The Taming of Ted Turner

Forget about those legendary tales of excess. Taking the biggest risk of his life, Turner confronted the dark legacy of his father and prevailed.

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Turner had more than career incentives to search for a psychological resting place. A student of Citizen Kane -- he has seen the movie more than 100 times and now owns it -- he began to be worried that his life would leave him as grimly isolated as the late newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who was the inspiration for Kane. "Here's a guy who had everything in the world -- a big business, a big family, couldn't be more successful -- and he was all alone," says Teddy, now 28. "Who was there? Janie? His kids? His mom? His friends? What friends? The thought of going out alone was more scary than anything else." And then, of course, there was J.J. Ebaugh, possibly the first woman Turner truly loved.

HE MET HER IN 1980 IN NEWPORT, R.I., WHEN SHE was dating Tom Blackaller, a legendary sailor whose boat, Clipper, shared a dock with Ted Turner's Courageous. The adventuresome California blond, who could drive race cars, pilot sailboats and fly airplanes, caught his eye, and that winter Turner invited her to sail with him on the Southern Ocean Racing circuit out of St. Petersburg. Although he did not own an airplane, he hired Ebaugh as a pilot, and she moved to Atlanta in 1981, bringing along a used one she had bought for him. The relationship (and the piloting) lasted until 1986, when she announced she was leaving him for a California podiatrist. The news devastated Turner, who cut short an African vacation with his family and rushed back to Atlanta. Says Ebaugh: "He put up the most aggressive campaign to get me back that I have ever heard about or read about in my entire life."

Just as demanding was the education he undertook to make his love affair with Ebaugh work the second time around. In counseling, the man about whom it is said that talking to him is like listening to a radio began to tame his mouth. "I started to listen, and not be judgmental, and wait until someone was through rather than interrupting them, and then think about what they said before I prepared an answer," he says. "I learned to give and take better than I had previously."

The more flexible Turner made a variety of sacrifices. He left his wife (the final divorce settlement in 1988 cost him $40 million) and gave up philandering. After moving in with Ebaugh, he agreed to spend more time with her in California and even bought a cliff-hanging house in Big Sur. The couple split up two years later. By the time he started dating Fonda in early 1990, however, Turner was so reformed that the first thing he told the actress when he took her out was, "I want you to know I was brought up a male chauvinist." Says Fonda: "I thought . . . really, I mean, how ingenuous. He's just so open about it."

Turner agreed to spend half his time in Los Angeles while Fonda's son Troy was still in high school there. When Fonda decided she would quit drinking a year ago, Turner announced he would too. She has given up making movies for | now. ("Ted Turner is not a man that you leave to go on location. He needs you there all the time," she says.) He has given up hour-to-hour management of his company. He now eats much of the health-food menu her cook prepares and has lost 10 lbs. They designed and decorated together the log home they share on Turner's 130,000-acre ranch near Bozeman, Mont. He follows her on hikes and bike rides; she follows him hunting and fly-fishing and to baseball games.

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