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(photo credit: AP)
In a move straight out of the Instant Popularity Playbook, billionaire immigrant Arkadi Gaydamak hosted a massive Independence Day concert free to the public Tuesday night in Tel Aviv. The increasingly high-profile Gaydamak has said little so far about the connection between his political ambitions and very public acts of philanthropy, but the concert grounds - festooned with signs for Gaydamak's recently formed Social Justice movement - indicated that the import/export tycoon has mastered the basic rules of orchestrating a successful high school-style bid for popularity.
Rule #1 - Make sure you've got the prettiest girls involved, especially if you're not providing free alcohol. Model Yael Bar-Zohar and former MTV Europe VJ Eden Harel enthusiastically played the part Tuesday night, filling the air between musical acts with helpfully insipid, cheerleader-esque commentary such as "The fun has only just begun!"
Rule #2 - Recruit as many cool kids as possible, and make sure the music is terrific. (Again, this is especially important if you're not providing free alcohol.) The line-up of stars for Gaydamak's party was truly impressive, with warm-up acts including pop stars Shiri Maimon, Shai Gabso and Sarit Hadad. (Any show at which Hadad is billed as just a warm-up act is going to be something out of the ordinary.) The concert also showcased no fewer than four "main" performances, starting with Ivri Lider and Ninet Tayeb for younger audience members and concluding with relative old-timers in the form of husband-and-wife duo Rita and Rami Kleinstein and the rock band Mashina.
Rule #3 - Hope the party generates a little gossip so that people will still be talking about it - and you - after the fact. Tayeb, undeniably Israeli music's reigning prom queen, came the closest to providing a little post-party gossip, turning in a lackluster and occasionally eardrum-shattering performance that only highlighted the flimsiness of the singer's 2006 debut album. Rita, a deposed prom queen of decades past, no doubt took pleasure in showing up her younger counterpart, bringing to the stage the maturity and quality material Tayeb so painfully lacked.
Rule #4 - Impress to the point of excess. You may be demonstrating your social-mindedness by donating the proceeds from food sales to "the needy," but why should that stop you from spending hundreds of thousands of shekels on a 25-minute fireworks display when a show half as long would have done the trick?
Rule #5 - Don't forget the post-party clean-up. Tel Aviv concert-goers showed they have about as much respect for their surroundings as high school students at a kegger, leaving Hayarkon Park absolutely trashed by night's end. A few more stray wrappers and the place could have been mistaken for a landfill - a sad way to end a day devoted to celebrating the country.
Rule #6 - Pray for some gratitude, or at least a bit of sustained goodwill. Israeli voters can be as opportunistic as high school students, happily coming to your party one day but snubbing you at school the next. Polls show that growing numbers of Israelis see Arkadi Gaydamak as an alternative to the country's current leadership, but there's little reason to think they won't lose interest in the non-Hebrew-speaking mogul just a few concert-free weeks into the future. An estimated 200,000 Israelis - an eye-catching mix of families, 20-somethings, the religious and the secular - turned out for Tuesday night's show. But without additional bread and circuses provided by Gaydamak, they'll likely soon be asking him the question once famously posed by an American pop star: What have you done for me lately?