Jan Heinemans schreef in 1997 in WINGS (inflightmagazine van Transavia Airlines
Herman en Babette van Veen
Performing across frontiers
Herman's daughter Babette has been following in her father's footsteps
with equal success for several years. In the Netherlands, people know
her from the well-known television soap opera "Good Times, Bad Time".
As multi-talented as her father, Babette writes, composes and sings
songs that easily climb into the top ten on the Dutch pop charts.
she is an exceptional stage actress. Her performances enjoy success
throughout the country. Perhaps some day she will do as well as her
father beyond Dutch borders. lfl addition to the challenge of cabaret
theatre and musi4 there is also the call of the silver screen.
This year father and daughter will appear together in a film titled
'The Night Butterfly', a romantic medieval adventure. The story will
feature Babette in the lead, with father Herman in a more modest role
in the background.
After 32 years Herman van Veen is quickly approaching his 4,000th
performance. in contrast, the series 'Good Times, Bad Times' has
run for a mere 1,200 episodes. Babette has appeared in 800 of them.
But the average audience for the series is some 1.3 million per
episode. 'I'd have to perform forten years to reach that many
people', says Herman. His largest audience was a hall packed with
20,000 people. But he also has performed for as few as 50 and
sometimes even 35.
When performing abroad, Herman always begins the show in Dutch.
'I explain in Dutch that the language 1 will be speaking and
singing that evening is not my mother tongue.' He always opens
the show holding an inverted umbrella. 'It lets the audience
know that 1 come from a county with brutally strong winds.
A land whose people are as unpredictable as the wind', he
adds with a wry grin.
Referring to the challenge he faces in other countries,
'I speak very good French, German and English, but Dutch
is the only language 1 really master. In Germany I am a
different man on stage because of my limits with the language.
The same goes for France and England. But this can work for
you in that it forces you to keep things simple. But you have
to stay alert to the word associations in a particular language.
For instance, in Switzerland the word brown is associated with
chocolate. Sing a song featuring the word brown in Bavaria and
people wince - for
them it calls fascism to mind. In Belgium, mention the word
brown and people raise their hands with five outstretched fingers.
'Five beers, please.
Thinking back over his long career, Van Veen mused, 'In the United
States I received probably the best review one could have from Frank
Rich of the New York Times, one of the world's best critics. A
wonderfully glowing, long review. What he said really boiled down
to the single fact that he found me to be a 'world-class yokel'.
It was a marvellous and, to a certain degree, very touching
compliment. Once, in Philadelphia, during a silence in the show,
an old man suddenly blurted out 'Bless that man'. And everybody in
the crowd immediately endorsed the sentiment with a rousing, warm
'Yeeeeah'. It felt good.'
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