'Florida Is One Stop Before Paradise. I’ve Already Picked Out My Mausoleum.'

Arrivals / Departures: An embezzlement scandal drove this Israeli to move to the U.S.; a British music writer recalls how he landed his first journalism job - at The Guardian.

Dan Barzilai Gladstone.
Tomer Appelbaum

Dan Barzilai Gladstone, 75, lives in West Palm Beach, Florida; flying to Miami

Hello, can I ask where you were born?

In Israel, but we left for America 22 years ago.

Who is “we”?

My ex-wife, who’s American, and our three children. But our eldest son returned to Israel. That made me happy. I am seventh generation in this country. I was born on Montefiore Street in Tel Aviv; from there we moved to Herzliya. Everything was dunes and the school was far away, but I didn’t care, I didn’t go to school, anyway.

Mischievous?

Wild. Many fights with my parents. When I was 15, my uncle, who was a philanthropist, sent me to England to be educated in a Jewish school in Brighton, called Whittengehame College. The children of the country’s rich went there.

Sounds like fun.

It was a real shock when I first got there. Here there was a problem even with ballroom dancing, but there not only did they dance, but 15-year-old girls were already using lipstick and wearing high heels. And there was also punishment – slaps and punches – there so when I did army service in Israel the discipline was easy for me.

Did you manage okay after army service?

Not exactly. I was an insurance salesman and I had businesses in Israel, but that’s also the reason I left. I was on the board of directors of North American Bank ... There was an embezzlement scandal here in 1985 – you don’t know about it?

We were kids in 1985.

Anyway, I was an external director of the bank, and one day I go there and am told that one of the partners, Moshe Stern, embezzled $25 million. I tell them that it couldn’t be – I had been in the bank just a day earlier. 

How did it happen?

He stole the money because he got entangled with the “gray market” [loans from unlicensed lenders], but in the end they discovered that the $25 million was small change and that the embezzlement totaled $75 million. [Jehoshua] Halperin, his ultra-Orthodox business partner, stole the rest in order to regulate the shares. They both did jail time.

But why did you leave the country?

Four years after the guilty parties went to jail, a civil suit was also filed – for the first time in [Israeli] history – against 11 directors, for managerial negligence. It was for $100 million, all of them together and each one separately.

On what grounds?

They said we didn’t attend board meetings but only sent proxies, and the law says you have to go to at least one meeting a year. But I was at all the meetings. I appealed the decision and they said, “We won’t touch you.”

How did it end?

The case was closed and a verdict to the tune of $150 million has been pending for 22 years. But some of the directors went bankrupt, so in the end they managed to get only $8 million. That didn’t even cover the lawyer’s fees. But at least it was a lesson: Today there is no bank director who doesn’t have insurance. At that time the bank was insured against embezzlement, but not the directors.

I still don’t understand why you left the country.

Subconsciously, I’m afraid my wife was disgusted by the whole story. On top of that, by the time the suit was filed I already had scorched earth here, I was worth 32 shekels. My wife and her father, who is very loaded  – I remember the first time I came to America and he received me with a maroon Rolls Royce, I didn’t know where he was coming from – took the children, went to America and didn’t come back. After four months of hesitation and persuasion I went, too, and stayed. It took me a year to get a Green Card, so I messed around with lizards.

Lizards?

I wasn’t allowed to do anything without authorization. In Florida there are a lot of insects and a lot of lizards, so I would catch wasps, remove their wings and throw them to a lizard that would come and swallow them.

And after that you got along?

Yes. Everything is beautiful. And when I need to get into the fast lane, everyone lets me in. Here you have to be born on the road in order to merge with the traffic. A rabbi who visited Florida said it’s one stop before paradise.

And what do people do in paradise?

Work and then retire. I’ve already ordered my mausoleum, bought a place, everything is perfect. I told the kids they wouldn’t have any expenses to worry about.

By the way, can I ask who you voted for?

Trump – I like change.

Marc Rowlands.
Tomer Appelbaum

Marc Rowlands, "as old as the hills"; lives in Belgrade, arriving from there

Say, do you speak English?

Yes, how can we help you?

I was on a connecting flight and got stuck in an airport and had no cellular phone. Anyway, tell me who the next president of the United States is.

Donald Trump.

Oh, man.

To be more precise: Omigod..

Wow.

Can I ask what you’ll be doing in Israel?

I’m here to write a feature about a Tel Aviv duo called Red Axes.

Are you a journalist?

I’m a music journalist.

Where does your work appear?

I had a column for many years in The Guardian. These days I’m freelance and write for different places. I still write for The Guardian and also for Mixmag and for other sites. Do you know Red Axes?

No. Unfortunately, my days in the electronic scene are over. Are they so great that they’re worth a flight?

Yes. They play a lot in Europe. I’ve been to their shows at festivals and I could have interviewed them, but when they’re warming up the Chemical Brothers, and in their hometown, too – for me that’s good timing.

Ah, at last a name I recognize. And Shlomi Zidan, no?

Yes, and also 2manydjs. . And besides that, they’re playing in a festival in Eilat on the weekend with guest deejays who will play world music and psychedelic rock, so I’ll be going there with them. And after that, on Saturday, the Chemical Brothers. It’s exciting. They’ve also changed their style now; I think their music is really fresh and different. They’re also special because they have their own label, Garzen Records, which releases interesting music, not just electro-radio-show-mix-tape.

I warn you that I’ll quote you with mistakes, because I only understood half of what you said.

At the start of their career, when they still only played under the name Red Axes, I told my editor that I really liked them and I think they’re only going to grow. Since then they’ve grown and today you can already say they’re great, at least in the underground. And I believe they will keep growing.

So it’s a big article?

Not too big, but my expertise and what I like to do best in articles is to present a political and social background to the music and the artists. I like having an interesting back story. Last month, for example, I flew to Lithuania to interview Ten Walls, a Lithuanian DJ and producer, for the online magazine XLR8R.

What’s his story?

He posted homophobic remarks on his Facebook page. A lot of people were shocked, and his status plummeted.

He didn’t apologize?

He issued an apology but he wasn’t willing to be interviewed on the subject. Before meeting with him I did a thorough investigation and found a lot of indications that he’s not homophobic at all. I went into the interview without prejudgment and I wrote honestly, and I was the first person he allowed to ask direct questions about homosexuality.

How did it come out?

The interview itself was very controversial. Naturally a lot of people hate him for his remarks, but it’s funny that in the reactions I got, both the people who hate him now and those who love him were pleased.

So what’s the deal? Maybe he’s homosexual and not homophobic?

You’ll just have to read the article,

Gladly. By the way, how did you come to write for The Guardian?

I’ve never had any journalistic training. It all started when I worked for a secondhand vinyl store in Manchester, which is where I’m from originally. A friend had a small column in The Guardian called “Party Time,” but he also had a serious job, and when he was promoted at the latter, he asked me to take over the column. “I can’t,” I told him. “I don’t know how to write.” It didn’t seem logical to me, because it’s a big paper.

Very.

He told me to give it a try, because I had nothing to lose. He said he had read all the reviews I wrote about vinyl albums and that I was good. “If they don’t like you, they’ll fire you,” he said. That’s how I got started. The paper kept me on for years. I liked it, too. I would write the column right after parties, at night, and finish in the morning, before anyone arrived at the paper, and then go out into the light of day.