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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His new crusade is also a sure, efficient way of outliving his father. For the one lesson Turner drew from that suicide -- the lesson he repeated year after year to his children -- is that people should never set goals they can reach. "My father told me he wanted to be a millionaire, have a yacht and a plantation," says Turner. "And by the time he was 50 he had achieved all three, and he was having a very difficult time." Turner has carefully arranged to avoid that situation. "I'm not going to rest until all the world's problems have been solved. Homelessness, AIDS. I'm in great shape. I mean, the problems will survive me -- no question about it."

In the meantime, Turner has found in Fonda a companion who comes not only with her own wealth, trophies and fame but also with childhood pains that echo his own: a mother who committed suicide when Jane was 12, a stern taskmaster of a father who left her craving approval, and a loneliness that drove her outdoors. "By necessity, both of us created ourselves and then re-created ourselves a number of times," says Fonda.

Nowadays Turner and Fonda are re-creating themselves as each other's soul mate. "The right woman at last," he wrote to her shortly after they began dating. "I feel it is destiny," says Fonda. And as a grand rebuke to his father's final repudiation of life, Turner plans to write about his own. He put a stop to an autobiography written with a collaborator five years ago because he felt the first draft made him sound like a rube and the second draft made him sound boring. Now, at last, Turner believes he will like the sound of his own voice.

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