“I worry enough to where I tell my friends they can worry less, I’ll worry for them. I’m the global worrier,” Ted Turner told an SRO crowd at the Produced By conference Saturday.
In a conversation with Variety editor-in-chief Timothy M. Gray, Turner told the showbiz crowd “I miss you” but didn’t have much encouragement for those seeking tips on how to succeed in entertainment.
He drew laughs from the crowd from his deliberately obvious advice on how to succeed: “Think it through very carefully, decide what you want to do and then go do it and execute it brilliantly. If you do everything brilliantly, you’ll be successful. If you do it badly, you’ll be a flop.”
Later, asked whether he’d get into Internet if he was starting today, he said “I’d go into clean alternative energy. The television business is filled. When I started 30 years ago, TV was a business of scarcity. There wasn’t enough television.
“Now televison is an overstocked medium. There’s too much television. … You want to be in a business that has limited entry so you’ll have limited competition as long as possible.”
Turner appeared for the U.N. Foundation, which was launched with his own gift of a billion dollars.
He remembered deciding to give that billion to the U.N. “I just had merged with Warner Bros. My worth was about $3 billion. If I gave a billion I’d be giving away a third of what I had and I hadn’t had it a year yet. I hadn’t had it long enough to even impress anybody.”
In fact, the U.N. wasn’t even permitted to receive private gifts. The creation of the foundation made that possible.
He said he’s happy with how the Foundation has put his gift to work. “I’m happier than I would have been just buying stuff for myself.”
Turner, 71, made fun of his age “My memory’s gotten so bad I can’t remember whether I’ve got Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s,” but didn’t lack for energy on the topics he’s passionate about.
He dismissed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (“the dumbest thing we’ve ever done”), fossil fuels (“kind of like phone booths. When was the last time you used a phone booth?”) while embracing his longtime causes of peace, disarmament and world hunger.
“My biggest concern is we’re not going to make it. I liken the human situation to a baseball game. It’s like the 7th innning and we’re down two runs. But we haven’t lost yet, there’s still time to turn it around.
He said he gets discouraged sometimes, but remembers what Jacques Cousteau told him: “‘Ted you can’t get discouraged. Even if we knew for sure we were going to lose, which we don’t, what can men of good conscience do but keep working at it.'”
All this had Gray wondering why he hadn’t tried politics. Turner admitted “I wanted to go into politics when I was married to Jane (Fonda). She’d been married to Tom Hayden. She said I’ve already knocked on every door in California. I said with me it’d be every door in the United States.
“I learned you can’t (run for office) unless your wife wants to, too. So I said no and we broke up anyway.”