TEL AVIV (Jun. 16)
British pop star Elton John, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday, left the country two hours later when airport officials snubbed him and fans started a near riot in his hotel.
But Israeli tenacity then paid off.
After receiving hundreds of phone calls, telegrams and fax messages, John, who escaped to London to get some rest, announced that he would return to Israel to perform Thursday night.
The concert at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park was originally scheduled for Wednesday.
The British ambassador and Israeli officials also joined admirers in coaxing John back to Israel.
But some fans were disappointed that John became exasperated with them so easily. One radio disc jockey promised he would never play the musician’s songs again.
The episode began when the 45-year-old singer, said to be one of the richest men in Britain, arrived in Israel aboard his private executive jet. Tired out after a 30-hour trip from Singapore, he was accompanied by an entourage of bodyguards, aides and backup performers.
John wanted immigration officials to come to his jet, but the most the Israeli officials would do was let him wait in the airport’s VIP lounge — for 40 minutes — while his aides took care of the formalities.
As John’s patience wore thin, airport officials checked the group’s passports and customs inspectors looked over the tons of equipment he brought with him aboard the plane and had shipped in separately.
As John left the lounge to board a waiting limousine, the first scuffles broke out, with his bodyguards fending off fans and press photographers.
FANS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS INJURED
When he arrived at Tel Aviv’s Hilton Hotel, he was again mobbed by fans and photographers. But this time, the clashes grew violent, with four photographers and two fans getting injured. One fan was taken to the hospital.
John managed to push his way through the lobby to the elevators, climbing over chairs and sofas.
When he got to the elevators, however, he turned around and headed for the door again, calling out that he wanted his plane readied for immediate departure.
He left Israel shortly afterward, despite pleas from concert promoters and one government official.
His only scheduled concert, at Hayarkon Park on Wednesday, was called off, creating a problem of nearly $1 million in ticket money.
Four ticket holders had already appealed to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for $20,000 in compensation for their wasted tickets and for the “mental anguish” they had suffered.
But John’s local impresario, Australian-born Ze’ev Isaac, said Wednesday the star had decided to return and the tickets were made valid for the Thursday show.
Isaac was accused by the media for failing to make the necessary arrangements ahead of time with the police, airport officials and the Hilton Hotel.