Dudu Topaz 'set up attacks on TV bosses’

One of Israel’s top television stars, Dudu Topaz, has confessed to organising a series of physical attacks on media executives who rejected his ideas for television programmes.

Mr Topaz apparently hired two former bouncers to assault Shira Margalit, vice president of Channel 2; Avi Nir, a Channel 2 director; and talent agent Boaz Ben-Zion in Tel Aviv over the past seven months. Ms Margalit was hospitalised with fractures in her face but the attacks were unexplained until Mr Topaz was arrested on Sunday.

Police believe Mr Topaz was also planning to attack Amos Regev, editor of the freesheet Yisrael Hayom, who refused to run his column.
For 25 years, Mr Topaz was the king of Israeli entertainment. In the early 1980s, when the country had only one TV channel, he hosted gameshows and filled concert halls with crowds who came to see his stand-up acts.

When commercial television finally launched in 1993, he dominated the screen with lavish quiz shows, which gave away cars and other prizes on a scale that had never been seen before on Israeli television, and hosted risqué chat-shows. It seemed as if he could get away with anything. He smashed the glasses of a critic who had dared criticise him, bit an Argentine soap-opera star and was acquitted of a sexual harassment case. Nothing touched him.

But over the past few years, Mr Topaz’s attraction waned as more sophisticated comics came on the scene. His ratings plummeted and channels were no longer willing to give him airtime.

When the rumours began circulating last week that the 62-year-old was implicated in the mysterious attacks, the first reaction was disbelief. He seemed too prominent to be involved in a plot to ambush and beat up the victims.

But after his arrest on Sunday and confession two days later, it suddenly made sense. Mr Topaz had no existence outside his TV fame, after fathering three children with three different women, and never maintaining a relationship for more than a few months; his life was empty. And if the captains of the entertainment industry were not going to give him the limelight he craved, he would grasp it himself.

Last updated: 4:20pm, June 4 2009