Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition



The superstar who remained ‘just Tina’



“Tina Turner was one of those special people who should have lived forever,” said Penny Stein, who worked closely with this trailblazing international star during her 1996 Wildest Dreams European Tour, on hearing that the musical superstar had died.

“She was so energetic, strong, vibrant, and agile, iconic – and boy, could she dance and shake her body,” said Stein who made a name for herself in dealing with the local publicity for international musical superstars, including Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Elton John, Lionel Richie, Sting, Bon Jovi, Diana Ross, Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, ZZ Top, Meat Loaf, and Janet Jackson, to name a few.

Turner passed away from natural causes aged 83 last Wednesday, 24 May, at her home in Switzerland.

Turner, who was hailed as the queen of rock and roll and whose famous legs were insured for millions, visited South Africa twice, once in the late 1970s during apartheid, for which she later expressed regret; and again in 1996 in the heady honeymoon period after the lifting of the cultural boycott, when many headline artists were eager to appear on local stages.

Since hearing of her passing, Stein took a fond stroll down memory lane to the time when she interacted intimately with the star during her Big Concerts tour.

Before Turner set foot on Jozi shores, Stein’s client at the time, Peter Stuyvesant, sent her to meet Turner in Paris at the “super fancy” Ritz Carlton Hotel, where she delivered a press conference with her globally famous publicist, Bernard Doherty, and manager, Roger Davies, “who took me under their wing and became friends”, said Stein.

“I was young, and this was a big deal. Tina was major,” she said.

Stein was invited to Turner’s hotel suite afterwards to talk about South Africa and the upcoming tour.

“She sat with me dressed in a gorgeous black cat suit drinking her favourite Cristal Champagne. From the moment she walked out of the Ritz, I knew this was going to be PR on another level. This wasn’t dry flower arrangements, this was full-on 5 000-roses stuff. This wasn’t Oros and water, it was Cristal Champagne, it wasn’t flat shoes, and fake jewellery, it was stilettos and an entire gold mine,” recalls Stein.

Turner spent about a month rehearsing at Sun City before performing in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, during which Stein and her team took care of the star’s needs and publicity.

Stein recalls receiving a call from Turner’s assistant one night.

“She said, ‘Penny, Tina would like sugar-free grapefruit juice and two black French brassieres.’ Now in those days, we had never heard of sugar-free grapefruit juice and I had never worn or knew anyone who wore French bras,” said Stein who in spite of this, set about granting the star her wishes.

“I knew there was a fancy lingerie shop in The Firs in Rosebank, so I drove there and dialled the emergency telephone number for the shop.”

To her relief, the owner answered.

“I told her that this wasn’t a prank call. I promised I was for real, and told her what I was looking for. She said she would be open tomorrow, to which I frantically replied, ‘No you don’t understand, they are for someone very important, and I have to get them to Sun City tonight.’”

Forty minutes later, Stein found herself choosing bras, paying something like a whopping R3 000 for them, a fortune in those days; then searching around town for the closest thing resembling grapefruit juice, and racing to Sun City, “reaching there around 23:30 with the desired goods, to Tina’s absolute delight”.

“Tina was very warm, embracing, and inclusive,” recalls Stein.

“She oozed sex appeal. She had a voice that could wake up the neighbours in laughter, she was very funny, kind, and motherly. All those who saw her perform in South Africa were honoured,” said Stein, who became friends with Turner’s stylist, Jenny Bolton.

“Jenny designed a range of silk and cotton handmade glam pyjamas for the super stylish star to wear when she held early morning meetings in her hotel room. Tina gave me three pairs of these exquisite pyjamas, which I’ve kept. My late mother wore one when she passed away,” said Stein.

Tina later sent Stein tickets to her concert in Wales, and presented her with a package of memorabilia including her Wildest Dreams Dolce & Gabbana black tour jacket.

Lisa Smiedt Franck, who grew up in a musical family listening to Turner, was 25 when she worked for Stein at the time of Wildest Dreams.

“Tina would look you in the eye when she greeted you, and really engage. I was Lisa to her,” she told the SA Jewish Report.

“Apart from her brilliance on stage and her raw talent, Tina was a shining example to me of someone who triumphed over adversity,” she said.

Turner, who was born Anna Mae Bullock, rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. She left her famous yet violent husband, Ike Turner, with only spare change in her pocket, forced by circumstance to reinvent herself and forge a solo career against all odds.

“She could have crumbled, but instead went on to become an even bigger star in her own right. She radiated and epitomised the magnificence of the human spirit,” said Smiedt Franck.

“She presented each of us with an African beaded necklace with a silver charm to show her gratitude, which was very special,” she said.

Sometime afterwards, she invited them to celebrate her wedding anniversary to Irwin Bach at the couple’s home in the south of France.

“So, there I was flying to France and having the experience of a lifetime at Tina’s mansion in a forest in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat,” said Smiedt Franck, “I stayed for three magical days. One day, Tina sat with her legs crossed on the lawn with a few of us and discussed her beautiful life and Buddhism under the trees. It was a blessing to be young and at the right place at the right time”.

The multi award-winning Turner may have been one of the world’s best-selling recording artists of all time, but she remained “simply Tina” to those looking out for her behind the scenes and backstage.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *