Dana International is more international than ever. At the end of this week she got an invitation to do shows in some famous rock clubs in the USA. In addition to this, she is releasing new versions of her hit 'Cinquemilla' off her last album. And at the end of this week, she is going to film a clip for one of the new versions. "It will be fantastic", she promises.
The New York super DJ Junior Vasquez is going to be the host of Dana International and Ofer Nisim, who will do a show in the famous Palladium club in the USA on 4 February. Producers from the American music industry have been invited to the show in order to get an impression of Dana's qualities. Besides Dana's show, Nisim will DJ for two hours and Vasquez will continue the evening. Before this international step, Dana and Nisim have managed to release new versions of Dana's hit 'Cinquemilla' from her last album 'Maganona' which has sold more than 16,000 copies until today. Cinquemilla was written by Dana herself, together with Ofer Nisim; the Father, the Upbringer, and the Holy Spirit of la International.
- Can you please explain me what the hell 'Cinquemilla' is?
"Cinquemilla is 5000 in Italian. It tells about the Jews who always know how to make $50 and $5000 from $5. Actually the song started as a short promo for one of the dance programmes on Reshet Gimel. A lot of people told us that this song has a great potential to succeed and we decided to record it for my last album."
- Why did you choose to make a clip for Cinquemilla and not a song in Hebrew?
"I'm now facing Europe. I have sung most of the songs on the album in almost every TV show there is, and Cinquemilla is one of the songs most of people don't really know. Besides that, the clip that we are going to film is not going to be a similar to the one on the album. I have recorded new versions of the song especially, in order to make it more suitable for European club culture- a very modern 'House' style."
- What is going to be in the clip?
"It's going to be fantastic. I have already met Gie Sagie, the director, and I was amazed by his ideas. He is so original. I promise it will be one of the best clips ever made in Israel."
- I'm curious. Give us hints.
"I don't want to ruin the surprise. I can just tell that in this clip you will see me in a way you have never seen me before. One of the ideas is that I will ride on a huge banana and lash out with a whip. Just wait and see."
- By the way, are you planning to release the new versions as an international single?
"Helicon, my record company, has made many copies but it's not for sale - neither here nor in Europe or the USA. In Israel as you know, there is not enough interest in singles, and the world doesn't know me yet, so it will be unprofitable to market that single. We have sent the singles to DJs around the world in order to get a first recognition. But I promise you that pretty soon we will be on the world map. There will be a day when you will see me on MTV and you will be proud of me."
Dana International has been back to her school. She saw her classroom, watched her yearbook and remembered her cheerful school days.
Dana International enters the Ironi Alef school in Tel Aviv in high heels. The yard is neglected and weed enwraps the fences. Dana is going round the structure of the school trying to find the original entrance. She suddenly comes back and declares: "They have changed it a lot". After that she is swings a little on the school gate, sitting on the rails, and from there she moves on in.
"It makes me shiver to identify the familiar places in the school yard," she says. "Although the school has changed, I still recognize the classroom I studied in. It's too bad I cannot go inside because it's locked. I haven't been here for ten years".
- What do you remember from your school days?
"I remember all the warmth, all the games, the breaks. I remember how disturbed I was. I remember most the gymnastics hall where I liked to do womens sports. I also remember the school yard".
"The school didn't give me that many pleasant experiences. The environment of the school is not interesting, and it's not so fun to stay here after school. It was a very good school, and the level was very high. The teachers were great and they knew their work. The studies were not suffering. It was fun coming here, but every time the bell rang, I ran away. There is nothing to find here after school".
- Were you a good student?
"I think so. I liked to study. I preferred English and Biblestudies."
- Is there a certain experience that you remember?
"My first play was in school. From here they chose the students actors for the play Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Here I came to the conclusion that my future was going to be in singing or acting. Here is where I found myself."
- Do you remember your teachers?
"I remember I liked my Bible teacher the most. She was gorgeous. There was a good chemistry between us. The other teachers I do not remember so much, because every year they changed, so I didn't connect with anyone of them. I couldn't stand my sociology teacher."
Dana International, the queen of disguises and the prophet of happiness and joy, is here to speak about Purim and the UFOs that will take control on Purim this year. "I like Purim. It's the best holiday there is!"
- What does Purim mean to you?
"Purim was always my favorite holiday. In my childhood I prepared myself for it two months in advance. I started wearing costumes at the age of 4. My first costume was a red cape, and after that I was all the figures taken from all the fairy tales of Walt Disney and the Grimm brothers. I always preferred to be the witches, not the fairies. I stopped wearing costumes at the age of 18, when I assumed the figure of a woman, then I felt Purim would be permanent for me."
- What do you think about the connection between UFOs and Purim?
"Nowadays, UFOs are very modern, and today almost every child is disguised as a UFO in Purim because of the popularity."
- Do you believe in UFOs?
"I'm a very realistic person and I like facts. I think that everything that is written in the newspapers today is really fabricated, how can you explain that the pictures are always blurred otherwise? People are starting to lose all sense of proportion, when the neighbor in the next-door building lights a match they are sure it's a UFO."
- So you think there are no other creatures in the universe?
"I'm convinced that there are other creatures. All this universe was not created just for us. The sun, the moon, and the other stars, are not the exclusive view of the planet Earth."
- What would you do if you met a UFO?
"If Im not cracked by laser beams or something, I will gladly go with it for a trip to its place, and even take the risk of being a victim of its experiments, just in order to satisfy my curiosity. It might be a life time experience."
- Do you know someone who saw a UFO?
"One of my dancers is convinced he saw a UFO, but he also knows I will never believe him. I believe it exists, but our desert is not interesting for them. If it get shere after millions of light years, why go hiking into the wilderness? I think they live at a very high stage, like an ideal culture. I also think it is friendly, otherwise we would have 'The third day' (the movie) here."
- Do you find a difference between today's Purim and the Purim of your childhood?
"Yes. I think that people are a lot less happy on Purim these days, because most of them are not disguised, and that's too bad. I think that being disguised in Purim is more important than eating 'matzah' during Passover."
"They screamed that I'm impure and threw empty bottles" the singer told us. "If I had done something against God's will, would He have let me succeed?"
A Dana International show arranged Wednesday in the Luna Park in Tel-Aviv, was stopped because of the orthodox audience rioting.
"I have done shows in the Luna Park for three years," the singer told us. "At the day of the show there was a great audience who gave me a lot of love. At the end of the first song I saw on my right a man cursing me and making rude gestures at me. Since I don't give a damn about no one I cursed him in return and continued to sing. Suddenly a group of orthodox women started to scream at me and make movements. Soon a very big group of orthodox gathered at the side of the stage and screamed at me that I'm impure and threw bottles at me. All this time, the security officers didn't try to disperse them. The audience continued to applaud and scream that it they love me. In the last song, someone cut off the electricity, and then a representative of the Luna Park went on stage and announced that the show was over."
One of the people attending Dana's show that day told us that Dana tried to ignore the reactions at the beginning of the show, but when she saw that the orthodox continued to humiliate her, she decided to react. She screamed that this is a free and democratic county and those who don't want to see her could go away. But the orthodox continued with their 'disgusting' behavior.
Hani Baruch, the producer of the Luna Park Passover shows: "The atmosphere started to become heated between the secular and the orthodox in the audience, and there was fear that the rioting would increase. That's why it was decided to stop the show. We tried to make a sign to Dana to stop the show, but she continued to sing."
Ofer Nisim, Dana's musical producer: "This isn't the first time the orthodox exert pressure in order to stop a Dana International show. This incident should show us a red light. If today Dana International's show is cancelled because of religious coercion, what will happen tomorrow with the strengthening of the orthodox?"
Dana International: "I cannot understand with what right the orthodox allow themselves to disturb the show of an artist in the centre of Tel-Aviv, the capital of the secular. The orthodox are a minority in Tel-Aviv, just like us the gays, and they have no right to dictate the public. Who made them judges to determine what is impure and what is not? If I had done anything against God's will, would He have let me succeed?"
A habeas corpus was taken out against the singer accused of attacking people during a show in Rishon le-Zion, after she failed to be present at the reading of the indictment against her. To the judge she wrote: "I'm asking for forgiveness. I was confused because of the huge stress of my work." The judge forgave her. By Oz Ben-Ichack.
This week, Sharon (Dana) Cohen (International) presented a request to cancel the habeas corpus which was taken out against her by the judge Ilana Gat. In front of the judge, the singer presented the reasons that made fail to be present at the reading of the indictment, where she was accused of attacking and harming someone intentionally. The judge Gat forgave her.
The trial of Cohen (Dana International, 28) was supposed to start three weeks ago. In the indictment which was presented against Dana International it was written that during a show in November '95 at the "Kenyochol" [shopping mall] at Rishon le-Zion, the singer attacked Pery Shov, a waitress from Holon, with a flower vase. Dana hit her strongly and the plate she was holding was smashed to pieces. As a result, she had pains in her hands. In addition, the singer also attacked one of the spectators, Miki Zehavy, who was sitting with her son.
Dana, it seemed, was blinded by the flash of Zehavy's camera, and threw a bottle of water at her which hurt her neck, and caused her back pains. The singer didn't arrive for the reading of her indictment, and the judge took out an habeas corpus against her, from which she can only be freed by paying a deposit of NIS 2,000 [approx. US$ 500]. This week the singer arrived in court with two letters and asked the judge to withdraw the habeas corpus. By the way, Dana International signed both of the affidavits with the name Sharon Cohen.
In the first affidavit she presented to the registrar, the singer declared: "On 17.4.97 I didn't arrive at the trial because of huge stress that month, which has drained all my strength. My concentration was not at its peak, and because of confusion I didn't arrive. I am aware of the severity of the matter, and ask forgiveness from the judges. In addition, I promise to arrive at any other date determined by the authorities. Please, don't take out a habeas corpus against me, as I'm not a transgressor dangerous to the public.
The second affidavit dealt with the same subject. After reading both of the affidavits, the judge Gat decided to adopt the term 'compassion of the court' and wrote in the decision that the habeas corpus will be cancelled if the singer deposits NIS 1,000 and signs a written statement of promise to show. The case will continue in March '98.
Dana will be a guest of Aaron Tzur's show - You are my girlfriend at the "Next" festival in Tel Aviv
Dana International, the singer who was once a boy and whose sexual identity is still a subject of discussions and wonder, will be the guest of the singer/songwriter Aaron Tzur at the show You are my girlfriend, which will be devoted to Yona Volakhs work. The show will be at the Next festival at the end of next week, in the Susan Dalal centre in Tel Aviv.
In the show, produced by Tzur and Eli Avramov, there will be songs that were written by Volakh. Some were composed in the past and redon in an electronic production with todays rhythms, and some were written especially for this production, by Tzur and Avramov.
Most of the songs that were chosen are dealing with the poets sexuality, a subject that won Volakh's affection. Volakh's voice will be heard in the show too, reading her poetry.
In addition to International, other artists will also be in the show: Corinne Elal, Rona Kinan and Dani Dotan. But as you all may guess, Dana International is going to be the most interesting attraction of the show. She will sing her beautiful song 100% gever from her second album Umpatampa to the music of Corinne Elal, and a new song which was recorded especially for this production - Sex acher with music of Ilan Virtzberg - a duet with Aaron Tzur, her host. The shows on 12 and 13 June will be recorded on an album and filmed for a TV show.
Here are two bigger and more solid proofs that Dana International is the real thing. The shop assistants in the store of the fashion designer Galit Levy thought that they had already seen everything. But they were certainly mistaken. This week, Dana International, the first lady of the Israeli music, arrived. When she had measures taken for a new dress, her two Ofers looked bigger than ever. (Not Ofer Nisim and Nachson, but her personal and private Ofers I mean.) The question I want to ask is: Did Dana have silicon implants again, and if so, for how much?
- Galit Levy?
- I'm here because of Dana.
"Well, she came to me and wanted a really bombshell dress to be in a special TV show. I made her a dress from Lurex linen red as fire, and in addition I made her a special thing, to stabilize and sculpture her chest. She doesn't need to push it up any more".
"Because of her new silicon implants."
- Ah... She had them enlarged?
"Yes. This week she had a silicon implant. When she was here she told me and showed me the result. She told me it was very painful, but it was worth it, because she wanted a bigger chest".
- Was it expensive?
"Yes, it cost a bomb".
- Were there any complaints?
"At the beginning, she told me her chest is a bit hard, but after she had wore the open corset I designed for her, she was calmer. And then she told to Michal who works in my store that she should try it too."
- How much did it cost?
"She told me NIS 35,000." [Approx. US$10,000]
- Dana International, Do you have some words for the country?
"Damn it! That Galit, she is cheeky".
-So it's true?
"And if it's true?"
- It means that you are a very progressive woman, with high esteem and iron principles.
"Honey, it's an invasion of my privacy."
- I don't think so...
"Well, never mind. Tell me, how were the photos taken with the dress? I was not made up, I must have looked very different."
- Believe me, you looked sweet as sugar.
"Really? So at least put a picture."
Now it's clear. Dana International is not just a local dance star, she is the Queen. Yesterday's events finally proved it. Yesterday the Israeli music videos winners were chosen at the Haifa Movie Festival. Dana International received the first prize of the contest for her music video Cinque-milla.
Gai Mimon, one of the judges of the contest told us about the process of choosing the best music video: "Every music video got the full attention. We graded them and wrote comments about important things like photography, directing, the connection between the song and the pictures, the message. Our main considerations concerned the final result, and we were not influenced by how much money was spent on the production."
Gai Sagie, the director of the music video, told us that none of the judges "fell into the trap of kitsch, polish and beautification." He preferred a bizarre, odd look, and Dana cooperated with him. She did very strange faces, she sported a huge tattoo on her back, rode on a huge banana and lashed out with a whip. Sagie choose to focus on Danas royal side, the diva in her. The look of 'Cinque-milla' suits the songs techno-rhythms - a future Italian look. Very frightening models and muscular dancers wearing black leather pants and weird masks, add to that special look."
As Gai Sagie said about the Queen: "She is professional in an unbelievable way, it's amazing. She finished all the shooting with aching muscles and didn't say a word. She changed costumes and hairstyles even when we others had no strength left to do anything. We were dying from exhaustion and she had the strength to continue. Dana looked like a star."
Dana International's reaction: "I'm just happy and content. From the minute I started to work with Sagie, I was charmed by his ideas. That's why I gave him free hands." The cost of the music video was US$15,000.
The song that will represent us in the next Eurovision will be chosen today. But the method of choosing is a little bit different this year: The audience will not chose the song, it will be done by a professional committee. How does it work?
What is new with this method? In the past there were two methods. 1: The Kdam Eurovision were the audience chooses the winning song, like with Sarale Sharon, Yizhar Cohen and Ofra Haza. And number 2: Reshut Ha-shidur chooses a singer on its own like it did with Rita and Ilanit.
Who wrote the songs? Reshut Ha-shidur asks "ACUM" (The main association of singers and songwriters) for a list of the best songwriters and singers of the last years. All of them are then asked to write songs for the contest. Among the songwriters: Ehud Manor, Hava Alberstein, Shlomo Gronich, Nachum Hieman and Tzvika Pik.
Who are the members of the committee? There are 11 members. No'am Samal, the chairman of The Ha-cameri Theatre, the top musician Yorik Ben-David, the reporters Gal Uchuvski, Amos Oren and Itzik Yoshe'a, staff at Rashut Ha-shidur - Riki Arika, Menachem Granit, Lea Zehavi and Simon Pernas, and finally two representatives from the management board of Reshut Ha-shidur: Meni Vichman and Gil Samsonov, the chairman of the committee.
Where are do they get together? In hotel Dan Caesaria. The committee will listen to recordings of all the songs, and choose the most worthy song to represent us in the Eurovision.
Who will sing the chosen song? The committee will be considering the songwriters' opinions, but reserves the right of choosing the singer itself. Among the candidates: Ufira Yosefi, HiFive and Dana International.
When are we going to hear the song? The Eurovision rules limit the number of presentations of the song. It seems we will hear the final performance of the song only a few months before the contest in May.
Yesterday the song 'Diva' was chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision song contest, which will be held in England on 9 May 1998. Dana International was chosen to sing the song with lyrics by Yoav Ginai and music by Tzvika Pik. A part of the chorus: For the angels, Diva is an empire / On stage, Diva is hysteria / All of her is a love song. It should be mentioned that the song hasn't been recorded yet, and will take a while before the public will be able to listen to it.
Dana International refused to comment yesterday, but Ofer Nisim, her personal manager, said: "Dana is very happy and thanks all of those who voted for her. She promises to fulfill this mission in the best way." The song Diva was chosen by the professional committee of Rashut-Ha-shidur (The Israeli Broadcasting Authority) among 15 songs that were submitted. The second place went to Arkadi Duchin with the song 'Ha-tikva'.
"'Diva' and 'Ha-tikva' were the two songs that made it to the final," one from the committee told us. "Both were examples of different concepts. What to prefer? A quality song, or a song which is tailormade for that contest. Duchin had a touching pop-ballad, and Dana had a familiar Eurovision formula with a chorus with potential in every language. Most of the members of the committee eventually chose Dana to represent us in the Eurovision".
Dana will sing 'Diva', lyrics by Yoav Ginai and music by Tzvika Pik. Her personal manager told us: There may be some factions that will express objections, but I believe that Reshot Ha-shidur [the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation] will give us all the support we need. By Tal Peri.
The singer Dana International will represent us in the Eurovision Song Contest that will be held in England on 9 May. Dana will sing the song 'Diva' written by Yoav Ginai and Tzvika Pik.
A committee of 11 members, headed by Gil Samsonov, a manager at Reshot Ha-shidur, yesterday chose the song from a list of 15 songs sent to the competition. Among the songwriters to send songs to the contest were Hava Alberstein, Shlomo Gronich, Arkadi Duchine, Nachum Hieman, Ehud Manor, Yizchak Klepter, Yoni Roe, Rachel Shapira and others.
Dana International told us as a reaction to her choice that she is really proud and happy about it. Ofer Nisim, Dana's personal manager, told us: We have half a year to prepare ourselves for the Eurovision, and we will start the preparation right away. We are both proud of being asked to represent Israel, and we will do everything to make our three minutes on stage the most professional and amazing we can."
To the question if they are afraid from the furious reactions of the orthodox, that who might oppose the choice because of the fact that a singer who had sex change surgery would represent Israel in an international event, Nisim answered: "We are aware of the fact that there may be some factions that will express objections, but I believe Reshot Ha-shidur will give us all the support we need."
Tzvika Pik, the composer of 'Diva' told us yesterday: When I was informed that my song had won, I felt a shiver all over my body. I have tried to go to the Eurovision Song Contest 5 times in the past as a singer without success, and now it's happened. I believe that Dana is the best and most amazing performer in Israel. Her strong presence on stage and the song will make an effect that will give us a big chance to win the Eurovision Song Contest, in spite of the political situation.
"The Jewish nation always knew how to be a light onto the Gentiles, this time, we are a darkness onto the Gentiles." The Reshot Ha-shidur plenum will have a discussion on the subject tomorrow. By Aviva Zelzman.
The choice of Dana International to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest yesterday created furious reactions in orthodox circles. "I'm ashamed of this choice and I will do everything in order to change it," Gabi Butbul, the representative of Shas in the Reshot Ha-shidur plenum, said yesterday. He demanded a special meeting on this subject tomorrow. "Dana represents an anomality. Reshot Ha-shidur is a public institution. To this kind of contest we should send someone who represents consensus, not an exception. The choice of Dana diminished the Hebrew song to recession," Butbul added.
Gil Samsonov, a member of the executive committee of Reshot Ha-shidur, and the one who headed the committee that chose the song for the Eurovision Song Contest said that "A change in the decision will give an impression of us in the world as an uncultured country, and will create damage."
"To the world as we seem to be a country of wars and terror, and the fact that a singer like Dana represents us in a European contest will point at the liberalism, freedom and modernism of Israel."
According to Samsonov, "Dana's song was on a much higher level than the other songs. It's a catchy song, rhythmical, and with an international flavour, which won't bring any shame, but reach the top. It's true that Dana herself will awake interest and articles in European newspapers, and this will also help promote the song, but the choice was relevant and this is the best song."
"It's strange that people who don't even watch the Eurovision Song Contest interfere with the choice. I don't interfere with Rabbinical matters, and it is advisable that they do not interfere with the Eurovision Song Contest."
The vice health minister, Shlomo Ben-Izri, said yesterday: "The choice of Dana International is not giving me any honour as a Jewish. The Jewish nation always knew how to be a light onto the Gentiles, this time, it's darkness onto the Gentiles. In all the world people will say 'Look at that Jew, what are they bringing us, this creature'. Dana is an abomination. Even in Sodom there was nothing worse."
The 'Shas' representative on the Reshot ha-Shidur board, Gabi Butbul, is demanding to stop the choice of the singer Dana International as the representative of Israel in the Eurovision. The argument: "She is an anomaly." The MK Yael Dayan said: "The intrusion in Dana's personal life is a scandal. There is no room for disqualifying singers because their sexual preferences." By Jeremy Amir.
The decision on making the singer Dana International the representative of Israel to the Eurovision Song Contest is making too many scandals. In the last couple of years, Dana has become a very popular singer, with no connection to her personal story, but the announcement that she, of all the artists in the country, is going to wave the Israeli flag to millions of people in Europe yesterday created a lot of protest and shouting voices in a certain circles.
Gabi Butbul, the representative of 'Shas' on the Reshot ha-Shidur board, has already announced that tomorrow he will demand that the members of the plenum cancel the choice of Dana.
What makes him so angry? Butbul: "Why did they put together a committee to choose the singer? Why didn't they let the public choose? This choice does not reflect the will of the nation. It's a choice of an anomaly, something unnatural. I don't even know if this Dana International is a man or a woman. The Israeli singing should be represented by serious performers, just like when the Foreign Ministry sends people abroad who represent the consensus, not anomalies and gimmicks, that's what we should do with the singers that represent Israel in Eurovision. We mustn't send weird things like Dana International. Everyone has faults, I have too, but we can't use Dana Internationals defects as a gimmick to promote Israeli singing. We put Israeli singing at the lowest level. Dana International does not represent me and I'm ashamed of this choice."
The MK Shlomo Ben-Izri (Shas) is also angry about this choice. "You see, the subject of the Eurovision Song Contest interests me about as much as the weather in Antarctic," he said, "But as a Jew and as a citizen of Israel, the choice of Dana International is a poor accomplishment for Israel and Israeli singing. We have reached a situation when the Israeli singing is so bad that we use a gimmick to save it. This crossbreed creature between a man and a woman, this is not one of the things that should represent the chosen people."
- Who do you think should represent us?
"Mordechai Ben-Daviv or Avraham Vardiger [names of orthodox singers I have never heard about - ZG]. They have a Hasidic rhythm and beautiful lyrics, without all the gimmicks. We used to be a light on to the Gentiles. Now we symbolize darkness to the Gentiles."
One person who hurried to express support in Dana was the MK Yael Dayan (Labor). "When these kinds of things come from dark people like Ben-Izri, I know where I should look for the light, and it's not anywhere near him." She continues, "The intrusion into Dana's personal life is a scandal. There is no possibility, neither legal nor moral, to disqualify singers because of their sexual preferences. The orthodox think that homosexuality is a deviation and a disease and that homosexuals should be stoned. I understand that certain orthodox don't see Dana International as their representative. But what woman can represent them? They believe they mustn't listen to a woman's voice!"
Dana herself, is very happy and excited from her choice, and isn't upset by the dispute. "God belongs to everyone." She said, "And my God loves human beings. He doesn't hate them. I heard Ben-Izri say on the radio that I'm the worst moral thing, that I'm an abomination. I used to be offended by those kind of things. Today I'm strong enough. No one has the right to disqualify a person because of his sexual preferences. Since we heard about the result and the choice, I have been flooded with flowers and greetings from artists and fans. I'm happy because of the fact that the majority of our people is a very sane and enlightened people, and I can promise that the forces of light will win over the forces of darkness. I'm not a gimmick, and I promise that I will do my best to represent Israel in the most honorable way on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of our country."
Tzvika Pik, the composer of 'Diva', the song that Dana will sing in the Eurovision, claims that he chose Dana to perform his song for professional reasons only. "She is one of the best singers we have in Israel, and she is very suitable for the Eurovision." He continued, "Those who see Dana as a sexual gimmick have a big problem. In the Eurovision there are no orthodox judges. Dana is a gimmick, but I don't care. On the contrary, it's a good thing. Madonna is also a gimmick, and Michael Jackson too. The Eurovision is a contest of songs, and Dana has a great chance to win."
And for the end, here are some words from Guy Sagie, the one who put Dana on huge banana for the 'Cinque milla' video, and who is going to produce the video for Diva. "Dana is larger than life, I saw it from the minute I started to work with her on 'Cinque milla'. There is a very commercial aspect to Diva, and I think it's very right for marketing in the Eurovision. Dana has all it takes to make it. She will be a bomb and she is going to destroy Europe. You will see."
Yesterday, Sky News interviewed Dana International, who responded for the first time to the attacks of the orthodox. Since the first announcement of the choice of Dana to represent us in the Eurovision Song Contest 98, she refused to react in public. Ofer Nisim, her personal manager, spoke on her behalf. "We are very proud and happy," Nisim said, "we will start the preparations right away, and we will do everything to make our three minutes on stage the most professional and amazing we can."
Note: This year, because of the fact that the ordinary Kdam - Eurovision was not held, the winning song was chosen from a list of 15 songs were presented to a committee of 11 people - musical journalists, radio editors, musicians and the representatives of 'Reshot Ha-shidur' [IBA]. The members listened to the songs and decided that the most appropriate song to represent us in the European contest is 'Diva', lyrics by Yoav Ginai and music by Tzvika Pik, performed by Dana International.
Out of the 11 members of the committee, 7 voted for 'Diva' and 4 choose Arkadi Duchins 'Shir Tikva', which came second. The Eurovision Song Contest will take place on 9 May, in Birmingham, England.
Dana International had only one day to be happy for the victory before it backfired. A day after the winning, a member of the Knesset and a member of 'Reshot Ha-shidur' board, Gabi Butbul from 'Shas', announced that he would do everything in order to change her journey to the Eurovision. Deputy health minister, Shlomo Ben-Izri, also responded and said that the singer "embarrassed him as a Jew." Ben-Izri also named International "That creature", and said that "Israel was always a light onto the Gentiles, but this choice is bringing darkness to the Gentiles."
At this stage, according to the claim of Ofer Nisim, "We started to get requests from European broadcasting stations that wanted to interview Dana. At first, we refused, because our principle decision was that Dana would not be interviewed for now, but eventually we decided that she would agree to speak with Sky News."
The interview took place yesterday, at the Mavo Jerusalem Hotel, and was broadcast live. A short background report about the singer with thousands of fans shouting for her was broadcast before the interview. Among the thing that were said about her: "The singer has got a lot of popularity in Israel and also in Egypt. Her music, European dance music, sung in Hebrew and Arabic, makes her the ideal candidate to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest."
In the report, her sex change surgery was remarked on too, and she was also described as "the one who has succeeded in dissolving the prejudices of the Israeli audience."
The interview lasted 5 minutes. The singer was photographed on the hotel porch, with a view of Jerusalem in the background, dressed in a white dress with a deep neckline. Her hair was put up in a beehive style, and she wore light make-up. The first sentence that the interviewer said to her was: "When I look at you now it's hard for me to believe that once you were a man." Dana blushed.
When she was asked to respond to the attacks of the orthodox to the choice of her representing us in the Eurovision the action began. Dana: "I make a clear separation between the Israelis and the orthodox. The orthodox are Jewish but not Israelis. The Israelis are Jewish and Israeli too. From my point of view, I was chosen to represent the citizens of Israel and not the Jewish country. I will go to the Eurovision as the representative of the Christians and the Muslims who live in Israel as well. If the orthodox want to live by the laws of two thousands years ago, they don't need to try to rule the country or be in the government."
To the question if she was hurt from the things the orthodox had told about her, she answered: "According to the point of view of the orthodox, women are not allowed to sing because they are women. They think that I'm the worst thing in existence. They believe that someone like me should get more severe punishment than a murderer or a rapist. I think that no-one has ownership on God. If you believe, and you have good heart, God will be with you, no matter if you are man,woman or both in the same body."
To the question if she is afraid that the orthodox will try to prevent her going the Eurovision: "I hope that they won't try to do so, but I know that they have a lot of power in the government. They can try to stop me in political ways, but they can also try to activate violence in order to stop me. They believe that I'm Satan personified, and they may be ready to kill me."
To the question of what reactions she gets from the Israeli street since she was chosen to go to the Eurovision: "The reactions are great. I know that the nation is with me. It's true that at the beginning of my career, I was referred to as a gimmick because of my sex change, but in four years of hard work I have succeeded in conquering [the country] because of my voice and my talent."
Today, the board of 'Reshot Ha-shidur' will hold a special assembly at the request of MK Gabi Butbul. Dana herself said that "There is no legal way to change the decision of the committee that chose my song to represent Israel in the Eurovision song contest."
The continuation, probably, will come in the future...
Dana International, the biggest icon to grow up from the night life of Tel-Aviv, is going to represent us in the Eurovision. Dana is ours. Here are 10 reasons to adore her.
Dana International is the one and only queen of the local gay scene. Dana is one of the biggest icons in the night life of Tel-Aviv, she is one who will never embarrass us and who always will make blessed scandals. She is gorgeous and amazing, and a million girls here would die to look like her. For choosing Dana to represent us in the Eurovision Song Contest, Night presents ten reasons to adore her, just before shes really going international!
1) Because her last music video with the banana really was a strike of genius. It was the best music video ever made in Israel.
2) Because she is the one to give a shell-shock to that old institution that is called the Eurovision.
3) Because finally there will be someone who will save our image in the world. (After the failure of Sarale Sharon and the fadiha of Bibi Netanyahu.)
4) Because she looks gorgeous. (Did you see her in the Thierry Mugler pictures? What a bomb!)
5) Because she always make ingenious scandals in TV shows. (Those who have forgotten "The girl of 96' show" and the exposure of her nipple, raise your hands now...)
6) Because she will never abandon us for some little boy that she has to raise who calls her 'Mom". (Unless surgery improved in the last years and no one told us about it.)
7) Because she really is a Diva in her soul - and the one who doesn't know what a Diva is should read another section right now!
8) Because it's about time she succeeds in Europe. She is a phenomenon unlike any other in creation. (Madonna looks like a worthless straight in comparison.)
9) Because she gives the best show in Israel. (And that's the thing that makes her the queen of the gays.)
10) Because once she was called Yaron. (Marvelous name, isnt it?)
Transsexual pop music star Dana International puts her best gender forward, but is she really breaking sexual barriers in Israel? Orna Coussin explores the phenomenon of this new Israeli hero
How did Dana International get chosen to represent Israel at the Eurovision song contest, and how do you explain the entrance of "The Passia Girls" into the consensus of Friday night television?
"I remember at one of her first performances in Be'er Sheva, she got on the stage in front of 10,000 people," recalled Ofer Nisim, Dana International's personal manager, in a recent interview in the gay and lesbian magazine Ha-zman Ha-varod. "It was so scary. She, a transsexual who came from the clubs under the most difficult conditions, without an investor, without a record company? She had to stand in front of that frightening audience, and there were about 20 hooligans screaming "transsexual, transsexual," and she had to smile and entertain the audience and be professional, and she succeeded. It was the last time anybody called her a transsexual. Because the audience respected her. They have respect. She speaks her truth."
Years have passed since then, and now, as Dana International prepares to represent Israel at the Eurovision song festival, she apparently is receiving her final affirmation: Israeli society accepts her. Her success selling records, her performances that fill halls, her choice as Singer of the Year by the Rosh 1 youth magazine - those were all intermediate affirmations on the way to the ultimate one.
This success story is an interesting and important cultural event. Not only is Israeli society accepting International - despite her deviant lifestyle - but it is doing so with genuine affection - just like it accepts "The Passia Girls" every Friday night in its living rooms. Moreover, Israeli society passionately accepts Dana International's mixture of Arab and Western European dance. How is all this happening?
"She is one of the only singers in Israel that has captured both audiences: the gays embraced her because she is transsexual and 'the people,' if you can call it that, embraced her despite the fact she is transsexual," wrote Yair Kedar, editor of Ha-zman Ha-varod.
Prof. Moshe Shoked, an anthropologist at Tel Aviv University, is not impressed. He does not agree that "the people" - that is to say, the traditional, conservative masses - easily accept deviant lifestyles. Every society is open in some areas and narrow-minded in others, he says. "When it comes to people like her, it isn't so unusual in the Western world. Drag queens have entered the realm of entertainment in the West - and what happens is, the West comes here. It doesn't mean there is so much social acceptance."
In the relationship between people like Dana International, other cultural heroes such as the stars of the film "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," and mainstream society, you can easily see the very clear border between art and reality. As long as it is just on the stage, as long as it is entertainment, it is OK. Transsexuals have always amused us.
But in reality, says Yair Kedar, "the most obvious feature in the attitude of straight men toward transsexuality is resistance and outrage. Of all the sexual minorities, the situation for transsexuals is the worst. They suffer the most repression, abuse and often violence. Gays can hide it, lesbians can hide it and they are accepted with more tolerance anyway, but transsexuals are the avant guard of Israel's gay community. Israeli society is, for the most part, hostile toward them."
Dana International, perhaps naively, thinks differently. In an interview with the Tat Tarbut magazine last year she said: "In our world what matters most are money and looks. A homosexual that doesn't look good lives in the dumps. We revolve around sexuality. Transsexuals are always well kept and you can easily identify them. Where a gay gets hit on the head with a bottle, a transsexual gets an indecent offer."
Some say International made a revolution. Society accepts her because she never hid her identity. As opposed to "The Passia Girls," who have always denied belonging to the homosexual community (and Itzik Cohen, a member of the troupe, went as far as announcing recently that he is no longer gay and is getting married), Dana International declares her identity everywhere, without shame. Her honesty challenges a horrified society - and other homosexual artists who hide their identity.
A year ago she said to Tat Tarbut: "Artists can contribute to the gay community more than anyone else. They should put in a good word. What are they afraid of? They say Israeli music is advanced, that we are part of Europe, that this is the music of the year 2000. So why aren't they thinking on an international level? Why aren't they thinking in the year 2000? If an artist can't say what he thinks, where is his truth?"
She has said similarly direct and honest things to other newspapers. "She doesn't try to soften, to occlude," says Yair Kedar. "She has established her image as a transsexual who is also a fine performer, with beautiful dance hits, and she has provocative messages. She keeps the flame going the whole time and doesn't give up any element to become more popular. Therefore she is dazzling. She embodies the relationships of east-west, fringe-center, man-woman, modern, advanced music that is also folky. You can't put her in a box."
If, indeed, she is such a dazzling figure, someone who defies norms, who offers a different model from the accepted, the fact that Israel accepts her is surprising and impressive. But it is too early to be thrilled. "Those types of people do not contradict the usual division between the sexes," says Shoked. First, "they are an exception that only confirms the rule. Even at the carnival in Brazil, a mass event, the most amazing and successful performances are by the drag queens, and still Brazil can not be called very advanced or enlightened." Secondly, "the transsexual is a super-woman. There is not a contradiction or rejection of the usual concept of men and women. Dana and her friends look like the most beautiful women. They don't try to destroy the existing models. The fantasy is perfect. They don't stand there with hairy arms and declare they are different. If they were truly subversive they would appear with open male symbols. They don't."
Shoked says we are far from accepting the transsexual option as another legitimate sexual identity. In North American Indian communities there was such an option, in the figure of the third sex, men who wore women's clothes and had sex with men. Those median roles were institutionalized. But the "colonialist forces, the French and English, suppressed the phenomenon because it contradicted the European religious beliefs. In India there is a caste of men who gradually have an operation to change their sex. They perform a ritual role. In many societies the attitude towards homosexuality is quite different than the Judeo-Christian approach."
The Israeli acceptance of drag queens is very limited. If you limit the discussion of Dana International to the realm of symbols and cultural representation and ignore her qualities as an authentic singer, you can even detect a negative side. Maybe heterosexual Israeli society accepts Dana International and the transsexual or the drag queen as cultural heroes because they choose from the whole range of possible female figures and identities that which is most stereotypical and ridiculous. Drag queens are never sloppy, relaxed, messy-haired, lightly mustached, demonstratively muscular, very fat or very flat-chested. The transsexual or drag queen as a cultural hero is always a woman who could be a ready-made object: big tits, carefully made-up, in a tight dress, naive, sentimental, devoid of ambition except the ambition to please her man, and also a mean, bitter and miserable bitch.
In certain senses, Dana International, as an icon , strengthens trends of misogyny in society. As journalist Yaron Fried wrote in Tat Tarbut: "In all these actresses there is something pathetic, grotesque, ridiculous. Could the whole point here be, pardon me, bad taste for its own sake? And what about all the meanness, the bitchiness, cruelty, sadism? Why does it turn people on so much, and who does it turn on? Is there some truth in the claim drag culture is misogynist?
Let's start with the filth. Then we will pass on to a better and more pleasant part for Dana International. MK Shlomo Ben-Izri heard that Dana is going to be our representative in the Eurovision Song Contest, and said: "She is an abomination. She is the worst thing morally. She is darkness onto the Gentiles." And those are the more complimenting stuff he said. Letting his tongue go once more he even said that Dana is the bottom of the ladder morally, just like murderers, thieves and rapists. By Shai Kerem.
Ben-Izri, who belongs to a party that has defamed God more than any system in this country - a party which investigates and accuses, is positive that he is Gods representative on earth. But if God hears him speak, God must certainly be utterly ashamed. I'm sure God doesn't want to see his representatives behaving like that. I have no idea how Ben-Izri likes to sleep with his wife, and what Mrs. Ben-Izri wears in bed, but whatever he likes or his wife likes, it's none of my business. It's their private matters. Ben-Izri can be very naughty in bed, but this is nobody's business, and surely, there is no relation between his acts in bed and his acts as a politician.
Dana International, and her sexual acts (and maybe it's exactly the same things Ben-Izri likes to do in bed), are no ones business. First of all, she is a human being, and that is how we should react to her. Her sexual preferences have no relation to God whatsoever. "God belongs to everyone, and my God loves human beings, He does not hate them." This was Danas reaction to Ben-Izri. "My God doesn't disqualify people, because no one has the right to do so. It might well be that Ben-Izri - who believes in heaven and hell - will ascend to heaven, and then he will be sent immediately to hell, because of the degrading and the insulting things he said about the singer Dana.
She, to remind you, has never done anything bad to anyone. She stands for love and freedom, she wants a better world, more pleasant, with understanding between people, and with acceptance of the stranger, of people who are different. A world where every person is a person. And this kind of a world, Ben-Izri and his friends don't want. Dana likes the Jewish religion, but what does she derive from it: "Love your neighbor as yourself", "All Jews are responsible for one another", "Welcome your neighbor nicely", all these statements are part of the religion, and in these things, the excited troublemakers adorned with black beads, are sinning. Sinning on a major scale.
"She is darkness onto the Gentiles," claims Ben-Izri, the king of darkness. And if I could choose between Dana and Ben-Izri, I would prefer her to be the one to represent us in the world, not him. We can forgive him for his stupidity and his distorted thoughts, but we cannot forgive his evil. Because someone who speaks like him is an evil person, with no conscience. And she? Dana is first of all, and before we even start to judge her abilities as a singer, a brave person.
There are a lot of homosexuals artists. Many of them are placed in the top. The biggest in Israel. But they lie to the audience. They don't tell the truth. They are standing on stage, singing about love, getting the sympathy and the applause, but only they know. They know, deep inside their hearts, that they are lying. Dana brings with her, first of all, truth: This who I am. This is the way I choose to live. I'm not ashamed of my life and I don't think anyone has a right to disqualify me as a person, because of the way I choose to live.
In a fan meeting between Rosh 1 readers and Dana held two years ago, she told to youth: "I do not recommend anyone to do what I did. My life story is private, and there were a lot of reasons that lead me to the step I have done. My personal life shouldn't be a model of imitation. I'm happy and proud with what I am, but I'm not an example. I'm a singer who sings."
These last lines, that today sound so simple and obvious, "A singer who sings," weren't connected to her name when she started her career only five years ago. And who could foresee the revolution she would make.
Now, we can tell: The first time Ofer Nisim, Dana's personal and musical manager, turned to a television show broadcast on Friday evening in Channel One, and asked them to feature Dana - he came up against huge resistance. "It's not educational," they told him. "It's not proper that someone like Dana with her personal story would be on national television on Shabbat evening." A lot of pressure and reassurances were required from Nisim in order for them to agree to his request. What happened later, after this show - is history.
It started as a gimmick. Everyone wanted to know if she had had sex change surgery and dug in her personal life, like no one did with any other artist. She and Ofer Nisim came up against locked doors, and gnashed their teeth. Famous artists didn't want their names to be connected with her name, and many people raised their eyebrows. After several months, when all the gimmick stuff was epitomized, people started to react to her as a normal singer. They started to react to her qualifications, and not peripheral matters. The spell was broken. And since then Dana has sold almost 100,000 copies of her albums, she has become the dance queen, she has been chosen as 'Singer of the Year', and now she will represent us in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Dana has won. She has won a struggle she didn't even intend to take part in. A struggle for consciousness, for the treatment any person who stands on stage deserves. "I just wanted to sing. Not to fight, not to defy tradition. But some of the orthodox in this country think that I do not deserve to be a human being. How should I react to those people?" she once said, after one of the scandals caused by people objecting to her.
Dana's victory is our victory, a victory belonging to Israeli society. It's the victory of everyone who thinks people are equal. And there is no high and no low level. It's a victory to each one of you who react to a person as a human being. A victory of youth, who embraced Dana with love because of her songs. The youth that showed an amazing maturity and told the adults: We don't have prejudice, and we don't care what she has in her pants. She sings great, she moves great, and her songs are the only dance songs that sound like those from abroad. Thats why we are in favor of her. All the rest doesn't interest us.
And here is where we are getting into the important matter, that we should have arrived at right from the beginning, if we hadn't had some cavemen to deal with. Dana is a great singer. One of the best in Israel. She conquers the stage with her special powers, she is original, and the music in her albums sounds like no other Israeli music. Now, you can of course argue. Someone can come and say: "I think that Dana is a bad singer, with tasteless songs", and that's his full right, because it's a matter of a taste. But this is fair and relevant criticism.
But Dana is forced to deal with insults and humiliation with no connection to her as a singer. And she is strong. She is not broken. "Once, at the beginning of my career, I was hurt. Once and only once I even cried. But after those tears, I woke up to a new morning, and told myself - that's it. I won't cry anymore. I'm happy and blissful to have the power to live my life the way I choose. Despite society, despite the pressure."
And this decision brought her huge success. Because the audience believes in truth, and the audience appreciates courage. And the success brought the Eurovision. Since her choice, she has been flooded with requests for interviews by all the media in the world. In a live interview with 'Sky News' she said in fluent English to 60 million people watching her: "I make a clear separation between Israelis and the orthodox. I will go to the Eurovision as the representative of the Christians and the Muslims who live in Israel as well. If the orthodox want to live by the laws of two thousands years ago, they don't need to try to rule the country or be in the government."
Since the choice, Dana doesn't give interviews to the Israeli media. Now she wants to concentrate on the song. "I want it to be the best on stage and will give Israel the most respected place we can." She will sing 'Diva' by Yoav Ginai and Tzvika Pik. "It's a song telling about strong women from history. Women who never surrender and know to stand up - and who became history."
It surely reminds us of Dana's private life. Dana is the most worthy to win - not only after what she has been through, but also because she is the singer with the highest chances to win in England, and then bring the Eurovision Song Contest to Jerusalem next year. We will enjoy it, and Ben-Izri and his friends will run wild. Sanity will win!
Dana International has started to live up to her name. The international media are following her everywhere, even the cold Englishmen are curious.
It has already been a month since the announcement of Dana International as the representative of Israel was made. Since then, almost nothing has been done for the song "Diva." Only one thing is known: Thierry Mugler will be the designer of Dana's dress for the contest. Last month, Dana was drowning in interview offers from the world media. SkyNews, BBC, NBC, CNN, RTL, Newsweek, Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The Guardian, you name it. Inside Israel, Dana didn't even give a single interview, although every channel and newspaper asked her to. Inside all this media hysteria, Dana didn't have the chance to sign any international contracts. Many Israeli producers are seeing themselves as candidates. It's true that the producer Shlomo Tzach has given Dana and Ofer Nisim the services of his office, but a contract for the representation of Dana abroad has yet to be signed. With ten previous Eurovision performances, Tzach could suggest them some very good connections in Europe, but Ofer Nisim, who is responsible for Dana's success in Israel, does not want to give up his management of Dana abroad.
Next week, Ofer Nisim is going to choose eight of Dana's greatest hits, which will be mixed in London. One of them will be released as a singe in Europe before the Eurovision, and another single will be released as a club mix. The plan is to send Dana to perform in Amsterdam, Paris & London and to be a guest in TV shows around Europe. A new album will be publish in the early summer, a month after the Eurovision.
Dana International, the singer who will represent us the 98 Eurovision Song contest, chose a festive corset dress by Thierry Mugler for the big evening, and was even photographed in it for a big article. Do you remember? Good. Now forget it.
With all due respect for Thierry Muglers dresses, Dana International decided that she will wear something 'made in Israel' in the Eurovision. She hired Moti Rife as her producer, and he suggested a Zionist project: A dress design contest which will be arranged for her by the students of "Shenkar", a famous Israeli design school in Tel-Aviv. The heroines conditions: "I don't want it to be too daring, and don't emphasize my chest. I want something Zionist. Generally, I'm a size 38, but I can squeeze into a size 36 too. But don't do it too tight, in the last Kdam-Eurovision it pressed so much I hardly could sing. The winning dress will go to Britain with our International of course.
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