First date for JC September 2019 by Jenni Frazer
It must be admitted that as first date conversations go, announcing that you are a Holocaust survivor could be a bit of a dampener.
But in Channel 4’s rather charming “First Dates Hotel”, which is on TV tonight — Thursday September 19 — this revelation by 83-year-old Dorit is faced manfully by her companion for the evening, John. He is a mere 82, hasn’t been on a date for 48 years, but seems keen to be Dorit’s “toy-boy”.
In the programme John and Dorit’s story is skilfully interwoven with romances of rather younger couples — but viewers will definitely want to know how the elder statespeople relationship plays out. Widower John can’t wait to phone home and tell his family about the amazing woman he has met. Dorit, on the other hand, did not inform her family that she was even taking part in the programme and declared this week: “Let them be surprised!”
First Dates Hotel is a reality TV programme in which couples are provided with potential partners and their early “getting-to-know-you” relationships are filmed. Dinner is served in a luxury Italian hotel and during the daytime, participants lounge around a glorious swimming pool eyeing up the talent.
Dorit herself was thoroughly surprised by this unexpected adventure. But it was her Holocaust survival past which led indirectly to her taking part in the programme.
Her book, From Yellow Star to Pop Star, traces her life from terrified Jewish refugee in Hungary, to a brief sojourn in Israel, and then on to Turkey and Germany, where she developed a great singing career. Today she lives in Eastbourne and speaks frequently about human rights and her childhood to local schools. (She also speaks for Yad Vashem).
“For one school, St Paul’s in Burgess Hill, I became the honorary grandmother. And my husband, Frank, used to come with me when I spoke to the pupils. But when Frank died, the headmaster, Rob Carter, said ‘you are not meant to be a widow, you are too vivacious, too lively”. One day she received a phone call from a member of the First Dates Hotel production team, congratulating her on her successful application.
“I knew the programme, I would watch it and say, oh, he’s a hunk, if she doesn’t want him, I’ll have him”, she laughed. But she hadn’t applied for the programme. In fact Rob Carter had applied on her behalf: and, faced with the opportunity, Dorit seized it with both hands. “What have I got to lose?” she said.
John, she says, is a real gentleman and since filming finished — in March — they have been in regular phone contact and have been out for dinner. John, too, has written a book about life in Coventry during the Blitz, and Dorit has given him authorial tips as to how to promote his work.
“Look”, she says briskly, “neither of us can replace our former partners. But it’s very important to have a person who will understand you, and John is a very nice person, he’s interesting, he listens. I didn’t want someone who would be on my shoulder 24 hours a day, I wanted a kindred spirit”.
She can’t speak highly enough of the programme-makers for their warmth and kindness. And, cheekily, she recommends “First Dates Hotel”. “Try it! You’ll have fun!”
First Dates Hotels airs tonight, Thursday September 19, on Channel 4 at 9pm.