Celebrity Grapevine

What is so special about Belgrade that it attracts the top Israeli performing artists on Israel Independence Day?

What is so special about Belgrade that it attracts the top Israeli performing artists on Israel Independence Day? Most other major cities around the world make do with Israeli singers, dancers and musicians whose names are far from household words at home but who, to people abroad, are vibrant symbols of Israel. Some places, even in the US, make do with local Jewish talent whose repertoire includes Israeli compositions. But Belgrade is getting Rita. It's not a one-time phenomenon. Last year, the Foreign Ministry sent Shlomit Aharon, the year before that Yevgeny Shapovalov and the year before that David D'Or. The Israel Embassy in Belgrade is obviously very persuasive. TRAVEL AGENTS have reported a sharp increase in reservations for trips to Athens in the second half of May. While some of the travelers may undoubtedly be going to Greece to view the Acropolis and other antiquities, the majority are going to cheer Eddie Butler, who will represent Israel at this year's Eurovision contest in Athens on May 20. Butler will sing "Ze Hazman" ("This is the time"). One of 12 siblings born to his father's four wives, Butler was raised in a musical family, and might have made an even greater impression than he did at the local preliminary competition for Israel's Eurovision entry, had he been singing with the whole Butler family choir as he did in his youth. THE NEW director of the financially ailing Haifa Municipal Theater, which has been operating on a deficit in the range of NIS 18 million is Oded Feldman, replacing Israel Ben Shalom who held the position for slightly under two years. Feldman, 62, who has gravitated between managing and editing newspapers to directing the Cameri Theater from 1982-85 to heading the cultural division of the Jerusalem Municipality from 1992-2004, most recently has been a freelance producer of diverse cultural events including theatrical productions. IT PAYS to advertise according to a slogan adopted by newspapers and advertising agencies around the world. Several celebrities can attest to the truth of those words on the basis of their own earnings, gleaned from endorsing or promoting luxury products. A number of international news services have published a list of some of the top earners, starting with Catherine Zeta Jones who has signed a $20 million contract for leading the T-Mobile advertising campaign. Next in line are Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman, each of whom reportedly earned $12m. - Jolie for promoting the St. John clothing line and Kidman for personifying the enduring allure of Chanel No. 5 perfume. Julia Roberts, who won an Oscar for her screen performance in Erin Brockovich but who flopped miserably and was panned by the critics in her stage debut of Richard Greenberg's The Three Days of Rain features seventh on the list, and can console herself with the $5m. she earned from Gianfranco Ferre. Gwyneth Paltrow, who recently gave birth to Moses, a brother to Apple, can afford to keep both her children in style. She was ahead of Roberts on the list with earnings of $6m. from Estee Lauder. Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz received $4m. each from L'Oreal, as did Brad Pitt from Heineken. IT'S THE time of year when media is preoccupied with the affluence of individuals in general and celebrities in particular. The annual Rich List published last week by Britain's Sunday Times included a section on worldwide earnings of British and Irish artists in 2005. The section is headed by U2 whose earnings from album and digital sales as well as box office receipts came to 146.7m. pounds. The Rolling Stones were in second place with 87.6m. pounds, followed by Sir Paul McCartney, with 48.5m. pounds, Sir Elton John with 44.4m. pounds and Rod Stewart with 33.6m. pounds. THE RICH list also featured a section of the richest husbands and wives from many walks of life, which included non-Brits so long as one spouse in each pair was British. Ranking ninth were Madonna and Guy Ritchie with a combined fortune of 248m. pounds, while Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas were in 13th place with 175m. pounds.