Call Me Ted
Home Meet Ted The Book The Press Signings & Events Contact Buy The Book

I know what I am having em put on my tombstone: I have nothing more to say Ted Turner

Meet Ted

"Okay, Burke, Let’s Work"
The Making of CALL ME TED

by Bill Burke

When Ted Turner asked me to work with him on his autobiography, I wanted to be sure he would commit sufficient time to the project. I’d been warned by an experienced collaborator that high profile people who decide to write their life story often don’t realize how much work it is and don’t put in the effort required to do it well.

But Ted told me, “I’ll give you as much time as it takes to make it a great book,” and true to his word, he put tremendous time and energy into this project. Whenever I needed access to him, whether for interviews, fact checking or proofreading, Ted was always available and enthusiastic.

In the early stages of the process, we spent a lot of time together just talking. Ted does his best thinking and talking when he’s away from the office and out at one of his properties. I was fortunate to make several trips to Montana and to his two ranches in the Patagonia region of Argentina. These places are spectacular, and we’d spend portions of our days fishing, riding horses, or just enjoying the beauty of the properties. Then, when the mood struck him, Ted would say, “Okay, Burke, let’s work.” I’d turn on my digital voice recorder, start asking questions and off we’d go. Early on, Ted said he was eager to write his book now because he was concerned that he was losing his memory. Fortunately, there was no sign of that during our conversations and, in fact, Ted’s recollection of events from the vast scope of his life is truly remarkable.

In revisiting his past, Ted was very open and honest. He shared with me some very intimate and at times painful memories about his childhood and the tragic deaths of his father and sister. He was candid about his disappointment about not maintaining a successful marriage and opened up about his deep resentment at the way he was treated when he departed Time Warner.

Equally remarkable was how open people were to sharing their own “Ted Stories” with me. I had known many of the individuals I interviewed from my time at Turner Broadcasting (e.g. Terry McGuirk, Jerry Levin, and Jeff Bewkes) but there were several others whom I had never met.

Ted Turner Through The Years

Below is a slideshow of pictures to highlight the accomplishments throughout Ted Turner's life. If you would like to stop the slideshow, click the stop button below. You can resume the slideshow at any time by clicking "play" and you will start where you left off. You can click "next" or "previous" to navigate through the images and go at your own speed. Enjoy!

In these cases, Ted’s assistant, Debbie Masterson, would contact them on my behalf, and we generally had a meeting worked out within hours. Busy people like Bill Gates, Tom Brokaw, Jane Fonda, and President Jimmy Carter not only agreed to talk to me, they were eager to share their Ted memories. Their enthusiasm confirmed what I’d suspected when we first decided to include these anecdotes: people love to tell stories about Ted Turner.

Throughout the long process of completing this book, Ted’s enthusiasm never waned. As we moved from the initial interviews and research to the tougher work of writing and editing, Ted maintained his level of commitment. It seemed as though the work was almost therapeutic for him. Collecting his story and reliving his remarkable ride helped put the full scope of his life into perspective for him and, I believe, contributed to his ability to move on from the disappointment of how his media career ended and appreciate in a new way all that he has accomplished. For someone as focused on the future as Ted is, diving back into his past was, at times, eye opening. I remember him calling me one time after reading a draft and saying, “Man, that was a great chapter– I could barely put it down!”
“Well, you lived it, Ted,” I replied.
“I know,” he answered, “but I’d forgotten how exciting some of that stuff was!”

As we completed our final edits, the time came to record the audiobook, and while we considered with our publisher whether Ted should read the preface or do an author Q&A or both, Ted insisted that he wanted to read the entire book. We explained that this would involve literally dozens of hours of work and that most people in his position would hand this over to a professional reader, but Ted was adamant that he wanted to give it a try. Over the course of last spring and summer, he spent numerous days in recording studios in New York and Atlanta and completed the job. He even did some of this work while recovering from back surgery. In typical Ted Turner fashion, rather than use this medical procedure as an excuse to get out of the work, he decided that the recording would give him something to do while he healed. Because of Ted’s dedication, we now have a firsthand recording of CALL ME TED that fans of audiobooks should really enjoy.

Working on CALL ME TED has been a privilege and, as is usually the case when you spend time with Ted Turner, it has also been whole lot of fun.

Little Known Facts About Ted

  • Only one of a few people who have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Time magazine for different reasons

  • Currently holds 42 honorary degrees from such institutions as Brown University (Providence, R.I.), Morehouse College (Atlanta, Ga.), The Citadel (Charleston, S.C.) and Mississippi University for Women (Columbus, Miss.)

  • Number of sailing trophies won: 176

  • Favorite movie: Gone With the Wind

  • Favorite meal: A bison cheeseburger from Ted's Montana Grill with fries and an Arnold Palmer (half iced tea, half lemonade)

  • Appeared on over 115 magazine/weekly publication covers

  • Has a national debate named after him - The National Forensic League's Ted Turner Public Forum Debate

  • Largest individual landowner in the United States (owns approximately two million acres of personal and ranch land)

  • Purchased his first bison in 1976; current bison herd is approximately 50,000 head, which is the largest private herd in the world

  • Has visited all seven continents