Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Turkish Liberace

Ah, the joys of curating the "Museum of Camp"! Let us open our doors to the salivating public with this fantabulosa discovery...

Who would have thought that in a macho, largely Muslim country such as Turkey there would ever be such a flamboyant megastar as Zeki Müren?

Mr Müren, a classically trained singer and musician in the traditional Turkish style, developed a huge fan base over his 45 year career in entertainment from the mid 1950s as a movie heart-throb, balladeer and poet. Affectionately known as "Pasha", he defied the conventional image of his Anatolian heritage by becoming the Near East equivalent of Liberace!

Looking for all the world like a cross between Dorothy Squires and Montserrat Caballe, he sparkled on stage in his sequinned jackets, huge gemstone rings, heavy make up, coiffeured hair and exaggerated mannerisms. In doing so Zeki Müren cultivated a fanatical following of ladies d'un certain age, often performing to female-only gatherings and lunch clubs.

In his own way he was a pioneer. For in embracing such a distinctive character as he, Turkish society learnt to become more accepting about homosexuality - despite this being the only Muslim country in the world where it is not illegal to be gay, there is a continual struggle between secular and fundamentalist attitudes. Without him, many younger flamboyant artists would never have got a foothold. Today, drag artists such as Bulent Ersoy and Huysuz Virgin ("Naughty Virgin") enjoy massive success - the latter even has a prime-time Turkish TV spectacular!

Zeki Müren's health declined in his latter years, as his weight ballooned (in proportion with his hairdo, perhaps?). He died, much as he had lived, while on stage. Apparently in 1996 the government decided to recognise his contribution to Turkish culture, music and the arts live on TV. They presented him with his original microphone from the outset of his career, appropriately mounted with a plaque. It was so heavy that when Mr Müren tried to lift it he dropped dead of a heart attack on the spot! A suitably dramatic end for a dramatic character - live on TV, in front of millions.

Let us celebrate the talents of this remarkable man...

Son Bir Defa:

Ne mektup geliyor ne haber senden:

Seneler ne Olur:

And finally, his rather good version of Jaques Brel's classic, Beni Terketme (Ne Me Quitte Pas):

Zeki Müren official website - although in Turkish, there are loads of pics and videos.

A fascinating insight into Turkish gay life

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