Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ike Turner's Eyes and Other Ike Turner Reflections

Gene is back! In this post he wrestles with the loss of Ike Turner and Ike's impact on his life.


I was 12, when Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne starred in “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” At that time, I knew very little about Tina Turner outside of the song with the same title and can’t remember if I actually saw the film in a theatre, but I do remember being interested in the tale shortly after hearing about it.

My early childhood was pretty much spent listening to gospel and soul music from the 60s and 70s – which probably explains my not so mild interest in 80s music now (and to a lesser extent 90s music). And biographies and memoirs – especially of black people and entertainers – have always interested me more than any other type of book, so this movie was pretty much right up my alley.

So I saw the film. Loved it. Saw it a few more times. Unconsciously became a big fan of Angela Bassett. Read the book that the movie was based on. And became a bit terrified.

Between being somewhat fascinated by him and his story, I developed a bit of fear of Ike Turner.

The summer the movie came out was my first summer staying at home alone. I was too old for camp and not old enough for a job … officially. (Of course, I later discovered that there are camps for all people regardless of their age and that I could have worked somewhere, just not legally.)

Anyway, I don’t recall my parents giving me many “rules” about staying home alone beyond making sure the lights were off in rooms when I wasn’t in them. The placement of windows in our house meant that most of the house would be dark even during the day. I’m not scared of the dark. I never have been. But for some reason, every time I’d try to go up the stairs to the second floor – which was pitch black – I always saw Ike Turner's eyes illuminating through the darkness at the top of the steps. Not Laurence Fishburne’s eyes. IKE’S eyes. They were piercing. And druggish. Remember Scar’s eyes in "The Lion King" shortly after he killed Mufasa? Mix those eyes with Dave Chappelle’s eyes when he dresses up as Prince. Yes, THOSE eyes.

And Ike was tall when I saw him standing behind the banister. Like 5’ 11” tall, which was tall to me back then before I went to college and met 6 foot 5 18-years-olds.

I seriously tried not to be scared. Even then the thought of it was comical. Plus I KNEW Ike Turner wasn’t on the second floor. I wasn’t crazy. But I was very cautious. I seriously kept seeing dude’s eyes. Weirder things have happened, right? RIGHT?

I don’t know what I was scared of. Did I think Ike would beat me? I mean the pictures in Tina’s autobiography showed that Ike was real skinny, so I knew I could take him out if I had to, but then again, I’d never been in a fight … and uh, clearly Ike had, so I wasn’t so sure.

I don’t remember when my Ikenophobia passed, but it did. But my interest in Ike and Tina’s story didn’t. It faded, but I usually watched the film anytime I got a chance.

Fast forward more than ten years.

Either in 2004 and 2005, I was flying from Kansas City to Raleigh through Cincinnati and who had the nerve to be in the food court at the airport?! Ike freakin Turner!!! No lie. I wish I had the words to describe everything I was feeling, but I don’t. Disbelief would be the best word.

Disbelief on soooo many levels.

Ike was short. I mean like 5’ 5” short. And that man had a high top fade. A high top fade in 2004 or 2005. The chick he was with had on a wig that was easily bigger than Tina’s early 80s joint. I was like, are these people serious? Yeah, they were. Ike looked like he was totally unaware that people were gawking. Everybody else around me was staring and seemed as shocked as me. Ike freakin Turner was at the Panda Express. Ok, I can’t remember if he was actually at the Panda Express, but you know what I’m saying …

Then I got mad. At myself.

I haven’t been 5’5” since probably late elementary school. How did I let some concocted image of this dude scare me? And then I felt sad, because unless Tina is shorter than 5’5”, which is very possible, it showed how much of a mind game domestic violence is, because she probably could have taken that dude. I mean she DID take that dude, when she made up her mind that she wasn’t going to take no more.

So I kept staring and did what I do whenever I witness hilarious tomfoolery: I called my little brother. And then I got on the plane.

Fast forward last week.

When I saw the Yahoo! News “breaking news” banner announcing Ike’s death, I just let out a “LAWWWD!” Not quite the jump-in-the-casket funeral Lawd. I mean, I was at work. But the ain’t-this-some-ish type. And then I called my little brother again. And dude let out the same type of Lawd. LOL.

And then that fool asked me if Tina was going to sing at the funeral. WHAT?! My brother is a church musician, so he was probably genuinely interested. I told him I thought she would attend given the role Ike played in her career and that he was the father of at least one of her children, but I doubted that she’d sing. I’m not sure that Tina has any funeral songs in her repertoire. I mean, it would be interesting to hear her version of “I Won’t Complain,” but I figured that it probably wasn’t going to happen. And then my brother and I got off the phone.

Fast forward early this week.

Man, Tina said she ain’t even GOING to the funeral! WHAT?!

Her spokesperson said Tina hasn’t seen Ike in 35 years. THIRTY-FIVE YEARS! That shocked me on so many levels. That meant that I – ME – had seen Ike since Tina had last seen him! And while 35 isn’t old, it’s a long time to me. I’m not even 30 yet. And then I got sad.

Ike has called the movie and Tina’s book an exaggeration since they came out and even came out with his own book. And while I wasn’t there, I just don’t believe that Tina is lying about EVERYTHING. I found out yesterday that the character “Jackie” who was at the restaurant when Ike smushed the cake in Tina’s face was a fictional character, so that whole scene could be a lie for all we know. But I believe that most of the book and movie was close to the truth. And that’s when I thought about all that Tina must have gone through. I’m sure that I can’t even imagine it all. To not see someone you once loved and even made a child with for 35 years is serious, regardless of how much they hurt you. I’m not saying she’s right or wrong, I’m just saying that that’s some serious disinterest.

Hopefully Tina is not bitter or still mad and is there for her son right now who may be dealing with the issues that stem from losing a father. But all of this just made me think about how we treat people. And the lasting impact that our mistreatment and disrespect can have on people.

This past year, I've seriously tried to become more mindful of the things I say or do that leave scars. I've failed often. Sometimes, miserably. And I'm sure I can't imagine the damage I've caused. But I'm trying to do better. It would be quite unfortunate if someone I once called my best friend was so done with me that our last goodbye was actually our last goodbye.

Gene also writes for


Anonymous said...




LLeach said...


Ebonne said...

You are hilarious... and really know how to keep a reader engaged... I usually tend to skim threw long posts... but I just sat here and read that entire thing...

gene said...

thanks ebonne. :)