Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Lana Turner Changed My Life (and Never Even Knew)

Well, I still can’t fix my scanner but this story was already in the works so here ‘tis.
Lana Turner changed my life. Okay, I know, probably hundreds of men can say that for a hundred different reasons but I’m pretty sure mine is unique. In my case, Lana Turner acted as a benchmark, one of those amazingly unlikely coincidences that happen from time to time that reassure you that you’re on the right path. In fact, in my case she unknowingly set me on the path in the first place and then many years later this photograph appeared that cinched that I was where I was meant to be.
You see, I’ve always been a film buff and a movie fan (Two very different things, by the way) and even as a child, I could see that there was something special about the classic movie stars that just wasn’t present anymore in today’s flavor of the minute. I loved Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Cagney, Bogart and even the Dead End Kids. I was never really a big fan of Lana Turner, however. In fact, the only time I particularly cared for Lana was in her pre-glamour days. Still, I liked old-time movie stars and there was no denying that Lana was one of the biggest.
Thus it was that on a September day in 1982, when I heard announcer Bill Myers say that Lana was going to be the guest on THE BOB BRAUN SHOW (a live Midwest talk show that ran for decades. If you aren’t familiar with it, trust me. It was huge! Look for Bob in a bit part in DIE HARD II.) I decided to spend my lunchtime watching the show. I was 23 and living at home, working part time as overnight maintenance at a great metropolitan newspaper and wishing I had a better job and a girlfriend.
On the show, Lana was an interesting and charming guest. She looked fantastic and she was hawking her now out-of-print autobiography "Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth".
Throughout the interview, Bob kept plugging the fact that, an hour after the show, Lana would be appearing downtown at a department store to sign her book. Again, she may not have been a favorite but she was a movie star and I decided I had to go see her.
I arrived early downtown and it was hot so I stopped into a bookstore to cool off before walking the additional two blocks to where Lana was appearing. The manager asked if he could help me find something and I told him I was going to see Lana Turner. He said he’d give me a job if I could talk her into coming down and signing some books for him, also.
Well, as it happened, it was one of those roped off, line number affairs and since I hadn’t planned on actually buying the book, I simply contented myself to say I saw her from a distance. She was quite lovely and elegant and gave every impression of being, at that stage at least, a very delightful woman.
On the way home, I thought it only polite to tell the bookstore manager of my failure to get within ten feet of Ms. Turner so I did. To my surprise he offered me a position anyway and a few days later I took it. For the next 23 years I would work in or manage bookstores. Six years into my bookstore career, a different manager at a different branch where I was then working would hire a lovely young lady who eventually became my wife.
It doesn’t end there, however. A few years later a local paparazzi photographer named T. Alan Hartman published a book entitled GUESS WHO’S COMING TO CINCINNATI, featuring pictures he had taken of celebrities in town going back to the early seventies. It was a nice book and my bookstore had a signing with him that went reasonably well. It wasn’t until some time later, though, that I was able to look through the book at length and lo and behold, there was a photograph he had taken of Lana Turner on that long ago day leaving the TV studio and heading toward the department store. Okay, that’s a bit freaky. What turns it into a true TWILIGHT ZONE moment is that my mother-in-law was standing right behind her! My mother-in law, whose daughter I would never have met, married or fathered a child with if not for watching Lana Turner on television that fateful day the photo was taken. In one click of the shutter, Hartman captured a benchmark of my entire future. It was meant to be! I was in the place I was destined to be in!
For her part, my mother-in-law remembers having been working a temp job downtown at the time and had no clue that Lana Turner was the woman in front of her.
A few years back, Bill Myers, the BOB BRAUN SHOW announcer whose introduction convinced me to watch the show that day was at a my store for a friend’s autographing and I was able to share this story with him. I tried to contact Cheryl Crane, Lana’s daughter, to tell her of this weird coincidence but she is (understandably if you know more about Lana Turner’s life) hard to reach. If anyone reading this knows her and could forward her the story, I’d love to know her reaction. Thanks!
So you see, Lana Turner changed my life…in a good way…but she never even knew it.
The photo of Lana and my wife’s mother is copyright by T. Alan Hartman and used without malice but also without permission as I have not been able to contact Mr. Hartman again after several years of trying.

1 comment:

Liza Waldman said...

Hi There BookSteve!

I really got a kick out of your story. Can't believe that that is you MOTHER-IN-LAW in the photo behind Lana. I adore Lana and am currently running a website dedicated to her at I don't know how to contact Cheryl Crane but do have regular contact with her former personal manager. I will forward your story to him after the holidays-

Take Care,

Liza Waldman
Lana Turner Online