Sunday, July 18, 2010

Honoring Simon Baker and Dr. William S. Bate.

What a privilege to meet actor Simon Baker, star of the hit TV series, The Mentalist, who was honored at the prestigious G'day USA 2010 black tie gala in Hollywood. Wendy and I had flown from Australia to meet with several film executives regarding my screenplay, Big John, a true story based on the life of Big John Levi, the great 1920s Native American fullback from Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas.

Simon Baker and Wendy Turner at the G'day USA black tie gala
We then topped off the week by attending the gala, where actress Nicole Kidman introduced Simon to the crowd. She told us about the years Baker struggled as an actor, which eventually earned him a Logie Award in his native country of Australia for Most Popular New Talent. But his career never really ignited, so at Kidman's urging, Baker -- a former bricklayer -- moved his family to Los Angeles, where he scored a supporting role opposite fellow Aussies, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, in the 1997 Academy Award-winning film, L.A. Confidential. This was followed by other successful roles, including the popular TV series, The Guardian, the film, The Devil Wears Prada, and finally the blockbuster TV series, The Mentalist.
Baker was affable and accessible and enjoyed meeting fans. Which may not continue for long given the shocking behavior of some people. Wendy and I were speaking with him at the gala when several young women in sprayed-on cocktail dresses shoved their way to the front and burst into the conversation.

Sam Worthington
Two of them held digital cameras my way while talking with him effusively. I snapped pictures, after which they grabbed them abruptly away and shoved their way toward Aussie actor, Sam Worthington, star of Clash of the Titans and Avatar, who was standing a short distance away. Sorry about that, Sam.
One of the highlights of the evening was Nicole Kidman's introduction of Baker with husband Keith Urban. With Kidman

Wendy Turner and Keith Urban
dancing around on the stage, Urban sang a humorous tribute to Baker to the tune of Men At Work's iconic Australian classic, Down Under. Some of the lyrics include, "From a small town in Tasmania, in the rugged country of Australia, came a little boy with wide-eyed wonder, destined to rise up from Down Under. And his name is Simon Baker, surfer dude, home renovator... he's a sexy baby maker, and secretly your laptop screen saver. He's a straight-up guy, no bullshit taker. He's CBS' big money-maker, The Mentalist, a ratings breaker." Baker then donned his "rockin' Buddy Holly glasses" to shouts of approval from the crowd. Urban's song brought down the house and you can watch it on YouTube here: ( Other honorees at the gala were golfer Greg Norman, who was introduced by the legendary John Travolta, and actress Toni Collette.
Toni was introduced by the gorgeous and zany Cameron Diaz who, after witnessing the roof-raising introduction of Simon Baker by Keith and Nicole, said to the audience: "After that, I looked at Toni and she looked at me, and I said, 'We are so f#*ked!' " The crowd went wild with laughter.
But as spectacular as the black tie gala was, by far the greatest highlight of our trip was seeing Dr. William S. Bate, whose cancer diagnosis helped save my life back in 1991. After a missed diagnosis by another doctor in San Diego, I was examined by Dr. Bate, whose biopsy confirmed what he suspected simply by looking at the swollen mass on my jaw: a malignant tumor was eating its way into the bone. Not having health insurance, we were forced to fly to Australia for medical help, where a team of surgeons excised the tumor, by that time the size of an orange. We had to pay for the operation, but $17,000 was a lot less than the $200,000 required in San Diego. I was given 18 months to live. It will soon be twenty years!

James Houston Turner and Wendy Turner

So imagine Dr. Bate's surprise when I walked into his office to say thanks. He and I had not seen each other since 1991 and he did not even know that I was alive. He asked where I had gone for my treatment and I told him. He said, "There are few places in the world better than Adelaide, Australia, for what you had done. They did a magnificent job."
We shook hands and a beaming Dr. Bate said I had made his day. I told him he had made my life.
Thanks to Dr. William S. Bate, Dr. Dan Hains, Dr. James Katsaros, Dr. Peter O'Brien, and Dr. Liz Coates, James Houston Turner continues to write thrillers from his home in Adelaide, South Australia. You may visit him at