Banker-turned-singer, reality TV celebrity, philanthropist and activist, Sir lvan, has led a life that movies and dreams are made of. Ten years ago, at the age of 45, lvan Wilzig, the eldest son of Siggi B.Wilzig, legendary Auschwitz survivor, financier and philanthropist; turned his back on his family's multi-billion dollar banking business to reinvent himself as Sir Ivan and follow his childhood dream of pursuing a career in music. Now at the age of 55, ten years after resigning from Trustcompany Bank's Board of Directors, he has joined the Top 10 on Billboard Magazine's Dance Club Songs Chart, alongside others such as: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez. Sir lvan's dream is coming true.
It all started in 2001, when Sir Ivan played a few demo tapes for an acquaintance named Dave Jurman, who was then Senior Executive Director of Dance Music at Columbia Records. Dave was so impressed with Sir lvan's voice, energy, and love of music, that he decided to help him by finding him a record producer. He introduced him to Ernie Lake, half of the two-time Grammy nominated producer team known as Soul Solution. Ernie was eager to help Sir Ivan get started in the music business, but wanted Sir Ivan to select the song. Sir Ivan chose to remake John Lennon's iconic song "lmagine," not as a rock ballad, but as a high-energy pop/dance record. Sir Ivan, was struck by the lyrics and how closely they mirrored his own beliefs of creating a world without violence and hatred. As the son of an Auschwitz survivor and someone who had 59 relatives murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, Sir Ivan was inspired to be the first singer in history to bring "lmagine's" important lyrics back to life, 30 years after the original -only this time in a completely new style, for an entirely different generation. The single, released on Tommy Boy Records on September 4, 2001, broke the Top 40 on the Billboard Club Play Chart, exactly one week before the horrendous September 1 1th tragedy.
How did you get into the non-profit industry?
My late father, Siggi B. Wilzig, was an Auschwitz survivor. 59 members of our family were murdered during the Holocaust. As a result of the trauma of human loss, life in the camps and death marches, he suffered from nightmares and severe headaches his entire life, which are both signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D). Therefore, instead of using my singing voice and songwriting ability to simply entertain, I decided to use those talents to raise awareness and money for the fight against P.T.S.D.
Tell us about The Peaceman Foundation.
The Foundation is a 501©(3) and donates to a large variety of other charities that relate to the mission statement, to help those suffering from P.T.S.D. as a result of buylling, hatred, violence or persecution.
What partnerships have you created with Peaceman and how has it helped your charity succeed?
The biggest recipients are The Trevor Project and Wounded Warrior Project. The Trevor Project provides a suicide prevention hotline to teen LGBT community members contemplating suicide. The Wounded Warrior Project also provides a suicide hotline to members of the armed forces contemplating suicide.
What is your proudest moment you've achieved while running Peaceman?
The proudest moment was joining Superheroes Anonymous, a group of young men and women who dress as real life superheroes and go out into the community and help people in need. When we fed the homeless, you could see the eyes of the recipients that what we were doing was deeply appreciated and made a difference.
How would you define a great philanthropist?
A great philanthropist is one who gives as much as possible each and every year.
Who inspires you to be the best?
Sir Bob Geldorf has inspired me the most. The global concert he produced, “Live Aid”, did more for hunger in Africa than anyone in history.
Describe a great night out for you.
The best night out for me is 7th row center orchestra seats for one of the great musicals on Broadway.
What literature is on your bed stand?
Hugh Hefner’s Life Story and John Lennon’s Life Story.
What's next for Peaceman and Ivan Wilzig?
The Peaceman Foundation is about to enter a new level. I wrote an anti-bullying song called “Kiss All The Bullies Goodbye”, produced by Paul Oakenfold and featuring pop star Taylor Dayne. With this song and video, I plan to change the world’s attitude toward bullying and raise great funds for anti-bullying charities.
To promote peace through his music, Sir Ivan always performs in a cape adorned with a large Swarovski Crystal peace sign on the back, which has earned him the title "PEACEMAN”, the rockstar superhero fighting for peace. ln 2007 , Stan Lee, the most famous superhero creator of all time, personally selected Sir Ivan to star as a finalist on the NBC Sci Fi Channel hit series "Who Wants to Be a Superhero"? This coincided with Sir Ivan's performance on VH1's highly-rated "The Fabulous Life of the Hamptons". Around the same time, the Travel Channel was running "Grand Castles of America" (featuring Sir lvan's medieval-style Castle) and the WE Channel was airing his love life on "Single in the City -The Hamptons". The combination of these four major cable channels simultaneously including Sir Ivan in their programming vastly increased his popularity in America -while in France and Germany, he became a household name due to his unforgettable antics on numerous European television shows that reached millions of viewers.
All of Sir Ivan's recording artist royalties from full-length album sales of "l AM PEACEMAN" will go to The Peaceman Foundation, a charity which he established specifically to battle hatred and violence -especially to protect those who are perceived as different -and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; a terrifying mental problem which often results from exposure to violence. Sir Ivan is passionate about these causes and about helping those who might feel like outsiders, because as the son of a Holocaust survivor he was brought up with a heightened awareness of the harm that being perceived as different can cause. One cause he is particularly passionate about is the need to stop bullying, as he has seen the devastating impact this has had, particularly among LGBT youth.
An original documentary titled Sir Ivan: "l AM PEACEMAN" has just been completed for television and a reality show is in development, based on Sir Ivan's eccentric lifestyle and passionate quest to change the world.