Confessions of a singer
Dana is a new singer who became famous on the radio because of the hysterical hit Sa'ida. Yaron Cohen is a hairdresser who became famous in the gay community as an entertainer. This week, after a lot of hesitation, both decided to expose their real faces. Dana is Yaron Cohen. And vice versa. Cohen's reaction: "I prefer to do shows as a girl to working 8 hours a day in the barber shop. It's only a gimmick." Exclusive. By Ronit Purian.
The mysterious Dana is the one who sings the most hysterical song of the last few weeks - Sa'ida Sultana, a risqu?arody of Whitney Houston's song 'My name is not Susan'. Yaron Cohen has a long past in the gay community as a fun entertainer. This week, after a lot of hesitation, both decided to take off the masks. Dana is Yaron Cohen. And vice versa. One must make a difference: "Dana is only a stage name with it I do (m) shows, I don't do (f) shows." [Note: In Hebrew, verb conjugations differ between masculine and feminine. Through this distinction Cohen wants us to understand that he does shows as a man dressed as a women. Throughout this article Cohen speaks in the masculine - ZG)
"This name started 7 months ago when I performed in gay soir?s in Eilat. I was getting on stage as Whitney Houston or Ofra Haza, and I had to find a stage name. I couldn't suddenly say a masculine name, because it wouldn't fit the show piece. So I chose Dana. A very childish name, a nice one. And the name stuck to me."
- Where do you come from?
"I was born in Tel Aviv, Bograshov, and I went to school in Chernehovsky, Ironi Alef and Ankori."
- Did you enlist in the army?
- How were you released from military service?
- On what reasons?
"Incompatibility. It's harsh to judge me. With all due respect to the army, not everyone fits into an army frame."
- How old are you now?
- What did you do after high school?
"Nothing really. I worked a little bit in boutiques, did shows in weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs."
- How did you meet Ofer Nisim?
"Ofer Nisim was the DJ of the clubs I liked to spend time in. I and a friend of mine, Shmulik Sa'adia, danced wonderfully. Everyone was excited. Once Ofer turned to us and asked us to come and work with him in the club. To perform on stage. That was 4 years ago."
Ofer Nisim, who accompanied Cohen in all stages of the production, and even in the interview, fills out the information: "Yaron Cohen and Shmulik Sa'adia became part of an entertainment team working with me. In every club where I worked as a DJ, Cohen and Sa'adia were the entertainment team. When I saw it became serious, I made playbacks, and we did all kinds of special parodies with ridiculous words. We performed every week in gay clubs in Tel Aviv and Eilat. The idea was that each one of them would make another character for every different song. Drag shows. One day I came to Yaron and told him "Today you are Whitney Houston". Yaron got on stage and started to sing in English one of Houston's hits 'My name is not Susan'. Afterwards, there was a vocal bridge, and suddenly he started to sing in Arabic, and Susan became Sa'ida. The audience went crazy!"
The song 'My name is not Sa'ida' was first shown on stage at the Opera club 7 months ago. To bring it up to a professional level, an improved version of the creation was recorded at the Sigma studio. "We never thought about going to the radio," Cohen confesses, "but one day one of the broadcasters of the radio station Reshet Gimel approached us and asked for the song."
The Friday nights parties broadcast on that radio station adopted the song as their hit. Nisim boasts: "Sometimes before I went to work, I heard how the broadcaster would speak with the listeners live, and they would ask for Sa'ida again and again. Suddenly all the DJs were asking for that song from me."
Nisim: "Three weeks ago Yoram Vazana, a big record producer with the company IMP Dance offered to include that song in the compilation album 'Super mix 13'. Then the radio stations started to air only that song. Suddenly I heard my creation on every radio station. A huge hit was born. I think it can be a success even abroad."
- And until you experience success abroad, what do you do to earn a living?
Cohen: "I live with a partner who has a barber shop in his house, Dave Ya'akov, and I work with him as a hairdresser."
- When did you start to dress like this?
"Since the shows in Eilat. Since the beginning those were the characters. All the gimmick is that the boy is dressing and try to match himself to the feminine character that he embodies."
- Why female singers?
"That's the gimmick. It's much harder to appear like female singers than male singers. The male singers here are so boring. The female singers are much more interesting. All that matters is that the straight audience is excited."
- And what is the explanation for that?
"Gays are not excited because they have seen this in Europe and New York. It's very fashionable abroad. To the straights it's new. It's amusing them and they want to see it."
- Weren't you afraid that you wouldn't be accepted?
"I really don't care what people will think about me. The main thing is that I accept myself. I don't devote it even one minute of thought. You don't put on your table what other people are saying about you. You put on your table what you earn, and I don't despise any means. The work respects its owner. And if I earn money from the fact that I dress as a woman, it's good enough for me, and I don't care what people say."
- And in general life do you function as a man?
"Yes! I hate fame. I like being anonymous, that no-one recognizes me, that's why the Dana piece suits me not only financially, but also that people will know only Dana, and not the one who is behind her. If one day I will have to become famous, I give up everything. The change between how I look as a boy and the dresses and the make-up, it's heaven and earth."
- Except money, is there anything else that attracts you to be dressed as women?
"I don't have to give any explanation for it, and I don't feel like I'm in some kind of a confusion. I do what is good for me. I prefer to put a wig on my head , to put on make-up, and to perform as a girl to working 8 hours a day like every other person."
- That's the balancing?
"The only one."
- Do you enjoy dressing as a woman?
"No. It's even a burden. To put on make-up, to dress, to remove the make-up, and all the sweat from the wig."
- So you built a sexual image only to earn a living?
"Yes. I also don't think I'm broadcasting sexuality. I'm putting on a show, not sexuality."
- You are radiating strong femininity.
"May be because of the fa?de. That's the great thing. If a man gets on stage, people will see he is a man. They won't accept him."
- Did you make any physical changes except the make-up and the dresses?
"No. It looks as if I did, but I didn't do anything."
- How did you make your chest?
"With upholstery sponges."
- Don't you take hormones?
- And your voice?
"It's my natural voice. A gift from God. At school I remember that when I answered a question, the teacher always thought I was a girl. People always thought I was my sister on the telephone."
- You associate with the character of Sa'ida.
"Yes. May be it's something in the soul, may be it's just a common thing."
- How did you get to Sa'ida?
"When Ofer told me that Sa'ida was going to succeed I didn't believe him. Actually I was ashamed that people would connect me and Sa'ida. That's why I decided to call to myself Dana. I didn't believe in that song. I thought that people wouldn't accept it. It's a very different song, a very lively song. People in this country are used to monotonous songs."
- In your next songs, will you keep the same feminine character?
"If one repeats the same formula, there is no reason that I shouldn't succeed for a second time. Those who change their style don't succeed."
- When did you become a hairdresser?
"At a very early age. It's a talent. It's started with my aunts. I always liked to play with their hair."
- What are you planning to do in the future?
- Except money?
"Money - that's it. Money, and then to stop.
- To stop what?
"All those shows. You need so much strength."
- When did you begin with those shows?
"Three years ago. I want to earn as much as I can, then stop to relax, and to think what we will do next."
Copyright:Tel-Aviv Magazine- 14.08.1992.