Wednesday, December 3, 2008

He Ted, Not Jane

On the eve of travel to work at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 in Orlando (er, actually it was just a couple of hours before the flight to Florida from Atlanta, on Nov. 14), the Atlanta Press Club hosted another great lunchtime event at downtown's Commerce Club just a few blocks from my desk at Edelman.

The guest of honor was one of my favorite fellow-Atlantans: The one and only Mr. Ted Turner. "The Mouth of the South" has a new book titled "Call Me Ted" which I've found to be an interesting read that filled in the blanks on several excerpts from another Turner biography of the mid-1990s titled "Citizen Turner" (sidebar: I picked up a copy of this book from a dumpster at Columbia University's School of Journalism, which was undergoing asbestos abatement while I was house sitting in Manhattan during October 1996, on post-Atlanta Games holiday -- by contrast, I paid the cover price for "Call Me Ted" and it is worth every penny).

Turner was on site with several members of his family (no sign of his former spouse, Jane Fonda, who was filmed for this blog just the week before Ted's press club engagement -- thanks again, G-CAPP, which wants you to know that three out of 10 girls in the U.S. become pregnant at least once before age 20 - see their other "fast facts" to learn more). There were also many current or former CNN employees in the audience, and Ted spent most of his time at the podium answering questions from the standing room crowd.

As shown on the video for this post, I posed an Olympic question to Mr. Turner that was only half-answered by "Citizen Turner" and escaped mention in "Call Me Ted." Paraphrasing here:

Mr. Turner, your book mentions milestones of your sailing career, but not your attempts to make the U.S. Olympic Sailing teams of the early 1960s (as noted in "Citizen Turner") -- can you please talk about any level of regret or recollections on the Olympic trials?

Turner's answer was very good (see video) and not entirely surprising, and he also kept on message about his book talking about his last days at AOL/Time Warner. Thank you, Mr. Turner, for answering my question.

Among many other memorable remarks of the event (reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in "PeachBuzz" the day after the lunch event) was the notion that Mr. Turner is looking for new friends (an audience member suggested he create a new reality TV show to recruit a few). I also loved Turner's answers to audience questions about CNN Headline News ("I can't watch it anymore"), President Bush and General Motors. Former CNN Chairman Tom Johnson's introductory remarks were outstanding as well.

One other remark that stuck with me was that Turner commented about litter and downtown, with sort of a "Give A Hoot: Don't Pollute!" Woodsy Owl tone. He explained that while walking through urban Atlanta he often takes time to pick up litter, and my impression was that he encourages his current team to do the same.

Since we are neighbors and he made a good point, since Nov. 14 I've taken a moment to pick up cans, discarded newsprint or other waste while walking to lunch at CNN Center or on MARTA, and it would be cool to see others do the same (that was, after all, an action that led me to that copy of "Citizen Turner" while exploring Columbia University back in the day).

I'd love to hear other reader feedback about "Call Me Ted" and hope folks will post their impressions of the text as a comment. Happy reading!



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