- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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Each day from now until Feb. 2, ESPNNewYork.com will take you inside the challenge of staging the most unpredictable NFL title game ever. There are 2 days until the Super Bowl.
NEW YORK -- The Super Bowl halftime show press conference is like a little leftover slice of media day, with extra cheese.
On Thursday in the Time Warner Center's Rose Theater, Bruno Mars was introduced to a bevy of entertainment reporters -- including former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams, who asked the first few questions for a celebrity "news" show. She asked him if he had any fun surprises for his show.
Mars flashed a smile and said, "It's cold. That's the surprise."
The rest of the session was not nearly as illuminating as the show itself promises to be. We learned Mars grew up in Hawaii, once performed magic tricks for Pro Bowl cheerleaders and uses a lot of product in his pompadour.
“I’ve got three gallons of hair spray in this thing, I’m good.” Mars said.
It was the cotton candy equivalent of a snack, a small fluff of substance spun into threads and held together with a lot of hairspray. It was unintentionally funny, as Pepsi’s Simon Lowden introduced Mars as the "world’s biggest entertainer," only to have Mars come out and find the microphone a bit over his head.
"You got an apple box for me?" Mars said.
There couldn't be a bigger contrast between Mars and the opera singer chosen to sing the national anthem, Renee Fleming. Just before Mars started his ... whatever that was, Fleming breezed gracefully through a press conference with a point -- that the NFL has broken with pop, at least for part of the program.
“We are in a niche that is 400 years old and has range at the heart of it,” Fleming said.
Fleming was introduced as the “Peyton Manning of the opera world,” according to the NFL’s Brian McCarthy. She walked out and said the stage felt like familiar territory since it was still Lincoln Center.
How different are the two performers? Let’s see how they answered some of the same questions.
What was your preparation like for the Super Bowl?
FLEMING: “I’ve probably sung through it in my mind and vocally 800 times in the last three weeks.”
MARS: "We just started practicing two nights ago."
Goal with your performance?
FLEMING: "Luciano Pavarotti sang phenomenally for the World Cup one year and it changed his life, changed his career entirely. The national anthem is something that everyone knows and feels so strongly about, so above all I feel a tremendous responsibility to the 200th anniversary of the national anthem, so it’s a tremendous honor."
MARS: "I hope to get people dancing, get people smiling."
How are you a different performer from ones chosen in the past?
FLEMING: "There have been top, top, top performers, mainstream -- and sometimes country -- performing in this spot. I applaud them for doing something different this year."
MARS: "I feel like I'm still a new artist and the NFL is such a prestigious organization that they give the new guy a shot and I'm so grateful for that."
What do you expect from the experience?
FLEMING: “I work in a world that is completely no tech, zero amplification and all live acoustic music. So I expect to be really distracted by the amount of sound coming from the system from the size of the stadium, from the audience and visual of the JumboTron.”
MARS: “No matter where I perform it’s my job to uplift the people. So whether I’m performing at a graduation party, a wedding, a bar mitzvah, the Grammys, the Super Bowl, I’m going to give it all I got -- whatever happens, happens. I ain't scared if that's what you think!"
Who are you rooting for?
FLEMING: "This is my NFL history: I grew up in Rochester but my family were [from] Pennsylvania, die-hard Steelers fans ... This year I'm neutral and I'm just excited to be here."
MARS: "Now you're trying to get me in trouble!"
Sadly, Fleming's story, which is a milestone for a trained professional, will probably get lost in the flash and amplification of the halftime show.
Come back daily for more on the issues, logistics and personalities surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII.
573dESPN New York staff