Germany, golf, Blair
History used to be a pile of boring old stuff. Now it’s the new gardening. The most lavish, fascinating shows on TV are voyages through history — whether it’s David Dimbleby exploring the ancient grandeur of Britain or Francesco da Mosto evoking the past glories of Venice, the whole country is glued to the screen.
Now I’m taking the show to Germany — just as, in 1972, I left Israel for Germany on the first stage of my international career. Shipi and I even found ourselves staying at the scene of my first gig, at the Englische Garten.
It was weird to look up at the stage… I could almost see my own ghost giving a performance.
The Successor will hit German screens in January, on ProSieben TV, the equivalent of ITV. The next few months are going to be a blur of activity as we select the contestants — I’m looking for people with fabulous charisma and astounding acts, the kind of performers who make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
The Successor isn’t about testing people for genuine psychic powers. I don’t want mediums who pass messages on from the departed — I want people who can blow my mind.
My ultimate goal is to stage The Successor right around the globe, and to bring together all the winners for an international final. I’d also love to unite them in Las Vegas for an unforgettable show.
This is a colossal ambition. Each series takes six months to set up and screen. I know I’m setting myself a gruelling target, but I feel as energetic as I did when we first arrived in Munich, all those years ago. In my mind, I’m still a 20-something with everything to prove.
One thing’s sure: Germany is a much bigger country than Israel, both in terms of TV audiences and international impact. We’ve got an incredible high standard to live up to — The Successor broke all viewing records in its first season. If we can achieve similar success, the sky’s the limit.
I have an excellent memory for faces — I meet so many people that it would be embarrassing if I couldn’t remember them. But I was sure I’d never seen this guy in my life.
Shipi grinned. He’d scored a point, and he knew it. “Bernhard Langer,” he said.
We don’t watch much golf on TV, which explains why I couldn’t place the face. But I knew Bernhard’s reputation, of course — former world Number One, the veteran of ten Ryder Cups and the captain of the victorious European team three years ago.
He was in Munich for the BMW International Open golf tournament, with Ernie Els, Colin Montgomery and a host of others.
What I didn’t realise is that he’s also a deeply spiritual man and a passionate believer in the power of the mind. We enjoyed a fascinating chat, but he was alarmed when he saw what I could do to the cutlery.
“Stay away from my golf bag!” he said.
Perhaps the weirdest synchronicity was my shoes — I’d picked a pair of red Mizuno trainers from my wardrobe when I was throwing clothes into my suitcase. Mizuno are probably the biggest sponsors of golf tournaments in the world.
To say I’ve been waiting a while to wear these shoes is an understatement. They were a gift from Mr Mizuno himself, in Tokyo in 1975 — and I’ve never put them on before.
And unlike Mr Blair, or anyone else in the Cabinet, I have fought in a war, 40 years ago. So I do know what I’m talking about.
One thing I’m sure of: politics is going to be poorer for the absence of Cherie Blair. I’ve met her more than once, most recently at a charity brunch with the Israeli ambassador, Zvi Heifetz, and his wife, Sigalia. She looked striking in a powder blue jacket: “You’re wearing the colours of my country’s flag,” I told her, and she burst out laughing.
“You’re the only one who has noticed,” she said. “You picked it up!”
My guest that afternoon was the brilliant young jeweller Sapna Sharma, and we chatted about Mrs Blair’s elegant, very understated necklace. I was impressed by her relaxed good humour, and asked how she coped with the constant criticism and negativity she attracts from the tabloids.
“I have to be strong,” she said with a little shrug. I wish her happy times with her family in the months ahead — and I’m sure young Leo is going to relish all the extra time with mum and dad during this summer’s holidays.
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