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Des and Dawn – worthy doyens of SA showbiz

It’s a hat-trick for Des and Dawn Lindberg, doyens of the entertainment world in South Africa, with their celebration of 50 years in the showbiz industry, 50 years of marred life and youthful-looking Dawn’s 70th birthday.

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Lifestyle/Community

SUZANNE BELLING

PHOTOGRAPH: ZOOM PHOTOGRAPHY

“We are still the flower children of the sixties,” Dawn said during an interview in their Parktown North home following their bumper party in the form of a soiree hosted by friend Dorianne Weil (Dr D) on Saturday night. This was directly after the 11th annual Naledi Awards, of which Dawn is executive director and Des is a board member, “to honour excellence in South African theatre”.

“Theatre tells the story of our lives. Without it the soul of the nation will die,” is the opinion of this warm couple.

Dawn (née Silver) was born in Durban and Des in Johannesburg. She came from a family of seven children (“I was the middle one and had to work harder to be noticed as middle children do”) and Des was an only child. They met at the University of the Witwatersrand, where Dawn graduated with a degree in fine arts and Des began studying law.

“But I had difficulty in staying awake in class and my prof asked why I kept falling asleep,” said Des. “I told him it was because I sang at night – folk songs in a coffee place. He then told me he thought that was a good career choice, so that is what I did.”

Dawn continued her studies in fine arts at Urbino in Italy and in Salzburg. Their joint career made its debut at the Troubadour in Johannesburg in 1965. Des sang in “The Vagabond King” and then made his hit record “Die Gezoem van die Bye”, the first song in Afrikaans to top the Springbok Hit Parade.

The couple toured South Africa and the former Rhodesia in a caravan in a show entitled “Folk on Trek”. They lived in a four-storey home in Houghton, where they held Sunday soirees for 25 years. “Our performers included people like Johnny Clegg and Tessa Ziegler.”

“Then,” said Dawn, “we felt we wanted to do something towards getting rid of apartheid,” which they did with the production of Godspell. It played for five months in Maseru to predominantly South African weekend audiences. Godspell was termed blasphemous and a smokescreen for allowing mixed races to appear on stage together. It went to court. The Lindbergs won. The first multiracial cast performed live in this country!

The next time the Lindbergs landed up in court was with “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”, initially banned because of the sexual connotations in the title. They again won the case.

Speaking of censorship, Des got away with a mammoth victory over the SABC with his hit “The Seagull’s Name was Nelson”, which they didn’t realise was a reference to Nelson Mandela.

“On a work level our greatest accomplishments were the caravan, Godspell, The Seagull’s Name was Nelson and the Naledi Awards.

“Family wise is our marriage, our two sons Joshua and Adam and our granddaughters Zaria and Shia,” said Dawn.

Children have always meant a lot to the Lindbergs. “Our bestsellers were our children’s songs “Unicorns, Spiders and Dragons Tales” and “How Did I Begin?” (with Gill Katz), the latter teaching children from an early age about the birds and the bees.

“We are partners, and partners in show business, and also best friends,” said Dawn, while Des revealed that he has written a love song for his wife for the first time, which will be released at a later date.

With the interview coinciding with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Des recalled how he was called regularly to blow the shofar at the official Yom Hazikaron ceremonies in Johannesburg in former years. When he pointed out to the organising body, the SA Zionist Federation, that he was not Jewish, they made him an “honourary Jew”. 

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Lifestyle/Community

Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi

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More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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UJW Sewing School graduates model creations

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The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke

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The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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