And that, of course, is that. Although there is no exclusivity anymore in our most overpopulated category of citizenry, it is still everyman's fondest dream to become a star. And so, out of Peachtree Street, Bannister's Wharf and WTCG-TV, over the bounding main and into the dugouts of the entire universe comes Robert E. Turner III. Ali? Farrah? Duke Wayne? Henry Kissinger? Anita Bryant? Has anyone transcended his profession, grown bigger than life, become important, become a star any faster than Robert E. Turner III?
Whatever it is Ted Turner has accomplished—and some people are still trying to figure out just what that is—he has done it so suddenly that the saga-mongers who take care of such things haven't had time to immortalize him with a proper nickname. "Mouth of the South" and " Teddy Ballgame," the protein monikers, were heisted from a noisy sportscaster and a lefthand-hitting leftfielder, respectively, not to mention that they hardly do justice to the man. Even "The Pirate of Peachtree," which nicely combines the nautical and geographical, fails to encompass Turner.
His baseball players and basketball players and sailing crews and communications company personnel are admonished to call him "Ted." His secretary, Dee Woods, a vivacious mother of four, calls him "Teddy Baby" as a result of the time she answered a request with "Sir?" and he bellowed "What's this 'Sir' crap?" Only 9-year-old Jennie, his youngest child, can get away with calling him Sir.
Father: "Hey, Jen, tell our guest I'm not a fire-eating, maniacal madman who beats you and denies you porridge and deserves to be thrown out of our national pastime. Don't I remind you to brush your teeth?"
Daughter: "No, Sir; yes, Sir."
One assumes Jennie uses "Sir" because she realizes she lucked out in the appellation game, her daddy having originally decided to name her "Scarlett," then "Jeanie" (after Stephen Foster's great hit, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair). Ted Turner had his way in the Southern-fried baptism of his two youngest sons, Rhett and Beauregard, but Jane Turner put her foot down in the matter of her little girl's name.
As for his own, the black street guys in Atlanta greet Turner with "Wha's happenin', Cap'ns Courageous?" in honor of his winning the America's Cup last fall at the wheel of Courageous. Not long ago a very old black woman with a charming disregard for ceremony beckoned to Turner in the parking lot of his TV station. "Hey, Turner," she shouted, "gimme some of that chaw."
Somewhat taken aback for one of the few times in his 39 years, Turner approached the woman warily. "You want this?" he said, pointing to his cheek, which was magnificently stuffed with the Red Man tobacco he has chewed since he started hanging around with baseball players.
"Tha's right," the woman said. "And I wants you to come bail me out of jail when I gets drunk on this stuff."
After assuring the woman she could only get sick, not drunk, from chewing tobacco, Turner watched in horror as the woman shoved a handful into her mouth. Then he walked away.