Oprah Talks to Tina Turner
Tina: Yes. I also saw that he had a temper when he would fight with the girl he was dating. Then I learned that his father had been beaten up by some whites for going out with the same woman one of them was going out with. His father later died. I learned a whole story about Ike.
During the time when I didn't have a boyfriend and Ike had broken up with his woman, he started touching me. I didn't like it, but I didn't know what to do or say. We were sitting in the backseat of a car. In those days, everybody did what Ike said. He had the power. He had never been mean to me, so I felt loyal to him. But I didn't want a relationship with him.
Then came the recording. I went to a studio, recorded "A Fool in Love," and Ike sent it to New York. Soon after, Ike and I had a little run-in and I said to myself, I think I'd better get out of this. So I told the girl who was managing everything that I didn't want to be involved with the recording. That was the first time I really got a beating from Ike.
Oprah: A beating?
Tina: With a shoe stretcher.
Oprah: Wait a minute. He hit you with a wooden shoe stretcher?
Oprah: Where were you?
Tina: At his house in East St. Louis. I was afraid of Ike—I'd talked to the manager because I felt the vibration of what was about to happen. I wanted out.
Oprah: Even if it meant giving up your music?
Tina: I had a reputation around town as Little Ann. I could have gotten jobs with other bands—but I was loyal to Ike. That's how I am. Ike would ask me over and over: "Oh, you want to hurt me like everybody else, don't you?" I'd be saying, "No, no, no," but the more I said no, the more he'd say, "Yes, that's what it is." Later on, that pattern of dialogue became so familiar that when he'd start with it, I'd know a beating was coming. He'd walk around biting his lip and working himself up. I'm sure he needed a bit of therapy.
Oprah: A bit?
Tina: Anyway, wham! I was shocked. How could you hit someone with a shoe stretcher? Then he hit me with the heel of a shoe.
Oprah: In your face?
Tina: Always. Later he'd hit me in the ribs, and then always try to give me a black eye. He wanted his abuse to be seen. That was the shameful part.
Oprah: Over the years, I've told women that when it happens the first time, you need to walk.
Tina: I did not walk.
Oprah: What happened after he hit you?
Tina: He told me to get in the bed, and he had sex with me. When I met Ike, I couldn't have orgasms. He used to get angry with me. He'd say, "You're not trying." Later it became, "You're not trying to get a hit record." All the blame was on me. When I look back on that time now, it was just hell. So why didn't I walk out? I had nowhere to go. I didn't have money—and neither did my mother. I found out later that my mom had this worship thing for Ike. When Ike and I eventually separated, she tried to find me for him.
Oprah: Is it true that he would beat you before you went onstage?
Tina: Yes. I never knew what would trigger him. He was tired, he didn't eat properly, and he'd drink peach brandy with his drugs. So his emotions were never in control.
Oprah: He was obviously unhappy with himself.
Tina: And so fearful of failure. We hadn't had a hit for a while. He was spending most of the money on drugs. Expenses were mounting. I was upset because I wasn't receiving a dime. I knew that he was buying for all the ladies around him.
Oprah: What was the greatest humiliation for you?
Tina: There were so many. He liked to show the public that he was in control and that he was a woman hater. He also liked for his women to get up and walk across the floor for display so that other men could see what he had. I didn't know how to get out of the whole situation. There were many times when I picked up the gun when he was sleeping. I once moved all his clothes from the house down to the studio. He had a fit.
Another night we had a fight in the dressing room, and when I went onstage, my face was swollen. I think my nose was broken because blood was gushing into my mouth when I sang. Before, I'd been able to hide under makeup. But you can't hide swelling.
Oprah: Did people around you know what was happening?
Tina: The band knew. But it was probably difficult for them to get work and I think they wanted drugs from Ike. I didn't know where to go. And I still had a sisterly love for the man. I did my best to make him happy. I shopped for him. I did his hair. I was his Cinderella.
Oprah: Some part of you must have believed that you deserved the abuse.
Tina: Oprah, if I thought I deserved it, I never found that out. It was just karma. I came into this lifetime with a job to finish. I finished it well. I've been told many reasons for why I lived through what I did. But I have never felt that I deserved it.