Dudu Topaz's New Book

Dudu Topaz' face this week, in the Tel Aviv District Court, disclosed nothing that we haven't seen during his best days. He was not pale and not hunched - he looked quite healthy, sun-tanned, perhaps even gained a bit of weight, not like someone who just a week ago injected an almost-lethal dose of insulin into his body.

Dudu chose, this time too, not to personally appear in court, handcuffed. Too many journalists were waiting for exactly that picture. Dudu preferred to attend the session via a screen that was set up in court - and he kept silent. He did not react to the police statement that reported a dramatic shift in the investigation, not to the arguments of his attorney who sought his release on bail, and in the end he said nothing of the judge's decision to extend his remand by another week. He was wearing a stylish T-shirt, slowly drank a glass of water, stroked his chest and in what is uncommon for him, sank into a long silence.

Among the group of retirees who in the early morning hours had already grabbed the best seats in the courtroom, the views differed. Some thought Dudu really intended to commit suicide last week, while others thought it was a planned show. I, by the way, believe Dudu indeed tried to commit suicide. After all, it was quite expected. The detention, the investigation and the media did not give him a moment's respite. He realized his audience had abandoned him for good. He had an insatiable desire to regain some of the love he had lost, and if not love - then pity. But it is unlikely he would ever do this again.

First-time criminals, especially white-collar people, are in shock when they are arrested and their crimes are exposed. Then they get used to prison, the prison wardens and the other prisoners. Dudu Topaz will also get used to it. He might even arrange some shows in the prisons and again reap applause. Maybe he'll write a book.

Some three weeks ago Dudu called me and asked to meet me urgently. We met that very day in a small cafe opposite his home in Neot Afeka in north Tel Aviv. Dudu was in high spirits. He asked me whether I would publish a book he intended to write. I asked him what the subject was. "It will be a book that will expose the big secret of my life," he said. "People will be shocked when they will read it."

I asked for details. He said he will disclose them when we meet again. We set a meeting for two weeks later. By that time, Dudu was already in detention.

I saw him this week again, as I said, in court. I thought about the book he wanted to write. Did he intend to disclose the whole truth about the series of violent assaults? Was he ready, even before police got to him, to expose himself and risk detention and trial? He might have wanted just that. It might very well be that his burning desire for constant exposure - for an escalation with every exposure, an ever-increasing yearning to stun, to shock, to do things that no one else has done - pushed him to plan attacks on senior media people and disclose everything in a book he would write.

He who promised to show aliens in his TV show, who bit the shoulder of childrens' star Natalia Oreiro in a live broadcast, whose rating climbed from show to show thanks to all these, could not bear the thought that he was kicked out of the frame. He had to shock again, be the price whatever it may be, just as long as everybody would once again talk about him.

Micki, Dudu's young brother who looks very much like him, sat beside me in court. He thanked God that his father was no longer alive and his mother was unconscious in a hospital. "They could not bear the shame," he said. With that he disclosed that his father, throughout his life, was afraid that Dudu, hasty and full of himself, would one day do something stupid that would destroy his career. "Take care of him," he told Micki before his death.

Micki, one of the people who knew him well, says his brother was an entertainer with a rare talent. If he were not so talented, the public would not have swarmed to his shows. He made people laugh and reaped applause. He won adoration in commercial quantities. People kissed him in the street, women left him their phone numbers, and children competed who would get to touch him. He did not know his time was limited, that one day the public might be fed up with him, that glory passes quickly. Like Icarus of Greek mythology, he kept flying with his wax wings until the sun melted them and he crashed to his end.

I remember the first day I met him. I was 14 years old at the time, and dreamt of a career as an actor. I went to the home of his father, Eliyahu Goldenberg, who taught actors correct diction and I wanted to learn from him. He asked me to recite a poem by Bialik. I read it. Goldenberg sat in an armchair, did not say a word and only his mouth twisted nervously. I realized he was not satisfied.

"Dudu," he called out.

A boy in short pants entered from an adjacent room. Goldenberg let him read the poem I had read. When Dudu finished, his father turned to me: "You see? That is how a real actor reads."

I remember being painfully jealous of Dudu. He really read that poem so much better than I. I almost cried when I thought what a stunning career he would have, while I must look for another profession.

It was crowded in the courtroom this week. The spectators patiently followed the march of detainees who passed in front of the judge: Foreign workers from Ghana who had a bloody fight in a church in Jaffa, two youngsters caught stealing a car, a youngster who threatened his neighbor, a young woman who extorted money from her family members. One of the detainees' wives burst out crying. The wife of another, who was released on bail, shouted to the embarrassed judge: "You are a good father."

Only five hours later did Dudu's turn come, in a live broadcast from the detention facility in Abu Kabir. Six security men, equipped with earphones and tiny microphones, forbade photography and maintained order as through this was the prime minister's trial. The police interrogators said they assumed the trial would be short because Dudu will plead guilty. Perhaps in the few moments he will be given to say his words before sentencing, he will again enjoy standing at center stage, present a charge sheet against the television claiming they treated him unfairly and so aroused in him the desire for revenge. One can assume he will be sentenced to jail.

And then what?

Dudu will return to prison and very quickly the most expected will happen: He will disappear from the public's consciousness. But just as he has failed to put up with his professional decline, he will not easily sink into oblivion in prison. He will most probably do whatever he can to float again. It is very likely he will then write the book that he talked about.

Dudu already wrote several books, but this book will be more important to him than all the others. In this book he will try to gain as much sympathy as possible, present himself as one who was unwillingly dragged into violence. The book will draw lots of public relations, pictures and articles in the press and perhaps, for a fleeting moment, will do for Dudu what he prefers more than anything else: It will again have the limelights shine on him.

Israel's best-selling author, Ram Oren has sold an unprecedented one million books in Hebrew. His 22 titles, mostly in the detective fiction genre, have been translated into several languages, including English. A former senior editor of the mass circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth, he is a founder and owner of the Keshet publishing house and a prominent lawyer.