Shooting star

Mike Brant's tale is so anomalous that - both in life and death - he has remained on the margins of the national narrative.

mike brant 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
mike brant 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The arc of Mike Brant's career is reminiscent of many an entertainment legend, rocketing to fame only to plunge, still young, to death. But for an Israeli, Brant's tale is so anomalous that - both in life and death - he has remained on the margins of the national narrative. He was born Moshe Michael Brandt in February 1947 in a Jewish refugee camp on Cyprus to concentration camp survivors from Poland (his mother was an Auschwitz alumnus). His parents were eallowed to immigrate to British-controlled Palestine 10 months later, and they settled in Haifa. Brant was already singing in his brother's nghtclub band by the age of 17. Though he knew no language other than Hebrew, he performed only in French and English, and changed his name to the more international-sounding "Mike." He tried, but wasn't accepted into the famous IDF entertainment corps, and an operation then kept him from being drafted altogether. His incredible voice and impressive looks soon brought him gigs abroad, the most fateful being at the Teheran Hilton in May 1969. Another singer there, Sylvie Vartan, urged him to try his luck in Paris. He arrived in the City of Lights that summer, and Vartan hooked him up with French producer Jean Renard. A mere six months later, Brant (he had dropped the "d" because Brandt was the name of a French washing machine company) churned out a monster pop hit - the still-powerful Laisse-moi t'aimer (Let Me Love You). His French pop ablums sold in the millions, his frequent concerts attracted thousands, but he began to show signs of cracking under the strain. In November 1974 he jumped out of his manager's hotel room in Geneva but survived. The following April he jumped again, this time from an apartment in Paris. This attempt succeeded, and Brant died at the age of 28 while still riding a wave of adulation. But not in Israel. Although arguably the country's most successful entertainment export, only recently have efforts been made to fit Brant into the national narrative. His incredible story served as the inspiration for a long-running Khan Theater play a decade ago, but that piece focused on the members of a fan club which survived the pop star's demise. Now Beit Lessin focuses on Brant himself in the new play Mike. Written by Gadi Inbar and directed by Michal Lewensohn, the musical drama stars Dan Shapira as Brant, Yona Elian as his mother (pictured), Shlomo Vishinski, Maya Dagan, Liat Tzedkiahu, Yaniv Levi, Mordi Gershon and others. Beit Lessin, Rehov Dizengoff 101, Saturday through Thursday at 8:30 p.m., next Friday at 9:30 p.m., (03) 725-5300