Actress and musician Tia Carrere talks about her globetrotting, Honolulu and hair bonnets at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown. (Photo: David Miller)
In Renaissance Hotels’ short film “Business Unusual,” Tia Carrere serves as a source of inspiration for a young ad exec, encouraging him to see the world more clearly. There’s probably no better way to see the world more clearly than to travel, according to the actress and musician, who catapulted to fame as Cassandra Wong in the cult comedy classic “Wayne’s World.”
“When you travel it gives you more empathy for the world. You really feel at one with your fellow man or woman,” Carrere says. “We’re not so scary. We’re not somebody so far away on the other side of the world. I think that traveling is something that people need to make a point of doing more.”
We couldn’t agree more. I sat down with Carrere at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown before the premiere of “Business Unusual,” where the movie was filmed, to talk about her globetrotting. As it turns out, it’s as expansive as her screen work, with roles opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery, starring in her own series “Relic Hunter,” and recently taking a spin in the “Dancing With the Stars” ballroom.
Do you have a favorite place? What’s your go to destination?
Hawaii, of course. That’s where my family is from. Also, because I won two Grammys for my Hawaiian music, so I sort of ensured my travel back home. I just came back from doing a gig in Maui.
What’s your advice for a first-time visitor to Hawaii?
I love Honolulu. People sort of bemoan the fact that it’s the big city. It is and it’s not. You can just get in your car and drive, and there are so many aspects to Oahu. You can be at Turtle Bay on the other side of the island; you can be over at Kohala ‘Aina, at the far western side of the island, or in Mākaha, somewhere very remote; or you could be in Waikiki shopping in world-class establishments. I love Oahu because it has everything and the best restaurants.
Speaking of restaurants…what’s your favorite on Oahu?
I love Alan Wong’s for fine cuisine. I mean, our President [of the United States] goes there. I remember when [Wong] first opened the place. It’s tremendous. He’s just a wonderful chef. And then, there’s the one counter bakery that I grew up at, Liliha Bakery, which is now famous because they often show the pink boxes of pastry on Hawaii Five-0. Now, they have a second location, but I grew up at the one with one counter up in Kalihi. Everybody loves the coco puffs, but I’m more about eating at the counter – hamburger steak with gravy, rice and macaroni salad, and it comes with a butter roll. Their savory food is what brings me back there.
What’s your favorite travel memory?
I was working on a show in South Africa for three months. I was in Cape Town, and thank god the producers didn’t know about this. The manager of the apartment building that all of the actors were staying at asked me if I’d like to go hiking. Little did I know that he was training for Everest. When he said hiking he meant climbing and scrambling up Table Mountain without proper gear or ropes. I had no water. I was in shorts and a tank top, and tennis shoes. We were literally scrambling up the side of a mountain the size of a two-story building. At some point I’m getting really scared, but I think I cannot go down; that’s not an option anymore. I have to keep going up. It was about 3 ½ hours until we got to the top of the mountain and the fog was rolling in and I asked, “Should we be worried about that fog that’s rolling in?” He goes, “Yes, we must hurry.” I’m thinking. We must hurry? Is he serious with this? And then, we hear these sirens. So we’re running, trying not to fall off the mountain. We were running to catch the last tram to get off Table Mountain. That’s my travel story for Cape Town. Yep, probably not a smart move to go hiking with a guy that’s training to climb Everest.
What is something that you can’t travel without?
I have to travel with my own big hair bonnet for the shower, because I’m sorry those dinky little clear plastic ones that they have in the vanity kit…. From the simplest rooms all the way up to the suites, they give you the same doggone bonnet that’s too small for my head! I have a lot of hair, so I need to bring my hair bonnet. If you’ve got a lot of hair and you don’t want it to get wet, you have to bring your own hair bonnet. And, of course my own facial wash and moisturizer because there’s nothing worse than washing your skin with something that dries you out. I really like that I got the make-up remover towel in the [Renaissance] suite. It’s very genteel, and very clever, looking out for the ladies.
I’m going to take you back to Wayne’s World. Did you film that in Chicago? Is this a homecoming of sorts?
Yes, Wayne’s World – that film from 22 years ago that put me on the map. I never shot one roll of film in Chicago. I was in California. For a huge studio movie like that my part was done in 28 days, which is lightning fast for a film of that scope. The guys didn’t even come here. They had doubles that came here, so if you look at them from the back you realize it’s not them and they make it into a joke in the movie.
What does travel mean to you?
My favorite part about my job is traveling and meeting people from all over the world. Coming from a pebble in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which really is what Hawaii is, and to be able to travel to Europe, Cambodia, the Philippines, South Africa and Egypt…it’s been unbelievable to me and I’ve been so grateful for the experience.