I’ve been a professional journalist since my college days (as soon as you get a check for your words, you’re a pro in my book) and Bruno Mars is the first celebrity in a while who broke down the writer/subject barrier.
Ever since watching Almost Famous, the semi-auto biopic by Cameron Crowe who toured with rock bands as a teenaged writer for Rolling Stone, I’ve been a big proponent of not becoming friendly with the people I cover. You have to remain objective. They’re cool, I’m a music nerd — the coolest of the nerds but still a nerd. And, yes, Bruno’s an international superstar; yes, he’s performed at the Super Bowl twice; yes, his music videos get billions of views. But, like a lot of us, he’s also suffered loss.
In 2013, Bruno’s mother, Bernadette San Pedro Bayot, passed away from a brain aneurysm. It’s a topic I had to ask him about. How did he deal with her sudden death? What did she mean to him? Our interview was set for late October of last year in Los Angeles. Before I left I went to see my mom at the hospital where she was recovering from her third major surgery in under a year. Every time I would travel she’d say, “Que Dios te bendiga. Y que sea Dios el que maneje ese avion/ May God bless you. And may it be God who operates the airplane.”
My meeting with Bruno was at an old-school pizzeria in Sherman Oaks. We started our discussion about music, our Latino culture, being Latino men today, and eventually his mami. I prefaced his queries about his mom with saying, “My mom has been going through a lot of medical problems for over a year.” He looked at me as if to say, It’ll get better. Then he proceeded to speak on Mama Mars:
“The woman who taught you to love, showed you what a woman is supposed to be,” says Mars, his voice trembling slightly for the first time during an interview where he’s been all smiles and laughs. “When that goes away, a little more than half your heart goes away with it.”
“You just gotta know that she’s with me everywhere I go,” he says. “It’s some- thing that you can’t imagine—the pain and the things that you keep going back to: ‘I wish I would’ve done this or said this.’ You just have to see life differently. It shows you the real importance of life. Nothing else matters in this world but family and your loved ones.”
When asked if his music has changed à la Kanye West when he lost his mother, Donda, Mars pauses. “I don’t know how to answer that question,” he says. “My life has changed. She’s more than my music. If I could trade music to have her back, I would. I always hear her say, ‘Keep going and keep doing it.’”
His voice definitely wavered when talking about his mother and how he dealt with her loss. The fact is that if I mentioned my mom after his answers, I would’ve teared up a little bit as well. Picture this: two grown men, misty-eyed, talking about the women who raised us and raised us up. We completed the interview with a dap and bro hug.
A month after our interview, my mother passed away from a heart attack which was a direct complication of her infected mesh on her stomach. The pain was unbearable, unimaginable, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. She was gone. I couldn’t get a bendicion from her. I couldn’t call her to tell her good news. I couldn’t embrace her in my arms. Nada.
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