Walk into what, from the outside, looks to be another well-paid, well-kept home in suburban Inglewood, California, and you’re hit: a huge, imperial oil painting of Ike and Tina Turner, dressed as if for a simple, private wedding, circa 1960, modest pompadour and formal mink. A thriller? The killer, honey…
Also in the foyer, under the portrait, a small white bust of John F. Kennedy. Next to him, the Bible, opened to Isaiah 42 – A New Song to the Lord. The smell is eucalyptus leaves and wet rocks; the sound is water, bubbling in one of several fish tanks and, over in the family room, splashing, programmed, is a waterfall.
Two trim young housekeepers stir around the kitchen; dinner is cooking at 4p.m. Ike is asleep upstairs, and Tina is out with a son at football practice. But you cannot just plop down somewhere, adjust yourself, and be comfortable. Next to the waterfall there’s a red velvet sofa, designed around a coffee table in the shape of a bass guitar. Or, in the blue room, the blue couch, whose back turns into an arm that turns into a tentacle. Above that, on the ceiling, is a large mirror in the shape of a jig-saw puzzle piece, and against one wall is a Zenith color TV, encased in an imitation ivory, whale-shaped cabinet.
(Tina, later, will say: “Ike did the house. It was Ike’s idea to have the TV in the whale shape. I thought, ‘Oh wow!’ I felt it was gonna look like the typical entertainer’s house, with the stuff not looking professional. But everything turned out great. I’m very proud of it.”)
It is very personal, but there are all these mail order touches. The neo-wood vertical frame with four bubbles to hold color pictures of the Turners’ four sons. The JFK bust. On the wall, over a mantel, a large metallic Zodiac sunburst, with no clock in the middle. Also, a Zodiac ash tray atop the guitar-shaped table. (Ike showed his refurnishing job off to Bob Krasnow of Blue Thumb Records one day last year, and Krasnow remarked: “You mean you actually can spend $70,000 at Woolworth’s?”)
Atop a white upright piano complete with gooseneck mike, there’s the gold record – not “A Fool in Love,” or “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” or “I Idolize You,” but, rather, “Come Together,” the single on Liberty, their seventh or eighth label in ten years. And next to that, some trophies—a couple that the kids have earned, and a couple that Tina has earned. To the sweetest wife and mother, Tina Turnaer. Love’s Yea. Ike Turner and Your Four Sons. Another, larger one, Olympiad, with a small gold-plated angel holding a torch above her, hara-kiri:To Tina Turner. The World’s Greatest Heartbreaker 1966. Love Ike Turner.
Tina’s not back – half an hour late – and now I’m down to the sunlit bookshelf in the corner. A neat junior edition of encyclopedias. A couple of novels – Crichton’s Andromeda Strain; Cheever’s Bullet Park. But the main line appears to be how-to’s, from Kahlil Gibran and astrology to a series of sharkskin suit-pocket hardbounds: How to Make a Killing in Real Estate, How to Legally Avoid Paying Taxes, and How to Scheme Your Way to Fortune. Atop the pile, a one-volume senior encyclopedia: The Sex Book.
Someone once called Tina “The female Mick Jagger.” In fact, to be more accurate, one should call Mick “The male Tina Turner.” After all, in 1960, Ike and Tina and the first of God knows how many Ikettes began doing their revue, and, as Tina tells it, “Ike used to move on stage. He was bow-legged and bow-hipped and when he moved from side to side, he had an effect he used to do with the guitar, and I used to do that, ’cause I idolized him so. Before I fell in love with him I’d loved him. We were very close friends. I thought there was nobody like Ike, so I wanted to be like Ike. I wore tight dresses and high heels, and I still moved, and that’s where the side-step came from.”
Philip Agee, who was 17 when he first saw them in 1960 in St. Louis, became such a fan that he has put out a book on them – for a seminar course in printing at Yale. Tina Pie is a collection of the colorations of Ike and Tina’s romance and career, tawny browns and flashy reds and moanful yellows and hurtful blues. Silkscreening the act through the dark years and into the fast ones, with even remembrances from Tina’s mother, or various of Phil Agee’s friends and fellow-worshippers.
“Tina came out and up on the stage. Nobody screamed or fainted. We were just real glad to see her. She always wore sparkling dresses and very high-heeled shoes with no backs and holes in the toes. Sometimes she was pregnant, singing with her stomach stuck out, stomping her high-heeled shoes with stiff legs. They would sing special songs when you asked them. Everybody liked ‘A Fool in Love.’ ‘Staggerlee’ was my favorite. When Ike started slow, ‘When the night was clear and the moon was yellow, and the leaves came tumbling down…’ by the time ba-da, ba-da, ba-doo ended, everybody was out on the floor. During their breaks the jukebox played again. Tina disappeared and the men sat at card tables near the stage drinking with their blonde girlfriends. When the men started playing again, Tina appeared for the second show. By 11 it was over. Pat’s dad picked us up and drove me home. We went every Tuesday while they were in St. Louis. “Tina Turner’s part Cherokee and so’s my Mom, so so am I.”
By 1966, there was more practiced flash. You learn what works. The Ikettes came storming out of the wings in a train formation, in mini-skirted sequins, haughty foxes thrusting their butts at you and then waving you off with a toss of their long whippy hair. Tina came out, eyes flashing until she became a fire on the stage. And across Broadway, there’s your Motown act, the Marvellettes in their matching long evening gowns or the Tops in pink velvet, doing soul-hula, singing through choreographed smiles. Tina spits sex out to you. And Mick Jagger:
Before that breakthrough tour with the Rolling Stones in 1969, Ike and Tina had worked with them in England in 1966. “Mick was a friend of Phil Spector,” says Tina. “And the time we cut ‘River Deep Mountain High,’ Mick was around. [This is at Gold Star, Phil’s favorite studio in Los Angeles] I remembered him but I never talked to him. He’s not the type to make you feel you could just come up and talk to him. Mick, I guess, thought the record was great, and he caught our act a couple of times. Mick wasn’t dancing at the time…he always said he liked to see girls dance. So he was excited about our show, and he thought it’d be different for the people in England.