Searching for Tina Turner - By Jacqueline E. Luckett

Chapter 1

On their first date more than thirty years ago, Randall took Lena to an Ike and Tina Turner concert. From the minute they sat down in the fifth row from the stage, she knew he wanted to impress her even though he hadn’t needed to. She would have sat with him in the park, gone to the drive-in, eaten Wheaties in the narrow half-kitchen of his studio apartment, done whatever he wanted; she’d been that eager to be with him.

The Ikettes crowded onto the narrow stage while Ike’s deep bass warmed up the audience; like a chant his words tumbled soft and low. A hush fell over the auditorium as the guitar riff brought down the house lights. Blamp. The trumpets spit. Up, down, left, right. Blamp blamp. Suddenly, Tina pranced across the stage swinging her store-bought hair, the mic, the fringe on her sequined dress. Her taut legs pumped like a runner about to hit the finish line, her short dress coming close to revealing all that was underneath. The music increased to a faster, throbbing tempo. Girls cried. Men beckoned to Tina. The Ikettes moved with Tina, step for step, pounding the stage in three-inch heels.

Lena inched toward the crowded center aisle along with everyone else to get up on the stage and dance with Tina. Randall caught her by the waist, leaned down, and pressed his lips against her ear. “You’re as cool as Tina Turner,” he whispered, he as cool in a hip, sixties way as he meant she was. Trembling from the heat of his body, the ripple of his chest, the fuzz of his mustache, Lena kissed him. The clamorous crowd and loud music disappeared into the distance, and for years she remembered thinking that, as corny as it seemed, they were the only two people in the auditorium.

Now, those memories rush back as she watches a wrinkled TV personality melt in Tina Turner’s smile. Lena lifts her glass; it would be nice to ooze such charm and self-assurance in a way so subtle and subdued that it ought to be bottled. Randall believes that good liquor deserves a toast. So here’s to Tina. And Randall.

Tina looks directly into the camera, poised and straightforward; her eyes twinkle with humor and self-confidence. She is a perfect combination of wild and sexy. Of secure and comfortable freedom. The reporter sees it, remarks on it, and asks if it comes from celebrity or the people around her, and Tina lets him know that it comes from within. He goes over her history: regaining her place at the top of the pop charts, her refusal to focus on color or race, a misunderstanding with Elton John. Tina smiles again and changes the subject.

She talks of life, faith, and love for her man. Her brownish blond hair softens her ageless face, accentuates her full lips. The camera captures the warm beige and gold of her skin in a tight close-up and pans her hilltop home and the royal blue Mediterranean beyond. A happy blue, Lena thinks—the opposite of the blue she feels right now.

Without a thought of the fifteen-hour time difference between Oakland and Hong Kong, Lena dials Randall. The international connection to his cell phone click-click-clicks her to the Far East.

“Who the hell is this?” Randall’s voice is slurred with sleep.

“Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river.” Lena mimics Tina, believing her husband knows good and well who it is. Because, unless his ears have suddenly lost their perfect hearing, their home number has a special ring tone on his phone.

“Remember that Tina Turner concert we went to?” She reaches for the Drambuie and dribbles more into her glass. “Tina’s arms spinning, her energy… she’s so beautiful.”

“Is everything all right? Are the kids okay?” The metallic echo of fumbling comes through loud and clear. Lena closes her eyes and imagines Randall in a fancy king-sized bed, his suite big enough to house a family: left arm stretches out under the covers, right arm adjusts the pillow to fit in the crook of his neck, his thick eyebrows push toward the permanent wrinkle in the middle of his forehead. She can almost smell his nighttime musky scent in the whoosh the pillow emits when he finally settles into it.

“Kendrick is fine. Camille is fine. I know you said we’d talk again in a couple of days, but I got excited when I saw Tina Turner.”

“What does Tina Turner have to do with me at four in the morning?” Randall clears