Turkish soap star captures Arab world's hearts

In North America these days and nights, the London-born model and actor Robert Pattison, vampire star of the film “Twilight,” is all the rage. He is putting those romantic heroes who came before him –Newman, Redford, Clooney, Willis, Pitt – to shame, fighting off gangs of fans and fighting to stay alive.

But in Turkey, it is one Kivanc Tatlitug who has captured the hearts of females across the Arab world, and particularly in his native Istanbul and every place else in Turkey where they can get a TV signal. And Kivanc is not yet a movie star. He is a creation of the soap opera world. Still, he is the rage from Dubai to Saudi Arabia. The blonde blue-eyed Turk, whose name is pronounced Kee-Vanch Tat-loo-too, started out as a model. He is not married and plays a “good” guy on his show, “Noor.”

But still his performance has created a tsunami of scandal in Turkey. For years, Turkish women doted on soap operas made elsewhere in the Middle East. They didn’t mind watching them and going “Tch, tch!” at the loose morals. But when their own country produced one, everybody was “shocked, shocked” and Turkish women began complaining to their husbands that they weren’t as understanding, sympathetic and adorable as Kivanc. This has led to a few cases of separation and divorce and some mighty odd behavior by Turkish women.

The good news? Mr. Tatlitug affected tourism all across the Middle east last summer and especially in burgeoning Istanbul. The background of his soap opera, whatever its moral content, shows off the beauty of modern and ancient Istanbul. It runs once a week and everybody waits for it.

CLAIMS THAT Cher herself has been connected with plans to sell to TV, daughter Chastity’s sex change transformation into “Chaz”? They strike me as highly unlikely. Cher would surely not lend herself to such a reality endeavor though this week she certainly did the P.C. thing and expressed her support, saying she is respectful of Chaz’s decision. She is quoted by Reuters as saying, “The one thing that will never change is my abiding love for my child.” There have already been big explorations of selling this entire event (hormones to operation and aftermath) to the major networks. But how much of Cher herself could have been promised in the advent is questionable. And maybe that’s why it hasn’t sold to date.

IMAGINE MY surprise on a Delta plane flight when I opened up Sky magazine’s tribute to New York. Listed under “Cause Celeb” were 10 famous charities. My photo turned up with the addition that none other than David Rockefeller is a supporter of the New York Landmarks Conservancy to save the city’s monuments and famous buildings. This event happens Nov. 4 when we cite Tommy Tune, Bill Cunningham of the Times, Robert Morganthau, A. E. Hotchner and others as “Living Landmarks.” This is one of the “fun’ charity nights, full of life and not a torment. Join us and get on board at nylandmarks.org.

OUR PAL the great Helen Mirren is already performing in London in Jean Racine’s version of “Phedre” directed by Nicholas Hytner for the U.K.’s National Theater. In September, Dame Helen will come to Washington with this great event. But meantime, we can see it broadcast live on the pilot season of NT Live. It can be seen June 25 at the Director’s Guild Theater in NYC and Monmouth U. in New Jersey… July 9 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music … July 6 twice at the Film Society of Lincoln Center … July 11 at Fairfield U. in Connecticut … June 29 and July 13 at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C. Average ticket prices are about $20 for the chance to catch this gem. Just imagine Helen Mirren as a woman consumed by uncontrollable passion for her young stepson and believing her husband Theseus to be dead, acting on her feelings. The aftermath is not silence! The play is also being seen at the Mann Theater in Hollywood, the Steppenwolf in Chicago and the Guthrie in Minneapolis. Thanks to the U.K.’s National Theater for this incredible dramatic opportunity.

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