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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Book: "Call Me Ted" by Ted Turner

It was one of those books I was ambivalent about ending since parts of it became laborious (sailing, baseball, sailing, baseball, movie business) and yet it means “our” relationship ended, and “poof!”, he was gone. I enjoyed it while it lasted. I felt like we were friends while reading it.

I like Ted Turner a lot: his looks, power, persona, money, charisma, his goals, sunny attitude. He seems to have a good personality, too. And he’s funny! A woman-slayer. What’s there not to like?

About 18 months ago I saw and heard him interviewed by (if memory is correct)Bernard Shaw of CNN at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum (fitting venue!) where Ted received an award. He sat on stage and peered out at the audience of about 200 as if to say, really: Why are you all here?

I do want to see him get back with Jane. I always thought she left him for his philandering ways (his father told him that's what men did), but the book suggests it was spiritual division which separated the two more than anything else. They remain good friends. Ted and Jane, and Jane and Ted. How much time is left? Please get back together.

His father was emotionally and physically abusive. Ted was put in boarding school at age four. That’s four, not 14. It is difficult to consider placing a four-year-old in boarding school. His father drove him to seek ceaseless activity, but one of the most important points a reader remembers is advice his father gave: Do not set your expectations and your goals too low, for if you achieve them all, what is left?

When Ted was 24, his father committed suicide.

Four years prior, Ted’s sister, Mary Jean, died at age 17 of lupus erythematosus. No parent can ever completely recover from such a tragedy, and Ted bore his parents’ anguish as they dealt with the long-term illness of their only daughter.

He attended private schools and completed three years at Brown University until his dad would not pay for any more because of displeasure with his son. It is sad to read and reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe’s foster father who refused to fund the entirety of Poe’s college because of disagreements.

Ted is propelled by “demons” (according to Jane and others) and keeps constantly busy to avoid facing ghosts headon. He has mastered more arenas than 99.99% of anyone else! Sailing, professional team ownership (Atlanta Braves), outdoor advertising, television networks, the movie industry, philanthropy ($1B to the United Nations), population control, now restaurants.

The book carries humorous and revealing anecdotes by the major players in his life (including Jane and his children) and a description by one whom Ted doesn't like much (Jerry Levin) who screwed him on the AOL Time Warner deal.

Omitted from the book are many of Turner’s controversial statements and actions listed at Wikipedia.

Who has more versatility? Energy? I don’t know. What are you doing now, Ted?

The book was written with the assistance of Bill Burke in style, level, and format for a USAToday reader. It's a light read. Still, enjoyable for the most part, informative, enlightening, honest, and I plan to give the paperback version to my sons at Christmas.

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