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Now, Can I Please Un-Know About Ted Turner's Sex Life?
Any information is really way too much information, thanks. Welcome to the literary world version of the guy who gives you the unabridged scoop on his spastic colon while seated next to you at a dinner party. In one of the more bizarro public breakups, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Robert Olen Butler lets it ALLLLLL hang out about his breakup with Elizabeth Dewberry. Here it is from Gawker, a piece I didn't want to read, but read anyway, word-for-word, with car crash-like fascination:

Rumors will soon be swirling around the department, so I want to tell the full and nuanced story to the five of you among the graduate students and ask that you clarify the issues for any of your fellow grad students who ask. This sort of thing can get wildly distorted pretty quickly. You can feel free to use any part or all of this email to do so. I really appreciate your help.

Put down your cup of coffee or you might spill it.

Elizabeth is leaving me for Ted Turner.

She and I will remain the best of friends. She also knows about, endorses, and even encourages that I tell this much detail of the story:

She has spoken openly in her work and in her public life of the fact that she was molested by her grandfather from an early age, a molestation that was known and tacitly condoned by her radically Evangelical Christian parents. She then went into a decade-long abusive marriage. I met her when she was in a terminally desperate state from this lifetime of abuse, and we married and we truly loved each other.

I was able to help her a great deal. She says I saved her life. But de facto therapy as the initial foundation of a marriage eventually sucks the life out of a relationship. And it is very common for a woman to be drawn to men who remind them of their childhood abusers. Ted is such a man, though fortunately, he is far from being abusive. From all that I can tell, he is kind to her, loyal, considerate, and devoted to his family, and perhaps, therefore, he can redeem some things for her.

Further, Elizabeth has never been able to step out of the shadow of the Pulitzer. As you know-and she knows-I have been an avid admirer and supporter of her work. Everyone has heard me proclaim my sincere high regard for her as an artist. I often did this publicly. But she has published two brilliant novels since she's been with me and neither has gotten anywhere near the recognition that they richly deserve. That made it harder and harder for her to live with the ongoing praise and opportunity that flows to a Pulitzer winner. Not because of jealousy. She has always been very happy for me. But the multitude of small reflections of regard that came my way inevitably threw a spotlight on the absence of those expressions of regard for her. She felt as if she was failing as a writer.

Then, in March, she nearly died from an intestinal blockage in Argentina while on a trip with Ted. The trauma of that led her further to profoundly question her own identity. It became clear to her that the only way she can truly find herself is by making this change in her life.

She will not be Ted's only girlfriend. Ted is permanently and avowedly non-monogamous. But though he has several girlfriends, it is a very small number, and he does not take them up lightly and he gives them his absolute support when he does. And Elizabeth's leaving me is as much about the three weeks a month she is alone as it is about the week a month she is with Ted. She will find her own space and her own light in which to create the great works of art she is destined to create.

I will keep my house. I will keep my dogs and cats. I will keep virtually everything. She is being characteristically generous about that. But I will lose Elizabeth. And that is very sad. But the loss has been happening through many years of our shared struggle to make her whole. In that, I've done all I can do, as has she. I wish her the best. I ask you not to think ill of her in any way.

Elizabeth and I will now conduct ourselves as if this is public knowledge. So as I suggested at the outset, you need not keep this to yourself, if the occasion arises to speak of it to someone. This is best anyway, since I am not up to the task of telling this story over and over.
I have a high regard and affection for the students in our program. I hope this will help them sort out this rather intense story in an appropriate way.

Bob Butler

Posted by aalkon at August 1, 2007 7:48 AM


Seipp had a story about Turner.

Posted by: Crid at August 1, 2007 9:57 AM

Here's a piece in which she mentions him:

"Originally, Cartoon Network was instructed to stop showing the Speedy Cartoons (by Ted Turner, I believe) because of the racial stereotyping. Mr. Turner is really sensitive about our portrayal of foreign countries and characters...In fact, he has gone so far as to make efforts to implement the term 'international' in place of 'foreign,' but that's another story...

"The problem with the Speedys is the references to drinking, laziness, drug use and womanizing ("Speedy knows my sister, Speedy knows EVERYBODY'S sister...") This isn't worse than most any other WB character. However, since Speedy is Mexican, we've shied away from these toons... I can tell you that we are making an effort to show some Speedy cartoons in the near future. We are in the middle of re-reviewing the Speedy cartoons with the higher ups and we'll see what comes of it."

In any case, I, for one, am glad - I say, I, for one, am glad that Cartoon Network so far hasn't worried about offending bombastic Southern senators, so at least my favorite Looney Tunes character, Foghorn Leghorn, is safe.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 1, 2007 10:43 AM

Bob Butler is a total pussy.

This reminds me of a book I had the misfortune to cross paths with, about men married to lesbians. Some couple decided to stay together after the woman came out, but only as long as the guy didn't have sex with other women. The woman of course was munching carpet like a Hoover. The guy said "I was sad that I didn't get to have sex anymore, but I loved my wife and knew she needed to do this to be whole". Ack, just saw your balls off and be done with it man.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at August 1, 2007 11:11 AM

Exactly, Todd, exactly.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 1, 2007 11:22 AM

As a matter of contrast, here's what Victor Mature (reportedly) said about Rita Hayworth leaving him for Orson Welles:

"I guess the way to a woman's heart is to saw her in half."

Man, I miss the old days.

Posted by: That Julia at August 1, 2007 12:07 PM

Yeah, how about "She wants to be one of Ted Turner's girlfriends now."

Posted by: Pirate Jo at August 1, 2007 12:49 PM

Bob Butler is a total pussy.

Word. I can't understand where people's righteous indignation goes in cases like this; I mean, dude's getting dumped for the chance to be part of Turner's stable of women. I'd be pissed! (Perhaps his lack of being pissed is indicative of why he's getting dumped - the women that I know like their men to be, well, men!). There's no need for him to vindictive here, but to say "we'll remain the best of friends"? Come on. Maybe I'm just not enlightened enough, but if I were this dude, I'd say "don't the door hit your ass on the way out!"

Posted by: justin case at August 1, 2007 12:54 PM

About two years ago on her blog, Seipp acknowledged that TT was the figure in the concluding anecdote of ">this column.

(Link found via Ford)

Posted by: Crid at August 1, 2007 1:15 PM

I so bungled that. (Again, the fault is entirely Tressider's.) Let's take it from the top.

About two years ago on her blog, Seipp acknowledged that TT was the figure in the concluding anecdote of this column.

(Link found via Ford)

If that didn't work, it's because TT has black and poweful magic.

Posted by: Crid at August 1, 2007 1:20 PM

>About two years ago on her blog, Seipp acknowledged that TT was the figure in the concluding anecdote of this column.

Thanks, Crid. I now feel like washing out my brain. I mean TT? Ewww. And I don't think I'll ever think of boas the same way again.

Posted by: Kimberly at August 1, 2007 1:47 PM

Thanks -- I needed that. And I mean that. I was missing Cathy a lot just a few hours ago. Amazing how, as Sandra pointed out at the LA Press Club Awards, no matter how old some piece of Cathy's is, it's sure to read as crisp, biting as ever, and "now."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 1, 2007 2:11 PM

I recently read Jane Fonda's autobiography. Her description of meeting Ted Turner and his pursuit of her was nauseating. First, that he was assertive to the point of harassment, and secondly that she saw it as flattering and admirable. It really made me sick. She talks a bit about his sexual indulgences, but leaves a lot to discretion.

Ms. Fonda was abused as a child, as was Elizabeth Dewberry. It's pretty commonly known that people who were abused as a child gravitate to those who display the same traits as their abusers. Sickening, isn't it?

Posted by: Laurie at August 1, 2007 3:20 PM

Regardless of her childhood horrors, I doubt Ms. Dewberry would take up with Billionaire Ted but for the boatloads of cash he'll doubtlessly toss her way.

I do love how the "understanding" cuckold is basically telling the world Dewberry's asking price for 1 week a month of sex (I wonder if she'll get to wear the feather boa or the strap-on?). But, hey - its all so she can go through her "journey" and perfect her "art." Is he a pussy? More like passive-aggressive, bitter ex.

I truly hope this couple is childless.

Posted by: snakeman99 at August 1, 2007 3:35 PM

One of the sad but sure signs of a pussyboy is his willingness to let it all hang out in hopes of vindication/feeling better. I get a lot of letters from guys who don't really want advice but just want to confess/avenge.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 1, 2007 3:57 PM

Googled to no avail: Who are Dewberry and butler?

Posted by: Crid at August 1, 2007 4:27 PM

I've met a few mature gents in my travels that have decided to have many girlfriends. And to think the young guys get the bad rap as being sluts!

Posted by: Chrissy at August 1, 2007 6:47 PM

Since it seems like nobody is going to say this, I will. This guy sent this email to five (5!) graduate students with whom he worked, to clear the air before the gossip got out of hand. If you've spent half an hour in an academic department, this is an entirely understandable impulse.

(Brief aside: I am not an academic, but I am currently reading "Middlemarch," so forgive me if I have a particular admiration for that impulse, as I am 3/4th of the way through a morality play that might as well be subtitled "When People Talk Shit Behind Other People's Backs and What Happens Then.")

Then the email gets onto the internet and now we all think he's a pussy. Maybe he was too trusting of the graduate students, maybe he didn't quite see what would be entailed by encouraging them to "use any part or all of this email" to clear the air.

Could be he's a fool, could be he's pathetic. But try to remember that he didn't actually *ask* Gawker and its myriad readers into his bedroom to hear this story. He was trying to stop rumor and gossip in his own small Tallahassee community, not win the hearts and minds of the internet. (Obviously not, or he'd have begun by setting up an anti-immigration blog and been done with it.)

Posted by: Harriet at August 1, 2007 7:38 PM

Two possibilities here (IMHO):

1) Butler has no spine/cojones/insert your own term here.

2) Butler has realized that he now can go after younger, nubile women in his program and elsewhere guilt-free, and wants the world to know that he's not being a middle-aged lech, really - he's single now because he cared about his partner!

Think about it: Dennis Quaid wasn't exactly an enviable figure when he got publicly cuckolded by Meg Ryan, but now he's free to date whichever 25-year-old chickadee he wants, guilt-free, while Meg is...adopting a cute baby from China and living life without a boyfriend or any movie offers that I've heard from. Who had the better result there? Butler may be planning something similar.

(For the record, I'm going with possibility 1 here. I just wanted to leave open the chance that Butler could be clever, rather than stupid, here.)

Followed the link to Cathy's column. Now I must go bleach my brain, but I must ask if anyone knows if the wife mentioned in the anecdote was Jane Fonda, or someone else.

Posted by: marion at August 1, 2007 7:39 PM

Marion - what makes you think options 1 and 2 are mutually exclusive? Jockying for sympathy fucks from potential admirers is exactly the kind of maneuver a no-balls flighty academic type would attempt. Note the Pulitzer mention and the omisssion of his own age difference with his ex. He was Ted before Ted.

Posted by: snakeman99 at August 1, 2007 9:02 PM

So everybody knew who these two are?

Posted by: Crid at August 1, 2007 10:56 PM

No bloody clue, Crid, but I'm afraid to ask, since doing so might produce more tidbits about the sex life of Ted Turner.

Snakeman99: You're right that the two possibilities aren't mutually exclusive...I just wonder if the piece, written in a tone that seems SO solicitous and SO caring, was really meant to show, "Hey, my ex is ca-razy and our breakup was totally her fault, not my own. Look, she left me to become one of Ted Turner's girlfriends because he reminds her of the grandfather that molested her! I am not the bad guy here!" It's possible the author knew EXACTLY how bizarrely this piece would come off and is laughing all the way to the bank o' singledom. I'm just throwing out the possibility.

Posted by: marion at August 2, 2007 5:16 AM

Only vaguely, Crid. I looked at a book he wrote once and was glad I don't care who gets the Pulitzer.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 2, 2007 8:10 AM

It'll be hard to distinguish them from those art people, these are suicides of a different type... The suffocation of dignity and all that

Posted by: Crid at August 2, 2007 10:59 AM

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