Maui Connections

I could almost hear the Uptown Funk all the way to here in Arizona as I read Melissa Tanji’s terrific Maui News write-up of Bruno Mars’ concert in Wailea Wednesday. The Hawaiian-born superstar was playing for a corporate convention at the Grand Wailea, and more than a thousand local folks showed up on the beach for the show.

I was alerted to the concert in real time as it was happening, thanks to a pal reaching out to me on the undersea cable of the coconut wireless. He had heard that some South Maui beach parks and beach access had been closed to the general public unless you could prove you were staying in a Wailea resort. He didn’t want to be mentioned by name in the column once he heard policing had been turned over to Homeland Security.

Not quite. But almost. Actually, it was Maui police and firefighters, the Coast Guard and state Department of Land and Natural Resources officers, as well as hotel and private security, according to Melissa’s report. Along with the regular resort security and other law enforcement agencies on land, the Coast Guard and Fire Department secured the coast with various vessels, presumably to protect Wailea from Mars attacks.

The mood in the crowd, judging by the reporting and the accompanying photos, was exuberant. It’s not every day that anyone gets to hear a Super Bowl halftime headliner perform for free, thanks to SAP, the business software giant footing the bill for his appearance at its convention.

But the heightened security, brief closures of beach parks and regulation of beach access raised questions for some — my pal for one, along with a woman quoted in the story — about the complicated love-hate issues that inevitably arise between “us” and “them” in any tourist economy.

Like which public those public servants are supposed to be working for.

It’s no secret — well, actually it usually is a secret while it’s happening — that many of the best island performances by some of the most legendary musical artists in history haven’t been for ticket-buying audiences at all, but for corporate conventions. Which are entitled to, and have paid dearly, for their privacy.

On the other hand, with all the people involved in putting on a show like this, especially outdoors with fireworks for dessert, forget about trying to keep secrets anymore. The SAP convention was huge, all over Wailea, and thousands of resort employees deserve credit for their parts in making it happen.

Security’s job is to keep it safe for everyone, including uninvolved bystanders.

And as for the vastly talented star of the show, at least he remembered his local-boy roots and played from a stage facing out toward the crowd on the beach.

In a bit of musical prescience, Mars’ landing on Maui last Wednesday had all been foretold in the lyrics of one of his best-known songs:

. . . I’m too hot

Called a police and a fireman

I’m too hot

Make a dragon wanna retire man

I’m too hot

Say my name you know who I am . . .

I’m too hot

And my band ’bout that money, break it down

Don’t believe me just watch

Don’t believe me just watch.

* * *

In a somewhat calmer vein, I’m told by Cynthia Conrad and Jerry Labb that Viewpoints Gallery in Makawao was teeming with artists and art lovers Feb. 23 at the opening reception of the Hawaii Contemporary 2019 exhibit, which consisted of the work of nine modern artists, most of whom had never shown at Viewpoints before. Curated by Joelle and Oliver Perz, elegant glass, metal and canvas pieces adorned the walls and pedestals in the gallery, giving it a fresh, clean look.

Artist Karl Hensel’s large fused, slumped and blown-glass wall hangings glinted in the spotlights, their shadows dancing playfully behind. New to Maui is the artist known as Marishimo, whose abstract canvases were originally presented to the gallery in rolls, but were quickly framed, as the curators found them to perfectly fit the theme. Karuna Santoro’s intricate glass bowls and plates were exquisite, but her wall piece, titled “Optical Illusion,” turned viewers’ heads as they found the art to look simultaneously convex and concave. Larry Berko’s airy and expansive ocean and beachgoer abstracts evoked a capricious state of mind.

Chatting with fiber artist Pam Peterson, painter Linda Whittemore, mixed-media artist Jennifer Stephens, glass artist Julia Cordi, and metal artist Kari Von Wening were Maha Conyers, Sue and Paul Kiang and Diana Lehr. The exhibit runs through March 24.

* Rick Chatenever, award-winning columnist and former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at