Call Me Ted, the legendary media mogul’s biography, is fascinating reading, and I had Ted Turner’s life story very much in mind when I recently had the privilege of covering his 80th birthday party for CNN.
The guests included Al Gore, Jane Fonda, Wolf Blitzer, Christiane Amanpour, Sanjay Gupta, Judy Woodruff, Chris Tucker and other industry leaders and celebrities.
But while it was certainly an experience to be in the company of such accomplished individuals all paying tribute to CNN’s legendary founder, what was most revealing about who Ted Turner really is were the other guests. They included his long- time housekeeper, hairdresser, Montana ranch workers ,lifelong friends and his children and grandchildren.
It was Miss Lily, his housekeeper of 30 years,whose tribute to Ted touched me the most. She spoke about her love for her boss, the man who insisted she call him Ted.
Lily was followed by Ted’s Brown College roommate who spoke eloquently about his buddy’s loyalty, humor and fearless courage. Then George McKerrow, Ted’s partner at Ted’s Montana Grill, took the stage and spoke about Ted’s passion, philanthropy, vision, and love of bison.
It was these moments that stood out the most because while Ted Turner founded CNN and Turner Broadcasting and gave a billion dollars to the UN, what makes him most extraordinary is that he still picks up litter, switches off unnecessary lights, is good friends with all three of his ex-wives and treats the people who work for him with same dignity and respect that he accords presidents and politicians.
“Call Me Ted” reminds us that failure, trials and tribulations are all part of life’s journey and that success is a zig zag, not a straight line. And it is Ted Turner’s respect and regard for all of the people that he has encountered on his life’s journey that makes him such an extraordinary human being.