Tina Turner is the Chairwoman of my “Kitchen Cabinet” of virtual advisors and mentors. She is a life raft without equal.
We share a birthday. She is nine years my senior. We both grew up in the St. Louis area. We also share a history of domestic abuse at the hands of very powerful Scorpio men able to negatively impact the trajectory of our careers.The greatest lesson I learned from Tina is that our most basic survival need is to be reminded of our essential worth: the talents God bestowed on us. My own greatest joy ~ what I most love to do ~ is to help people to make their essential spiritual connection ~ to find their own yellow brick road to Oz that has resided within them all along. As the unwanted child of a failing marriage, she had no foundation of parental nurturing and support. She was compelled to learn survival skills early: strength, independence, and self-sufficiency. In her candid autobiography I, Tina, she introspectively described the universal experience of abuse and explained how it forged her phenomenal resolve, self-discipline, and strength of character:
I had no love from my mother or my father from the beginning, from birth. But I survived. To tell the truth, I haven’t received a real love almost ever in my life, believe it or not. People look at me now and think what a hot life I must’ve lived ~ ha! I never found a real, lasting love. But I have survived. Alienation, rejection ~ I didn’t know those words existed when I was a child. I just knew that I couldn’t communicate with my mother, and that my father didn’t seem to want me around. I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but now I have some idea. [emphasis added]
“Ike who?” might be your reaction if you were born after 1975 unless you are into music trivia. Yet, there was a time when the late Ike Turner was a dominant player in the music industry. Ike couldn’t handle rejection. He was terrified of anything he couldn’t understand or control. Ike Turner is the quintessential Pit Bull: a serial abuser and womanizer.
Ike discovered Tina in a St. Louis nightclub, and she believed he would make her dreams of becoming a star come true. Ike saw Tina as his ticket out of St. Louis. Ike’s musical instincts coupled with Tina’s star power were magical. The Ike and Tina Turner Revue quickly became a money machine, but Ike didn’t share the wealth. He terrorized everyone in the group with fear and financial control. Many of the women on Ike’s payroll felt like prisoners because he paid them a pittance and expected them to deliver sexual perks and endure physical abuse.
Ike was married multiple times before he secured his future by marrying Tina. For 16 years, Ike tortured Tina in every possible way: physically, sexually, mentally, economically, emotionally, and spiritually. He would brutalize her, have sex with her, and send her on stage “thryin’ to thing through these cut and swollen lips.” Because he paid her nothing, she was forced to steal bills from his wad of cash to have spending money.
Why didn’t she leave?
Tina did leave. Ike tracked her down and intimidated anyone who dared help her attempt to escape. Because their personal and professional lives were intertwined, Tina’s only other viable career option was as a practical nurse at Barnes Hospital’s maternity ward. The job wouldn’t pay her enough to rear her children who were her top priority. Her choice was prudent because Ike had a long history of terrorizing and black-balling anyone who dared leave him. For example, when business manager Rhonda Graam left, Ike repossessed her house.
Tina’s life hit bottom the night she went on stage with blood gushing in her broken jaw. She attempted suicide in a futile attempt to escape Ike’s abuse.
Tina survived, and Ike started to self-destruct. Tina’s enormous talent and self-discipline sent her star soaring. She was immensely popular in Europe. One key at a time, Tina cautiously, prudently, and patiently collected the keys to her freedom. She was fiercely loyal and bonded with the women on Ike’s payroll. She forged important relationships with people like Ann Margaret, the Rolling Stones, and Sammy Davis, Jr., who respected her talent and were concerned for her welfare. The press started taking notice.
Tina learned Buddhist chants from Valerie Bishop. It allowed her to focus as she became stronger. Tina felt powerful when she tapped into the “little piece of God” inside of herself and believed it could set her free. Although she was surrounded by the dark evil of abuse, her profound faith helped her survive until the predictions of a psychic morphed from mantra to reality: “You will be among the biggest of stars. . .and your partner will fall away like a leaf from a tree.”
The tables gradually turned. Tina was no longer afraid of Ike. Her children were grown. She was gaining self-confidence and was determined to be free. Ike couldn’t comprehend the value in treating Tina as an equal partner and was terrified of her calm strength and resolve. Tina realized that others like Maria Booker were no longer intimidated by Ike when Maria offered Tina a brief respite from Ike at her home in Malibu.
Tina Breaks Free and Hides Out
During the July 4, 1976 weekend, as the nation celebrated the Bicentennial, Ike beat Tina for the last time. She declared her independence from Ike keeping her plans to achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness a secret. With the stealth of an underworld spy, she fled to the Ramada Inn in Dallas, Texas, with her infamous 36 cents, a Mobil credit card, and a small case of toiletries. Ike’s attorney Nate Tabor helped her get back to Los Angeles and sheltered her for a week.
Maria Booker and her sister Anna Maria Shorter helped Tina hide out on Lookout Mountain. For the next couple of months, she hid out with a series of friends and chanted four hours a day. She did housekeeping and cleaning to repay their generosity. She used this time to regroup:
What was it like when I walked out and left Ike? Yeah ~ I was afraid. But sometimes you’ve got to let everything go ~ purge yourself. I did that. I had nothing, but I had my freedom. My message here is: If you are unhappy with anything ~ whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.
Ike Strikes Back
Tina was done with Ike, but he wasn’t done with her. He hired a private eye to track her down in Laurel Canyon. As she struggled to launch her solo career, Ike tried to derail her with escalating violence, threats, and financial control. Ike blackballed her. She was reduced to living on food stamps. She owed the producers for the tour that got cancelled when she left Ike as well as $100,000 to the IRS. After joining forces with Tina, Rhonda Graam’s house was set on fire twice and the windows on her car were blown out by a shotgun. The police told Tina’s attorney Arthur Leeds that Ike had hired a hit man. After a SWAT team came to Tina’s house, she bought a gun and hired bodyguards.
Tina’s Protection Circle
Tina made the difficult choice to walk away from her marriage with nothing but her name and her freedom so that she could focus her energies on launching her solo career. With help from loyal supporters and friends, Tina rescued herself with grit and stoic determination. Mike Stewart, Ike’s agent at United Artists, lent her $200,000. EMI gave her an advance on royalties. Rhonda Graam and new agent Roger Davies arranged bookings.
It wasn’t easy for Tina. She accepted the harsh reality of her situation with grace. She knew she would have to work hard to earn her success. She transitioned from merely surviving to thriving because she had faith in herself and her talents. She set clear priorities, was tenacious, and did whatever she had to do to get the cash rolling in so that she could pay off her staggering debt. She dug deep inside herself and emerged with a positive attitude, “I don’t have this yet, but I’m going to get it.”
It took her eight years of disciplined, hard work and sacrifice.
By 1984, Tina Turner was the toast of three continents. She paid off her debts and credits Roger Davies for helping “make my dreams come true.” She found the love she had been seeking all her life with Erwin Bach, an EMI executive 16 years her junior. They share a home in Zurich, Switzerland as well as an exquisite estate near Nice, France with an infinity pool overlooking the Mediterranean.
She has been proclaimed the Queen of Rock and Roll and has received an abundance of accolades for her achievements. Along with a long list of international chart-topping hits (over 180 million albums), she holds the record for solo performance concert sales including breaking the Guinness Book record for most largest paying audience.
Tina didn’t merely survive. She triumphed.