East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The man who danced with Turner


This lady is Lana Turner.
I think we can all agree she was absolutely gorgeous – and if she’s not my favorite classic Hollywood actress1 her beauty and her on-screen presence were simply stunning.


On with our story…

Two days ago I was attending a book presentation here in the hills of Astigianistan – the sort of thing where a guy that has a first class job (in this case, a doctor) bores to death a crowded house talking about his books, which are, basically, his hobby.
Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but I still entertain the illusion that a good writer should also be a brilliant speaker. In this case he was not.
A brilliant speaker, I mean.

But as I was sneaking out the back door with my brother in tow, we met a dapper old gentleman that stopped us and asked us if we ever heard of Lana Turner.

We admitted that yes, we had.


And so he revealed us that in 1953, as a medic himself, he was in Turin during the filming of I misteri della Giungla Nera (aka Killers of the East, aka Mysteries of the Black Jungle etc.), a movie based on the works of Emilio Salgari in which Lex Barker (who was a famous Tarzan of the silver screen, succeeding to Johnny Weismuller) had the main role.
Barker had then-girlfriend Lana Turner with him – and actually they got married in Turin2 in September of ’53.


Anyway, our dapper new friend, having been introduced into the glittering world of the movies, and having met Tarzan and his (soon to be) bride, met Turner again, unaccompained, a few days later, when she was a guest at a beauty pageant.

And on the pageant’s evening, he was able to ask the unescorted beauty for a dance.

Here comes the point where I find it hard to put in words the sensations.
This man, simple, nice, soft-spoken, whose hand I had shaken five minutes ago, had held in his arms Lana Turner.

The feeling is a weird mixture of awe, elation and sadness.
Here we were, in the aisles of a small local museum, the audience extatic at some trite “writer’s life” cliché being served from the lectern, while here, living, breathing, was a man that had…


Ok, I know.
Maybe I’m starstruck.
Maybe I’ve watched too many black and white movies, too many technicolor epics, maybe I’m living in the past.
But no.
I met the walking memory of some extraordinary experience, and all the rest missed it, to listen to the usual fare about not wanting to be a writer, but a book.

Then we went our separate ways.
But here I am – one degree of separation from Lana Turner, and lost and penniless in the hills of southern Piedmont.
Isn’t life strange?

  1. my tastes run more in the direction of Carole Lombard, Hedy Lamarr and Ava Gardner. So sue me. 
  2. where I was born! 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “The man who danced with Turner

  1. Wow, wow and, again, wow! I can see why your new acquaitance was more interesting than the doctor-turned-author!
    And yes, life is indeed strange.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a wonderful “chance” encounter that will leave you a memory for the ages. These just don’t happen all the time. Thank you for recording your thoughts of the encounter with us, your readers.


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