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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Tall Stories, Small People

Having released singles in Europe three years before, but not yet in his homeland, I remember in 2001 when Tarkan released his first ever single in Turkey, Kuzu Kuzu, and the newspapers were claiming it was a "failure".

The media groups had begun trying to outdo each other in their bid to be the one that could humiliate Tarkan the most and proudly declare it had predicted this "rude boy's downfall" since the beginning. This insidious race climaxed with a media company aiding and abetting a criminal offence by publishing private photographs of Tarkan, which had been stolen from his New York apartment during a move by a worker and who had tried to unsuccessfully blackmail* the pop singer.

The photographs showed Tarkan in public places in poses with other men Northern European countries wouldn't bat an eyelid at, yet they were labelled proof postive of Tarkan's homosexuality.

The cause of criminal theft and extortion, Tarkan's stolen photographs published in a Turkish newspaper."Tarkan's Shocking Photographs" run the headlines, as the cause of criminal theft and extortion, Tarkan's stolen photographs are published in a Turkish newspaper.

Tarkan talks to press: "The photos are mine. I've done nothing to be ashamed of. It's my life." (2001)
I also remember the conclusion. Tarkan came out on top. With great courage he refused to condemn a whole minority by coming out and saying that homosexuality was wrong as the media kept goading him to, but he confirmed that he was "straight" in interviews he gave to the papers and on TV, and that it was his private life - he "had no regrets" about those pictures or anything else in his personal life.

His fans rallied around him. His single consequently went on to become the highest ever selling single in Turkey and the song "Kuzu Kuzu" had top radio airplay in Turkey for two years, a feat no other Turkish song has managed so far.


Tarkan confirms he isn't gay in a rare 2001 TV interview.

Today, I sense a feeling of déjà vu. Four years on, newspapers are trying to sell the story that Tarkan's first English language single has been a failure, and while they try hard, someone else is again trying to kick Tarkan when they believe he is "down".

For it cannot be coincidence that the book "Megamasal" (Great Story) has hit the bookstores a few days after the media campaign against Tarkan's Bounce.

The author of the book is Alpay Aydın. He is credited as being Tarkan's first manager and the lyricist to some of the songs on Tarkan's "Yine Seniz" album, most notably 'Vazgeçemem' (I Can't Give Up), Tarkan's most popular song from his debut album**.

Megamasal or mega moan?

Aydın had met Tarkan when the singer had stayed in Istanbul to study in 1991, after his family had moved there the previous year from Karamürsel. He persuaded Tarkan to stay in the city after Tarkan failed his University entrance exams. It was Aydın who introduced Tarkan to the owner of Istanbul Plak, Mehmet Söğütoğlu, the company that was to produce Tarkan's first four albums.

However in 1994, halfway through the recording of Tarkan's second album, Aydın and the singer parted company. A while later Tarkan signed up with Ahmet San. In short, Aydın had been in a love with a man that could not love him. As this was impacting on their working relationship, Tarkan had believed it right that they should part ways. Sources in the Tarkan camp explain that Aydın had been angry at Tarkan for sacking him and employing San, and for spurning his advances.

Aydın, always open about his homosexuality, gave reports to newspapers implying that, quite the opposite, Tarkan and he had been in a homosexual relationship.

Tarkan's old manager tried to promote other new acts to compete with Tarkan, but he failed dismally with little known pop singer Emre Matraş, who famously flopped with his first and only album, although Aydın had some success with Turkish-born Armenian Rober Hatemo. When asked had he discovered Hatemo as a rival for Tarkan, Aydın is reported to said, "Had Rober green eyes, I would not have taken him on".

Now Aydın has written a confessional "kiss and tell" book about his life and homosexual escapades, more importantly with a singer whom has been given the nickname "Tarık", thinly used as a disguise to hide the unknown singer's identity and possibly to save Aydın from legal proceedings.

Alpay AydinThe book describes in detail the sexual intercourse shared between Aydın and the singer "Tarık", giving graphic examples that do not leave much to the imagination.

It is no big secret that in the Tarkan camp all his workers affectionately know the singer as "Tarık", and upon a reading of the book, even though the unknown singer could be one out of a series of stars, there is the feeling that Tarkan is mentioned in all but name. Even the title of the book seems to be a jibe at the singer, who is commonly known as the megastar in most Turkish news reports. Aydın has seemingly corrupted the well coined word to make another: "Megamasal".

Ironically, or maybe subconsciously, or maybe even on purpose, (who knows how Aydın's mind works), the choice of the word "masal" may say even more.

The Redhouse dictionary states that the word "masal" means fairy tale or yarn and in slang it is often used to describe "cock-and-bull" stories or figments of the imagination.

Masal okutmak/anlatmak means to feed someone a line or bullshit.

Magazine reports on Tarkan's bedroom secretsAydın himself, in newspaper interviews and on TV, once again the centre of attention thanks to Tarkan, has said that the book is filled with "dirty things" and that he shut off all mental censorship when he wrote the book. Turkish magazine Tempo even gave the story front cover publication under the heading "Tarkan's Bedroom Secrets".

It is obvious what everyone else will conclude from this "Megamasal", too.

Aydın's interviews have ominous undertones. When asked if the mysterious "Tarık" is in fact Tarkan, he replied "Go ask Tarkan that question," and explained that only one thing was certain, his book would "outsell Tarkan's latest musical offering". He also let slip that he hoped to make enough money from the proceeds of the book to finance his own company.

He couldn't satisfactorily explain why he chose to publish the book now, however.

Hell Hath No Fury

Aydın has always been someone who has been overlooked when it comes to an inspection of Tarkan's career. I had overlooked him when I wrote Tarkan's biography (and in older versions of the Tarkan documentary) that has now been used all across the Internet, and subsequently most non-Turkish fans will not have heard of him until now.

Having turned 41 this year, he is a man close to a mid-life crisis who has never been able to match the success and attention he gained with Tarkan...someone he once loved very much.

Hell hath no fury as a woman, or a man, scorned...it seems. I am reminded of another saying in English:

Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things and small people talk about other people.

Arguably, Alpay Aydın is a small man with a tall story. I know first-hand how people can lie about you when you reject their offers of something more than friendship, and then the friendship ends. Petty hatred is rejected love's closest ally.

And even though I am reminded of the events of 2001, this time it's not a common blackmailer trying to injure Tarkan, or at least not in the way it presented itself to the public four years ago. Then it had been extortion, blackmail for money from the proceeds of a theft.

This blackmail is emotional betrayal, at the very least, of friendship. To extort the product of friendship turned sour for your own benefit is not without a heavy price to yourself. If Aydın wanted to cut all ties with Tarkan once and for all, it seems he has managed that, but as for hurting the singer, even though the singer's ex-manager is adamant he feels no ill will towards anyone, it is certain that Aydın has only hurt himself.

As Tarkan maintains his signature silence, Tarkan's lawyer has explained that they will not be pursuing legal avenues, as such action would only give the book more weight. He also explained that before publication of the book, Aydın had made some "requests" of the singer, which had been ignored. "They sounded like masked threats," the singer's lawyer is reported to have said.

It is not important whether what has been written is true or not, or whether Tarkan is gay, bisexual or heterosexual. What is important is the way that this has been done. The singer's lawyer is right in that some types of breaches are not for the court, because the breaking of certain moral codes such as honesty and integrity cannot adequately be penalised by legal redress. Aydın's acts do not really deserve our recrimination, only our pity.

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* Homosexuality has frequently been the subject of blackmail, particularly in countries and during periods where homosexuality is or was illegal; however in Turkey homosexuality has never been criminalised, and it could only have been prosecuted under moral decency laws if the act was carried out in public, the case being the same for public acts of heterosexual copulation. The blackmailer was threatening Tarkan with the shame he thought it would cause the singer if he was "outed" in such a way, thus losing public support. Go back.

** Even though certain newspaper reports credit him as songwriter for 'Vazgeçemem' and Aydın himself in TV reports has claimed to have written the song, it is Tarkan who is credited as lyricist for the song on the 'Yine Sensiz' CD cover. Some less trustworthy sources have even suggested that there are rumours Tarkan's eyes were the inspiration for the lyrics. Go back.

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