Just Like Obama: Are These Celebrities Really From Hawaii???

Celebrity islanders: Who is REALLY from Hawaii?
Jeanne Cooper, Special to SFGate
Friday, August 7, 2009

Raised on the North Shore of Oahu but born in San Francis… Although she’s Australian, actress Nicole Kidman was born… Keanu Reeves gets his unusual first name, which means “co… Although he mostly lived elsewhere while growing up, Dway… More…

If Hawaii officials ever concede to skeptics’ demands to release President Barack Obama’s birth certificate to the public in order to confirm he was born in Hawaii, there’s no reason they should stop there. Some other prominent people claim to have been born in the islands – also without Lou Dobbs’ vetting – while other celebrities you think would have a Hawaiian hometown mysteriously don’t claim one. (Perhaps they, too, were all part of a vast conspiracy, concocted by America Online, IMDB.com and MSNBC, among other sources consulted here.) But if privacy rules prevent us from seeing the official paperwork, here are some clues to help sort out the poi babies from the possible pretenders:

Celebrity suspect: NICOLE KIDMAN
Claim to fame: Actress
Birthdate: June 20, 1967
Birthplace: Honolulu (or so she says!)

Obama overtone: Neither of her parents was from Hawaii, either: The elder Kidmans were medical professionals from Australia who returned to Sydney when Nicole was still a toddler.
Today’s Hawaii ties: None that I can find, other than an Internet reference to a possible sighting of Kidman with husband Keith Urban at Hilton Waikoloa Village in March 2009. With that porcelain complexion, let’s hope she packed the SPF 50 and a wide-brimmed hat.

Celebrity suspect: LAIRD HAMILTON
Claim to fame: Big-wave surfer
Birthdate: March 2, 1964
Birthplace: San Francisco (or so he says!)

Obama overtone: Hamilton’s biological father, a Greek man, took off while he was very young, which prompted his mother’s move to Oahu’s North Shore. Like Obama, he grew up with feelings of being an outsider, and a reputation for athletic accomplishment.
Today’s Hawaii ties: While popularizing tow-in surfing and stand-up paddle surfing, among other board spots, all over the world, Hamilton remains an icon of Hawaii’s surfing community. He’s said to split his time between the North Shore and Malibu, with wife Gabrielle Reece and family.

Claim to fame: Singer/actress
Birthdate: Dec. 1, 1945
Birthplace: Honolulu (or so she says!)

Obama overtone: Midler’s parents (originally from New Jersey) did not have much money while she was growing up; in lieu of elite Punahou, Midler attended public school near Pearl Harbor, where she is said to have graduated as valedictorian. But like Obama, Midler soon left the islands – in her case, after winning a bit part in the movie “Hawaii” – for the East Coast, where she forged her diva career.
Today’s ties: Well-known in the islands as a Kauai landowner and conservationist, Midler got in some hot water in 2006 for cutting down trees on her North Shore property without a permit, but news accounts say she agreed to the $5,000 fine and restoration, and much of her land remains open space. Lately Midler has revealed her roots in Hawaii by playing a crystal-covered ukulele in her long-running Las Vegas revue at Caesar’s Palace – and giving a similarly glittery one to Obama’s daughters when the president attended a recent Vegas fund-raiser. (According to MSNBC Midler said, “He looked at it like he’d never seen such a thing before.”)

Celebrity suspect: KEANU REEVES
Claim to fame: Actor
Birthdate: Sept. 2, 1965
Birthplace: Beirut, Lebanon (or so he says!)

Obama overtone: Reeves’ parents, like the president’s, were also of disparate backgrounds – an English showgirl and a Hawaii-born geologist of Chinese, Hawaiian, Portuguese and Irish descent – and also met and married in an exotic locale before divorcing. Raised in Toronto, Reeves also became distanced from his father (due in part to divorce and later his dad’s prison time on drug charges.). And don’t forget Reeves’ “Matrix” role, in which he too was hailed as a savior.
Today’s Hawaii ties: Besides that way-cool Hawaiian first name (a family name, meaning “cool breeze”) and his handsome hapa looks, Reeves seems to radiate laid-back island vibe. But other than filming some surf scenes for “Point Break” at Waimea Bay and touring with his band Dogstar, he hasn’t been spotted very often in the islands (or is that just the Matrix version of Hawaii?)

Claim to fame: Actress
Birthdate: Oct 13, 1962
Birthplace: Honolulu (or so she says!)

Obama overtone: Kelly’s middle name is also unusual, although of Hawaiian origin: Kamalelehua, which could be translated as “mentally skillful child.” But part of Preston’s childhood, like Barack Hussein Obama’s, was spent in a Muslim country (Iraq for her, Indonesia for him), before she returned to the islands to graduate from Punahou – just a year after “Barry.”
Today’s Hawaii ties: In recent years, she’s campaigned in Hawaii against drug abuse, and held a Honolulu fundraiser with husband John Travolta for the anti-drug, Scientology-backed organization Narconon. A 3-bedroom, 3-bath Kahala beachhouse said to have been owned by Travolta and Preston is also available for rent, from $995 a night.

Celebrity suspect: STEVE CASE
Claim to fame: Founder of AOL.com
Birthdate: Aug. 21, 1958
Birthplace: Honolulu (or so he says!)

Obama overtone: Like the president, he graduated from Honolulu’s private Punahou School, although he was part of the “13-Year Club” (i.e., kindergarten through 12th grade).
Today’s Hawaii ties: One of the early proponents of “surfing the Web” (a subtle Hawaii reference, perhaps?), Case now seems to have a finger in every pineapple. He’s a major investor in Puakea Golf Course on Kauai, and the vast plantation/development companies of Maui Land & Pineapple (owner of the Kapalua Resort) and Kauai’s Grove Farm (where, according to the bio on his new company’s Web site, Case is “developing fresh operating models for the agriculture industry and sustainable communities for residents and visitors”). He’s also a trustee at Punahou.

Celebrity suspect: DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON
Claim to fame: Wrestler-turned-actor
Birthdate: May 2, 1972
Birthplace: Hayward (or so he says!)

Obama overtone: Johnson’s father was also of African descent (via Nova Scotia), although he has true Polynesian heritage through his Samoan mother. Although he mostly lived elsewhere growing up, Johnson spent at least part of his middle and high school years on Oahu, where, like Obama, he made the junior varsity team (in football, rather than hoops). And both aspired to much, much more.
Today’s Hawaii ties: While Johnson has been known to vacation in Hawaii, the visitor industry was more atwitter recently about his March skit on “Saturday Night Live”, in which he played a snarky hula dancer giving clueless tourists their comeuppance. For those who know how hospitable most in the islands are – and how much Johnson’s moves looked Tahitian rather than Hawaiian – it was all in good fun.

Celebrity suspect: NICOLE SCHERZINGER
Claim to fame: Pussycat Doll singer/songwriter
Birthdate: June 29, 1978
Birthplace: Honolulu (or so she says!
Obama overtone: Yet another “mixed” marriage – in Scherzinger’s case, a Filipino father and Russian-Hawaiian mother – that ended in divorce and life “overseas” … in Kentucky.
Today’s Hawaii ties: Scherzinger, who also performed with Eden’s Crush and recorded under the name Nicole Kea, played Honolulu with the Pussycat Dolls in June. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs cemented her hometown girl status with a lengthy interview in its Ka Wai Ola newsletter, noting, “On stage, Scherzinger is a star, but off stage, she’s a sistah from Wai’anae, O’ahu, who embraces her Hawaiian heritage.” And believe me, if OHA says you’re from Hawaii, you are.

Jeanne Cooper is the former Chronicle Travel Editor and author of SFGate’s Hawaii Insider (www.sfgate.com/blogs/hawaiiinsider), a daily blog about Hawaii travel and island culture.

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