Tina Turner: a big star, a very big star

DICKIE FANTASTIC on the schmooze
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The Independent Culture
The Hyde Park Hotel is - of course - that most reticent and enigmatic of hushed luxury hotels. Very, very famous people stay here for that specific reason: Madonna, Pavarotti, etc. We know this because every time a very, very famous person checks in, the hotel sends out a press release to everyone from Tatler to Shoe and Leather News announcing (in a hushed and reticent manner), that a very, very famous person has chosen the Hyde Park Hotel because it is renowned for its hushed reticence.

Today, the big star is Tina Turner - a woman not famed for silent reserve, it is true (the press release announcing her forthcoming tour dates begins with the rather exciting promise: "See this woman live and believe that Titans still walk the earth"). Today, the Titan will walk the ballroom, at least, to a stage, where she will pose for the nation with a James Bond gun and a Lycra jogging sweater.

The room is packed with frenzied stringers, eagerly practising their Big Question: "How do you manage to keep so fit?"; "Are you delighted with your continuing appeal and how do you account for it?"; "You look delightful, as ever. How?" And so on. All these questions will be asked soon in the press conference, but first we are shown a compilation of Great Tina Moments - from the incontrovertibly fabulous "River Deep, Mountain High" times, through "Nutbush City Limits" to that rather startling moment in the early Eighties when she stopped looking like a regular human being and started looking like Aslan, the lion king of Narnia. And now, a very glamorous jogger-cum-drag-queen (Shirley Bassey meets Steve Ovett) takes the stage.

"Ooh," gasps the assembled throng. "Aah. How did you enjoy working in a Bond movie?"

"Great" says Tina, "although my favourite Bond is Sean Connery, so it would have been wonderful to work with him."

"Who's your favourite Bond?"

"Sean Connery," replies Tina.

"And who would your Bond be?"

"Um," replies Tina, "Sean Connery."

"I'm always too nervous to ask a question in these situations," admits a young lady to me from BBC Network Radio. "It's nerve-wracking, with all those people watching."

"Oh," I say, "I'm sure it'll be OK."

"And their questions are so banal," she continues.

"It's true," I say. And it is: questions and answers are being volleyed around like a tennis match between the Care Bear Bunch. I turn to the radio woman.

"You really should ask a question," I say. "It has to be better than all the others."

"That's the awful thing," she says, "it is much better. I've got a really interesting question."

"What is it?" I ask.

"Well," she replies, "everyone is just asking her about her looks, and her health and everything, but I want to really get to the nitty-gritty."

"Mmm?" I ask.

"I want to ask her if she feels that her artistic integrity is compromised by her commercial appeal."

"Ooh," I say.

"But I can't," she says. "I'm too shy."

In the end, however, it's all OK: someone else asks exactly the same question.

"Good question," says Tina Turner.

"Damn," says my friend. "Damn."