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Tina Turner, 78, spreads her late son Craig Raymond's ashes in California after his suicide at 59... as she gushes 'he'll always be my baby'
It is a sultry afternoon in Tijuana, Mexico, and Tina Turner is anticipating what should be the most romantic night of her life. She is 22 and has just married blues musician Ike Turner. Dreamily, she wonders where he has chosen – some enchanted retreat, perhaps – for their wedding night.
‘Guess where we went?’ she exclaims more than half a century later in a soul-baring interview with The Mail on Sunday’s You magazine. ‘To a whorehouse! On my wedding night!’
Once inside, too fearful of her violent husband to turn on her heels, she was forced to watch a live sex show. The young woman from Nutbush, Tennessee, who grew up singing in a Baptist church choir, had been married just a matter of hours.
‘The experience was so disturbing that I suppressed it, scratched it out, and created a different scenario, a fantasy of romantic elopement,’ she says.
Everyone knows something of the singer’s ensuing marital torment, which was chronicled unsparingly in a book, film and musical. Preacher’s son Ike – sexually rapacious, cocaine-addicted – physically abused her throughout their relationship, using everything from walking canes to a pot of boiling coffee. But until now Tina has never revealed what happened on the fateful day they married in the border city of Tijuana in 1962, when her notions of love were brutally upended. She never told anyone because she was ‘too embarrassed’.
Now 78, and in frail health having suffered a stroke, cancer and kidney failure in the past five years, she sits in the garden of her Swiss chateau reflecting on the Mexican wedding and her remarkable life. She also talks openly of the death of her son, Craig, who took his own life aged 59 in July. She blames this – albeit indirectly – on Ike.
By the early 1960s she was in thrall to her domineering lover and mentor, seven years her senior, and had already experienced his violent temper, just as she knew of his many infidelities.
Ike & Tina Turner pose for a portrait with their son and step-sons in circa 1972. Clockwise from bottom left: Michael Turner (Son of Ike & Lorraine Taylor), Ike Turner, Jr. (Son of Ike & Lorraine Taylor), Ike Turner, Craig Hill (Son of Tina & Raymond Hill), Ronnie Turner (Son of Ike & Tina)
Husband-and-wife R&B duo Ike & Tina Turner pose for a portrait in circa 1963
Yes, she was in love, but she could see that marriage to Ike would be disastrous. When asked, though, she was afraid to say no. They drove from California over the border to Tijuana, a city that, even then, had long lost its chic allure.
Sailors were attracted by the cheap brothels. Eloping couples came for the ubiquitous ‘nuptial parlours’ offering cheap weddings. Only Ike came for both.
Tina says: ‘People can’t imagine the kind of man he was – a man who takes his brand new wife to a live, pornographic sex show right after their marriage ceremony.
‘There I sat, in this filthy place, watching Ike out of the corner of my eye, wondering, “Does he really like this? How could he?”
‘It was so ugly. The male performer was unattractive and seemingly impotent, and the girl… well, let’s just say that what was on display was more gynaecological than erotic. I was miserable the whole time, on the verge of tears, but there was no escape. We couldn’t leave until Ike was ready, and he was having a fine time.’
She can hear the cries from those telling her she should have ended the marriage (which would last 16 years) just as soon as it began. Instead she buried the experience. ‘Some things you don’t remember. Some things you don’t want to. Those memories dig into your gut.’
She adds that the ‘ceremony’ wasn’t much better. ‘Ike always had an angle. He must have figured out that Tijuana was the best place for a quickie ceremony. It probably wasn’t even legal. But there was no point in questioning his motives.
‘It would just make him mad, and that might lead to a beating. I definitely didn’t want a black eye on my wedding day.
‘Once we crossed over the border, we drove down a dusty road and found the Mexican version of a justice of the peace.
‘In a small, dirty office, a man pushed some papers across a desk for me to sign, and that was it.
‘I may not have had much experience with weddings, but I knew the occasion was supposed to be emotional and happy. There was none of that at this wedding. Nobody said, “You may kiss the bride.” No toasts. No congratulations. No mention of living happily ever after.
‘As bad as that was, what came next was even worse. As long as Ike was in down-and-dirty Tijuana, he wanted to have fun, his kind of fun.’
After the brothel visit, the newlyweds returned to Los Angeles. ‘By the next day, I was bragging to people, “Guess what? Oh, Ike took me to Tijuana. We got married yesterday!” I convinced myself that I was happy, and I was happy for a brief time, because the idea that I was married actually held meaning for me. For Ike, it was just another transaction.’
By his own admission, Ike’s affairs ran to three figures. His private quarters at their Los Angeles home were known as the Orgy Room. Tina finally left him after he hit her because she complained that he got chocolate over her white suit.
He would later say in an interview: ‘Ain’t it part the woman’s fault if she stays around and lets me hit her?’
She found it was not easy to disentangle herself. Bullets were fired into one of the houses she moved to, and a car was burned. For a while, she carried a gun. When Tina walked out, she had 36 cents and a single handbag to her name.
Her raunchy stage act famously featured red-hot dance moves, leather mini-dresses and fishnets.
Yet Tina Turner reveals today that she hated her sexy image and says there were eminently sensible reasons for her choice of outfits.
‘Fishnets are practical, they don’t run, and leather doesn’t show the perspiration on stage or wrinkle,’ she explains.
‘I only wore a mini because everyone knows you can’t dance in a dress past your knee.’
She believes today’s music stars flash too much flesh.
‘I think these days women are not wearing clothes, they are undressing as much as possible. Maybe the men are interested but I suspect it turns other women off.’
She adds: ‘If people thought I was sexy, then it was their perception of me from energy and the dresses and the dancing.
‘On stage I worked, I danced, I sang. I didn’t perform sexy, I didn’t gyrate.
‘I have never been a sex-driven person, it has never been a priority for me.
‘After my first marriage, I didn’t have many men in my life, sex was not important. I didn’t sleep around. I was celibate for a year at a time until I met Erwin.’
In the subsequent divorce action she asked for no money or property. It was the price of freedom.
The couple’s divorce was finalised in 1978 and Tina rebuilt her solo career, achieving £200 million record sales, comfortably eclipsing Ike’s own ventures.
Before he died in 2007, aged 76, he spent much of his time trying unsuccessfully to erase his reputation as a wife-beater.
Just a few months ago, Tina was forced to confront her past when Craig, the son she had aged 18, killed himself in his flat in Los Angeles with a gun which had belonged to Tina’s mother, Zelma.
She says Craig grew up lonely. ‘I think he missed his mother a lot. I was always away, touring… and I blame Ike for not being able to be the mother I would have been.’
In her new autobiography – My Love Story – she writes of how Craig, aged two or three, would desperately want to sit with her when she returned from a tour ‘but being told by Ike to go to his room’. She tells The Mail on Sunday: ‘I was as good a mother as I could be under the circumstances. I believe I made it up to Craig somehow, later. I don’t feel bad about it because that was my reality then. I had no options.’
Of his suicide, she says: ‘Craig took it [the gun] bought the bullets and planned his own death really well. He wanted to go. What I don’t know is why he would take his life so dramatically. That’s the mystery.’
Asked how she is coping since Craig’s death, she says: ‘I handle it with acceptance. I remember all the moments when he visited me. Like all boys, he was a bit of a pest, but he was still my son. I remember all the good things and the bad.’ Tina married music producer Erwin Bach in 2013 after 27 years together. She is alive, she says, and off dialysis only because Erwin, 16 years her junior, donated a kidney. ‘We call it “the baby” because it’s like me being pregnant – it’s part of him, kind of a baby from Erwin!’
She had been ready to die, though. Tina has no qualms about dying and is a member of the assisted suicide organisation Exit.
‘I do not want to sit and suffer. I thought, “This is my time” and it was OK with me…
‘I decided I would rather just leave the planet… But my husband said, “No, no, no, Tina. I do not want another woman in my life. I am not ready to deal with that.” ’
Tina Turner spread the ashes of her late son Craig Raymond Turner, on Thursday, following his shocking suicide at 59 earlier this month.
Taking to social media, the 78-year-old music legend shared an image as she joined family and friends to pay tribute to her child off the coast of Calfornia.
Craig was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, at his home in Studio City, TMZ reported at the time, while Tina was attending Haute Couture Paris Fashion Week just a few short hours before her son was found.
Heartbroken: Tina Turner spread the ashes of her late son Craig Raymond Turner, on Thursday, following his shocking suicide at 59 earlier this month
The heartbroken singer stood among family and friends on a boat as she draped a hand over the railings to drop a rose into the ocean.
Tina penned a caption reading: 'My saddest moment as a mother. On Thursday, July 19, 2018, I said my final goodbye to my son, Craig Raymond Turner, when I gathered with family and friends to scatter his ashes off the coast of California...
'He was fifty-nine when he died so tragically, but he will always be my baby.'
Craig was pronounced dead at the scene at 12.38pm and Los Angeles County coroner's office assistant chief Ed Winter confirmed his death was being reported as suicide, although the official autopsy is pending.
Devastating: Taking to social media, the 78-year-old music legend shared an image as she joined family and friends to pay tribute to her child off the coast of Calfornia
His famous mother Tina was just 18 when she gave birth to Craig, whose father was a saxophonist named Raymond Hill.
Tina later married Ike Turner, who adopted her son and gave him his name.
Craig, who studied at Santa Monica College, was in real estate at Rodeo Realty, in the San Fernando Valley. He does not appear to have any children or be married at his time of death.
Tina has not yet made an official statement about Craig's death.The 'Proud Mary' singer has four children: her son Craig, and Ronnie, 57, her and Ike's only child together, as well as Ike's two children from his first marriage who Tina adopted when they married in 1962; Ike Jnr, 59, and Michael, 58.
Sad: In May 2005, Tina told Oprah her eldest, who had seen his mom get abused by Ike Snr., was 'a very emotional kid'
Hard times: 'They saw the black eyes. Ike's children never reacted, but my oldest son, Craig, was a very emotional kid. He'd always look down in sadness'
In May 2005, Tina told Oprah her eldest, who had seen his mom get abused by Ike Snr., was 'a very emotional kid'.
'They saw the black eyes. Ike's children never reacted, but my oldest son, Craig, was a very emotional kid. He'd always look down in sadness.
'One day when Ike was fighting me, Craig knocked on the door and said, "Mother, are you all right?" I thought, "Oh, please, don't beat me at home." I didn't want my children to hear.
'I tried to have meals with the children, talk to them about life. But Ike had no sense of that. He'd always come home late from the studio. It was awful.'
Hitting out: Craig's biological father Raymond Hill (top row, second from the left ) was in Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm band, pictured in 1956
Tina said she only left Ike after Craig graduated from high school.
The turbulent story of Ike and Tina is part of music history. The drug addict son of a Mississippi preacher, Ike regularly beat up Tina until, after 16 years, she fled in the middle of the night in a bloodstained white suit with just 36 cents in her pocket.
She has lived in Switzerland since 1994 with German music producer Erwin Bach. The couple married five years ago. Ike Jnr. said his mother had all but abandoned her kids after the move overseas, although he said they were looked after financially.
'My mother is living her life – she has a new husband and she's in Europe. She doesn't want to have anything to do with the past.'
Dark days: In May 2005, Tina told Oprah her eldest was 'a very emotional kid' after he watched his mom get abused by then husband Ike Turner (pictured with her in 1963
According to Ike Jnr, Tina, 78, has distanced herself from the part of her life spent with his father and has cut herself off from her children.
Ike Jnd said the last he knew, Craig was doing OK. Their other brother Michael is reportedly in a convalescent home in Southern California.
Ike and Tina were always absent parents, he claimed. 'We were raised by housekeepers because my mother and father were gone 11 months out of a year.
'My father took me out of school at 13. I ended up running his recording studio, plus going on the road with them. They made a lot of money on tour and my father used to make me count it until my hands were grey.'