Topaz's Friends Shocked at Allegations

Only a few days have passed between Dudu Topaz's sweeping denial of any involvement in the recent attacks on several television executives and his arrest yesterday, and a number of the entertainer's close acquaintences have expressed disbelief at the turn events have taken.

"I know Dudu as a basically good man, a good soul," producer Miriam Etzioni said yesterday. "We worked together for many months. I know he was disappointed from this world [media] but there's a big gap between disappointment and such aggressiveness," Etzioni said.

Media personality Meni Pe'er said yesterday: "I've known him for 50 years. We grew up together and I would be very surprised if it turns out that there's a 'Mister Hyde' inside Dudu Topaz. Dudu can say reckless things, or do foolhardy things that he will later be sorry for, but he doesn't have the malevolence in him to plan a thing like this," Pe'er also said.

"It can't be," Topaz's friend and onstage partner, Yossi Sidi, said. "We've known each other for 22 years and I'm in shock that they're questioning him. It's not the Dudu I know."

Eight months ago, Topaz and his manager, Boaz Ben-Tzion, parted ways, on Ben-Tzion's initiative, reportedly following disagreements over Topaz's behavior.

Television industry figures said there were problematic aspects to working with Topaz, "almost a split personality," according to one source.

Speaking in an interview on a late-night TV show last February with psychiatrist Ilan Rabinovich and deputy chief of the Channel 2 franchisee Reshet, Hanoch Daum, Topaz spoke of his desire to return to television and the calm he felt, due in large part to psychiatric medication he was taking. Topaz also spoke about taking drugs and the frustration he felt watching the program presenting prizes for excellence in television without his name being mentioned. "How did they forget? How did they not call me? What, am I dead? In an old-age home?" He told his interviewers that this frustration explained his various facets - his good side, and his bad, vengeful side.

"We talked to him and he was joking around and said he was getting great PR. I hope everything turns out alright and the whole matter will be cleared up quickly," a friend said last night.