April 27, 2009
The Next American-Israeli Idol
Last week a handful of yordim (Israelis who “descended” to America) were given the rare opportunity to make aliyah; that is, to rise back up to Israel—and to stardom. Kochav Nolad (“A Star is Born”), Israel’s “American Idol” knock-off, came to Hollywood, literally, to scout talent for its seventh season. After stops in New York, Florida, and Atlanta, the show’s director, host, and two judges held a round of auditions at the Vanguard nightclub on Hollywood Boulevard for Israeli ex-pats aspiring to become Zion’s Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood but whose Hebrew accents would probably horrify “Idol” judge Simon Cowell.
Auditions were advertised in the American-Israeli press, and singers were asked to prepare two songs—at least one in Hebrew—along with a Hebrew song written specially for the show. The Hollywood leg of the tryouts culminated in an Independence Day party hosted by DJ Eliran and DJ Tal at Vanguard on April 23, where the top five L.A. contenders auditioned live on stage for a few hundred of the show’s fans. For the record, this reporter was among the unsuccessful auditioners.
The party was an Israeli pop culture fest with nary an English word heard amidst a techno version of the hora and other Israeli disco tunes, although the dance floor only reached a quarter capacity—probably due to the hefty $35 entrance fee at the door.
Nevertheless, toward midnight, the crowd managed to squish together near the stage to watch Tzvika Hadar, Israel’s Ryan Seacrest, (although much more round and informal than the “Idol” host), move along the audition. The show’s veteran judges, Israeli singer Margalit “Margol” Tzanani and journalist/filmmaker Gal Uhovsky, raked the talents with true Simon Cowell severity, choosing only two potential “stars” from the batch. The evening ended with a classically tacky tribute to America with Tzanani singing a dance remix of Springstein’s “Born in the USA.”
Footage of the American auditions will be aired as part of the program in the summer, broadcast in the U.S. on the Israeli Channel. Israeli-Angelenos who made the cut have good reason to exile their Hollywood dreams to the Holy Land. Kochav Nolad has been a ratings hit from the start—a favorite among the tweens—launching successful careers of several pop and television stars, including Ninette Tayeb, Shiri Maimon, and Harel Skaat.