Celebrity Grapevine

After 27 years, Beit Zvi drama school Gary Bilu, who has been at odds with the public committee that oversees Beit Zvi, has decided to call it quits.

IT'S DIFFICULT to imagine the Beit Zvi drama school without its legendary head, Gary Bilu. He has trained more than a generation of actors and actresses, has directed prize-winning performances and received an Israel Theater Prize for lifetime achievement. But after 27 years, Bilu, who has been at odds with the public committee that oversees Beit Zvi, has decided to call it quits, and the committee is now looking for a replacement. Beit Zvi is operating at a deficit of NIS 2.5 million, partially due to reduced support from the Education Ministry. n ON THE other hand, there are people who still have money to spend on productions - even the financially strapped Israel Broadcasting Authority. It has brought back Meni Pe'er after a seven-year hiatus. Pe'er, who used to run a Friday night interview program, will now be doing a Friday afternoon program in which he talks to children after a visit to the zoo and hears what they have to say about various animals. The show will feature zoos all over the country. n WELL KNOWN and controversial singer Aliza Azikri last week succumbed to lung cancer, just as she was planning to participate in a gala tribute to one of Israel's favorite Greek singers, Aris San. The two had a highly publicized romance in the 1960s, and she bore him a daughter, Sunny San, who is also scheduled to appear in the tribute. Born in Morocco, Azikri was married for a short time to actor Nissim Azikri. Singing in clubs across the country, she met Aris San at the Zorba Club. Born Aristidis Saisanas, the Greek singer-guitarist who came to Israel in his late teens became an Israeli citizen, even though he was not Jewish. He and Azikri began appearing together across the country and made several records together. Although their romance did not last, his name continued to be associated with hers. After her breakup from San, Azikri met impresario Sasson Rejwan and went with him to the United States. That romance didn't last either, and almost penniless, she returned to Israel, where other stars had taken her place. After a severe motor accident, she all but stopped performing and went to live in Eilat, making rare stage appearances in recent years. When she started complaining about chest pains a few months ago, the family thought she might have pneumonia, but it turned out to be lung cancer. n THE MEDIA have made much of the fact that former minister Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg will in all probability be the first government minister to become a cabinet secretary. It usually works the other way around. Both Dan Meridor and Isaac Herzog were cabinet secretaries before they became ministers, and Gideon Sa'ar, who was also a cabinet secretary, is tipped to be a minister in the new government. However, Sandberg has another first. He is arguably one of Israel's greatest experts on the Beatles and is a DJ on Radio 88 FM, operating out of Haifa, where he lives. He plays an hour of Beatles music every Friday from 4 p.m., and did so when he was a member of Knesset, as well. Interviewed last week on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet by Yaron Dekel, Sandberg said that if he did get the job of cabinet secretary, he intended to continue being a DJ. n CARICATURES AND comics are making the news lately, mainly because some sectors of society believe that caricaturists have overstepped their boundaries. For instance, Holocaust survivors were recently appalled by a cartoon of Hitler's inability to find a parking spot in Tel Aviv. Four of Israel's leading cartoonists and illustrators - Rachel Eliya Achunov, Shlomo Cohen, Uri Fink and Shai Cherka - will discuss the divisions in Israeli society through the eyes of the cartoonist at an illustrative event at Beit Avi Hai in Jerusalem at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 2. The emphasis will be on the lines that divide and those that unite. n LAST WEEK was designated as Family Week and some fathers, including those in the entertainment industry, spent extra time with their kids. Nir Levy and Nati Ravitz chose to buy their respective youngsters some new clothes at the Tommy Hilfiger store for juniors, but they didn't want to be badgered by prowling paparazzi, so they wore dark glasses. It was a futile exercise because they were seen by photographer Aviv Hofi. n AS PART of family week, Keren Noibach, on her Agenda program on Reshet Bet, interviewed people from different family settings and in different family roles. She started by speaking with divorced people such as actress Anat Waxman and actor Sharon Alexander. Later, she moved on to grandmothers, with veteran actress and broadcaster Rivka Michaeli as one of her guests. Michaeli said that of all the roles she's ever had, the one that appealed to her most was that of grandmother, adding that she had fallen in love with her first grandchild from the first ultrasound image. n RADIO AND television personality Ivri Gilad, who has ADD, is now teaching Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion high school students with the same disorder at the Tichon Tel schools. His message is that there are ways to deal with it and that it doesn't have to be an obstacle to success. n WITHIN THE framework of the Year of Shalom Aleichem, which will be launched this week in Kiev, Tel Aviv and New York, Limmud FSU has chosen to focus on the writer to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth. Shalom Aleichem is considered to be the father of Jewish humor, and Limmud FSU organizes Jewish learning events in the former Soviet Union. Celebrations in Israel will include a mega conference in Jerusalem in July, but on March 5, there will be a Limmud FSU drama event in Beit Shalom Aleichem in the presence of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, with the participation of Yiddishpiel founder Shmulik Atzmon and his daughter Anat Atzmon, who will present selected pieces from Shalom Aleichem's work.