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Culture

Dieter Bohlen - Germany's Prince of Pop

Dieter Bohlen, one of the jury members on the German version of "Pop Idol" and former "Modern Talking" singer, is one of Germany's most successful pop stars. He has now even made it to the academic world.

He can sing too, you know... Pop Idol judge Dieter Bohlen

Germany may not be swarming with A-list celebrities but of the few it has, they couldn't come bigger, or more infamous than Dieter Bohlen.

A walking advert for why one shouldn't use sun beds, the bronzed record-producer and singer is one half of one of Germany's biggest pop sensations, "Modern Talking" and is currently playing out his role as 'Germany's Simon Cowell.'

Like Cowell in Britain before him - who is also a record producer and pop guru - 50 year-old Bohlen is the acid-tongued juror on the German version of British reality TV show, "Pop Idol": "Deutschland Sucht den Superstar" ("Germany searches for its Superstar".)

The Saturday night show which promises to take a hitherto undiscovered German who has to be able to sing and turn them into a "Pop Idol", is currently netting audiences of over 10 million for German commercial channel RTL and is keeping Bohlen firmly in the limelight.

"Modern Talking"

The son of a construction engineer, Bohlen was born in 1954 in Oldenburg in the northern German state of Lower Saxony. After a childhood spent listening to the Beatles and playing the guitar, he studied business management with the intention of taking over the family firm. But the call of the stage was louder: music was to be his career.

After a few false starts in the late 1970s and 1980s, Bohlen formed the pop band "Modern Talking" with Thomas Anders in 1985. The pop-duo's first single, "You're my Soul, You're my Heart" was the most played German single that year and sold over 8 million copies worldwide. It turned the pair into stars overnight.

Top-ten hits followed and "Modern Talking" became the band which defined German pop in the 1980's. But success was not limited to Germany. The duo was a hit all over the continent. Their first album "The 1st Album" and its follow-up "Let's Talk About Love" went platinum in Germany and silver in Denmark and Switzerland.

But artistic differences led to the end of the "Modern Talking" phenomenon in 1988. Anders wanted to concentrate on his marriage, Bohlen on his work. Indeed, he was a workaholic and already had a new music project in the pipeline. "Blue System" would see him produce a further 14 albums. "For a number one hit, I gave everything. I worked day and night, didn't take holidays and even went hungry," he said.

But like every pop God, Bohlen has always had an eye for the ladies. And his cheeky grin, piercing blue eyes and perma-tan has always ensured a steady flow of beautiful female companions.

Love rat?

Bohlen's current girlfriend is 23 year-old Estefania Küster(right), who he now wants to marry and start a family with. But Küster is by no means his first and only love. Bohlen married his first wife, Erika - who he met in a Gottingen disco - in 1983, and with whom he has three children. Although they divorced in 1994, he has always maintained he has the most luck with women he meets in German nightspots, as was the case with another former girlfriend Nadja Abdel Farrag. "It happens that when I get to the disco, a crowd of girls gather around me, we speak, and I really have fun", he declared once.

His second marriage to Verona Feldbush in 1996 was short-lived and high profile. Having known the presenter of German erotic entertainment show "Peep" for a mere two weeks, they married - and were divorced within a month. Verona later broke down uncontrollably on a German talk show, claiming that Bohlen had hit her during their relationship.

A down-side which may well have put many of Bohlen's female fans off the thought of a relationship with Germany's prince of pop: A recent survey of 18-45 year old German women published in German magazine Schöne Woche ("Nice week") revealed only seven percent of those asked would marry Bohlen, believing him to be "their dream man, who looks good and has lots of money." The vast majority - 76 percent - said they wouldn't want to experience marital bliss with Bohlen, while others believed he was an "arrogant snob" and a very wise five percent simply didn't want to go out with a man who had blond highlights.

Spawning a cottage industry for his former flames

But despite the highlights, Bohlen does have other saving graces: being one of Dieter's old flames has proved a guarantee to make the headlines in the German tabloid press and column inches in the German glossies.

Verona Feldbush's career sky-rocketed after her marriage to Bohlen ended, when she went on to front her own show, "Veronas Welt" ("Verona's World"). She remains a regular on the German talk-show circuit and prime copy for magazine journalists all over the country. Last year, the dark-haired beauty even launched her own jewelry collection. Küster hasn't had her own career yet, but she has claimed that she would like to sing one day too.

Bohlen's millions

But with Dieter Bohlen as her husband, she won't have to work if she doesn't want to: As well as the royalties flooding into his bank account from the 10-fold "Modern Talking" back catalogue, his memoirs "Nichts als die Wahrheit" ("Nothing but the Truth"), was published last year and went straight to number one in the German book charts.

Musikproduzent Dieter Bohlen begleitet einen Chor von Saengern der Sendung 'Deutschland sucht den Superstar' in der ZDF-Show 'Wetten, dass...?!' am Samstagabend, 25. Januar 2003, in Boeblingen. (AP Photo/Ralph Orlowski, pool)

He is doubtless also pocketing millions from the sales "We have a Dream", sung by the ten "Superstar" finalists. Bohlen's self-penned ditty is currently at number one in the German charts and looks like it won't be nudged off the top spot any time soon.

And such is the strength of the Dieter Bohlen phenomenon in Germany that he has even made it into academic circles. A German professor at a Brandenburg university recently used Bohlen's memoirs as the basis for an exam paper.

"If one understands the book 'Nothing but the Truth' as the soundtrack to the 'Modern Talking' phenomenon, could you give the author a clue as to why he hasn't managed to break the American market?" the exam paper asked.

The safe bet is that it has something to do with the tan, but it might be wise to consider the following: with Bohlen having penned several hits for the Eurovision Song contest over the years, the real answer might be even closer to home.

DW.DE

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