his diminutive stature. Measuring a mere 5’5″, Bruno is “a short guy and that’s always something I have to think about. I’ve always done the hat thing”, the star shared with The Daily Star. “Now I’m doing ones with bigger brims to make myself look taller.” Bruno also revealed that while growing up in Honolulu, his Mother used to blow dry his hair in order to add an extra inch or two to his height. Fancy taking home a fashionable fedora a la Bruno?  Try Truffaux – a new store specialising in fine, handmade hats on Waikiki Beach Walk. Alternatively check out Chapel – these guys have six stores spread out over Oahu.

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Get inked
Tattoos are a Hawaiian ritual (Polynesians have been decorating their bodies with ink for hundreds of years) and a common sight on Oahu: pretty much every Hawaiian I met during my sojourn sported a tatt viewing them not only as an art form but also a guard of a person’s health and spiritual well-being. I was consumed with the idea of getting a tattoo (as a bubbly blonde, I’d like to look a little tougher plus saw it as a souvenir that would last a lifetime). So much so that I even booked an appointment at Victorian Tattoo where I discovered that a good tattoo isn’t cheap (and a cheap tattoo, as we all know, isn’t good).
Not that money is a problem for Mars – one of the most successful solo artists in the world. Bruno has tattoo of a gypsy on his left forearm and an anchor on his right forearm, as well as tattoos dedicated to his parents on his upper arms. On his right upper arm, his mother’s name ‘Bernadette’ is written on a heart, while on his left upper arm the words ‘Pete’s Boy’ pay homage to his father.

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Seek out the Sheraton Waikiki
Mars’ kicked off his career at the age of four fronting his Father’s Doowop group, The Love Notes. The band performed at the Sheraton Waikiki five times a week, as well as touring the Midwest, Tokyo and Japan. Mars’ siblings – he’s one of six children – were also involved in the family show. “All of us would be singing” says Mars’ uncle, John Valentine, but he [Bruno] would be the biggest ham.” Today Bruno’s elder brother Eric plays drums in Mars’ backing band, The Hooligans, while his four sisters (Jamie, Presley, Tahiti and Tiara) have their own musical group, The Lylas (which stands for Love You Like A Sister) – the subject of  a WE TV reality show. Meanwhile Uncle John can still be found performing at The Edge at the Sheraton Waikiki as well as the Westin Moana/Surfrider BeachBar and Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu, in addition to teaching his craft to up and coming stars in Hawaii as a vocal instructor and coach for stage performance.

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Eat like a local
Want to eat like a hooligan (the name of Mars’ backing band)? Make for Matsumoto – a tin roofed 1950s style general store on the North Shore to indulge in shaved ice (a beat the heat treat whose famous fans include current US President Barack Obama). Aoki’s is another popular shaved ice spot – and as an added plus, the queues are shorter – but our money is on Matsumoto. Don’t miss island flavours include Mango, pineapple and liliko (passion fruit).
Mars is also mad about spam describing it as “unbelievable and delicious”. He’s not alone: Hawaiians are crazy about this canned meat and consequently an entire festival – take a bow The Spam Jam – celebrating everything spam has sprung up. Loco moco (a satisfying comfort food dish of rice, fried eggs, patty and gravy) is another ono grind (good eat). Wondering where to try these taste explosions? Look to Zippy’s – a Hawaii institution that’s gearing up to celebrate its 49th anniversary on 17 October. If, as Bruno sings in Uptown Funk, you “don’t believe me” , just ask Mars. When quizzed by the Star Advertiser as to what he misses most about Hawaii, he replied instantaneously: “Zippy’s. If they ever come to Los Angeles, I want to be there.”

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Off Oahu
Kauai Marriott Resort, Kauai
Before he was a Super Bowl halftime headliner, the man formerly known as Peter Hernandez was the world’s youngest Elvis impersonator at the tender age of three. By the time he was six, Mars had made a cameo as a mini Elvis in the 1992 film, Honeymoon in Vegas, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, James Caan and Nicolas Cage. The wacky comedy – which saw Caan and Cage competing for SJP’s affections – was filmed on the Five O State outside the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club on the garden island of Kauai.

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