Monday, January 24, 2011

A Cool Dude Writer Goes To G'day USA. The Photos

Okay, so I had a little run-in with the law while I was here.

You see, I have this Facebook friend named Beth who dared me to dress differently when I attended the black tie gala. To wear something distinctive, such as lime green cufflinks. So I thought: I'll really go green. After all, going green is "in," so I decided to wear a spiffy green shirt. A little green is good, which means a lot more green is better. Right? Wrong! It was a close call, let me tell you. And I almost got cited for numerous fashion offenses. Good thing I'm a fast talker. They let me off with a warning if I promised to never wear green again. Yes, officer. Of course, officer.

Little did they know who I really was and that I tell lies for a living...

The media awaits my arrival in something other than green. Or they may be waiting for John Travolta. I'm not sure...

John Travolta and his gorgeous wife, Kelly Preston.

The great Hollywood actor, Jon Voigt, arrives on the red carpet. (Not the green carpet, mind you, which should have been a clue for me earlier.)

"Excellence in Film" award recipient, Abbie Cornish (I loved her as American wine brat, Christie Roberts, in the film, A Good Year, with Russell Crowe), talks to the media. Beside her is Olivia Newton-John, and her husband, John Easterling.

Olivia is truly one of the most radiant, warm individuals on the planet. She and I had met at another G'day USA, but when I told her 2011 was my 20th anniversary of beating the odds against cancer, and that I was kicking off my celebration year tonight, she gave me a high-five and said, "Put it there, brother." Olivia, as most of you know, is a breast cancer survivor and has just broken ground on the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.

Wally Mariani, with actor Simon Baker, John Easterling, and Olivia Newton-John.

James and Wally Mariani, AM, Chairman of the Australia Week Committee.

"Excellence in Music" award recipient, Barry Gibb (who with brothers Robin and Maurice formed the iconic pop group, the Bee Gees), with Kelly Preston and John Travolta. Clips from the Bee Gees were played on giant screens, including video clips showing a young Travolta demonstrating his disco dance moves to the Bee Gees legendary hit song, "Stayin' Alive". The song also sets a perfect beat for administering emergency CPR

I absolutely love the hit TV military crime show, NCIS LA, so how cool was it to meet LL Cool J, who plays lead agent Sam Hanna, and Daniela Ruah, who plays special agent Kensi Blye, the kickass American/Portugese beauty who adds spark to the already great chemistry between lead agents Chris O'Donnell (who plays G. Callen) and LL Cool J? I think Daniela would make a terrific Zoe Gustaves and LL Cool J would make an awesome Jackson Teague in a film version of The Identity Factor (yes, a script has been written and is being represented in Hollywood as we speak). Don't know who Zoe and Teague are? Don't worry, The Identity Factor will soon be available as an eBook. Keep watching this space for more news.

The Hollywood Palladium, on Sunset Boulevard, where G'day USA 2011 was held.

The "Excellence in Sport" award was given to tennis legend, Roy Emerson, shown here with his lovely wife, Joy. Roy was introduced by fellow tennis legend, Andre Agassi.

Andre Agassi with his wife, Steffi Graf.

The menu (prawns and grapefruit salad, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth roast lamb and beef) was prepared by celebrity chef, Curtis Stone.

An outstanding Myer department store fashion show began with swimsuits, then showcased the latest trends in men's and women's fashion.

International pop singer and the first Australian Idol winner, Guy Sebastian (from Adelaide), performed a medley of Bee Gee songs as a tribute to Barry Gibb. He also raised the roof with a brilliant performance of his latest hit, "Who's That Girl?"

Guy Sebastian and I.

With some of the Australian Girls Choir.

I would like to thank veteran Hollywood photographer, Bill Rich ( for most of the photos in this collection. Bill is not only a good friend and close mate, but one of the finest photographers I know. And I have worked with a lot. Large job or small -- if you want the best, contact Bill.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Cool Dude Writer Goes To G'day USA

G'day USA is one of the highest profile international promotional events in America. Hosted in eight cities by the Australian Government, G'day USA endeavors to strengthen bilateral collaboration between the two countries and promote new business opportunities.

G'day USA Black Tie Gala

The prestigious black tie gala in Hollywood is the glamorous centerpiece of the fourteen-day event, which honors the contributions of Australians in their respective fields. Previous honorees include Cate Blanchett, Baz Luhrmann, Anthony LaPaglia, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Olivia Newton John, Hugh Jackman, INXS, Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe, Kylie Minogue, Phillip Noyce, Eric Bana, Rachel Griffiths, Rod Laver, Simon Baker, Toni Collette, and Greg Norman.

Fashion is a big part of the G'day USA black tie gala. Actors, producers, directors, supermodels, rock stars, athletes -- they all scrub up and dress up and strut the red carpet lookin' good. Without airbrushing, too. Cool Dude Writers, of course, have the same highly-developed sense of fashion. I tell my wife that all the time although, as some of you may remember, we Cool Dude Writers sometimes get caught off guard.

The occasion was an interview that had been scheduled early one morning in connection with my previous thriller, The Identity Factor. And I do mean early -- 12:05am Adelaide time, which was 7:35am in Los Angeles. In my defense, I did not know the interview had been scheduled. It was a breakfast radio talk show for the captive audience on the LA freeways. A publicist in Los Angeles had arranged things with 1590 KKZZ but neglected to confirm it with me. Surprise. Surprise.

Dark-thirty. The phone rings. I bolt out of bed wondering what's wrong (as we often think when the phone rings in the middle of the night). A cheery voice greets me: "One moment, please, for the Maria Sanchez show."

So there I am, shivering, in the dark, in the winter, in a brick cottage in Adelaide without central heat, with not a stitch of clothing on, conducting an interview on an abrasive rattan chair. An abrasive cold rattan chair. "How did you end up in Australia?" asked Maria. "What kinds of things did you smuggle behind the old Iron Curtain? How did you do all that amazing research for your book?"

Cool Dude Writer James Houston Turner goes to G'day USA in Los AngelesWas I coherent? Did Maria Sanchez wonder, "who is this clown with the chattering teeth?" I have no idea. Maria was one of those easy-to-talk-to radio hosts who makes you feel like you're having a friendly chat over coffee. My wife heard me answering questions and thought: do I help him out here? With a chuckle, she got up and brought me her fluffy pink bath robe. "Here you are, Mr.Cool Dude Writer," she whispered before going back to bed.

So you can bet your bottom dollar I won't be getting caught off guard at G'day USA. No way! I'm going to scrub up, dress up, and show everybody how I've got this black tie tuxedo fashion thing licked.

Let's see, do I wear the Converse or the Cowboy boots???

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Defining Moments

James A. Michener, in his excellent memoir, The World Is My Home, tells a wonderful story from his childhood. Reading that vignette was a defining moment for me, for it expressed exactly why I write.

Wrote Michener: "The farmer living at the end of our lane had an aging apple tree that had once been abundantly productive but had now lost its energy and ability to bear any fruit at all. The farmer, on an early spring day, hammered eight nails, long and rusty, into the trunk of the tree. Four were knocked in close to the ground on four different sides of the trunk, four higher up and well spaced about the circumference. That autumn a miracle happened. The tired old tree, having been goaded back to life, produced a bumper crop of juicy red apples, bigger and better than we had seen before. When I asked how this had happened, the farmer explained: 'Hammerin' in the rusty nails...reminded it that its job is to produce apples.' " Michener went on to say how a number of health issues were the "rusty nails" that goaded him into writing his memoir.

My "nails," as many of you know, was cancer. Until that time, I lacked the discipline and skill required to be a successful writer. I had been blessed with a great education, an active imagination, a wide variety of life experiences, and I possessed an ability to collect ideas and boil them down into a story. But when the going got tough -- as it inevitably does for an artist -- I would move on to something else. I was a quitter.

My fight against cancer, however, was a defining moment for me like the apple tree was for Michener. A line in the sand. A moment when I couldn't be a quitter. But it had its roots in an experience that had occurred many years before.

During my freshman year at Baker University, I studied shorin-ryu martial arts in the basement of the old Baker gymnasium. I learned eagerly, excelled quickly, and I remember taking my first test in Kansas City, at Bushidokan. The legendary Jim Harrison was Bushidokan's founder and master, and I will never forget him. Bruce Lee once called Jim Harrison "one of the most dangerous men in the world." Harrison was truly a modern Samurai warrior.

Another student and I were called to the mat for our test. Harrison played with us for a while, allowing us to attack him with everything we had learned. He blocked and parried and deflected our blows, then suddenly turned on us with a vengeance. What happened next is still a vivid memory -- if you count blurs as vivid memories. After a flurry of fists and kicks, I found myself flat on my back. Both eyes were cut and swollen. My nose was bleeding. My body was aching.

Screamed Harrison: "Get up or I'll kill you!" But I couldn't get up. I was exhausted. I could hardly see. Harrison ordered us again to get up -- and I wasn't about to lie there and discover whether he was screaming metaphorically or otherwise -- so I staggered to my feet only to be pummeled back down. That process was repeated several times, and each time Harrison would not let us quit. Finally, at the proverbial "brink of exhaustion" -- and it was more than a "brink," I can assure you -- we were invited to stand before him. The test was over.

"Was that the worst beating you've ever experienced?" he asked.
"Yes, sinsei," we answered, gasping for air and struggling to stand.
"I didn't allow you to quit, did I?"
"No, sinsei."
"Okay, I want you to listen to what I'm about to tell you. If you ever find yourself in a fight, don't ever quit. I don't care how weary you are, how beaten, how bloody, how frightened -- don't ever quit."

He then looked at me and smiled. "Good job," he said, inspecting my black and swollen eyes (one eye was completely swollen shut). "The cuts will heal," he added, "but the scars will remain to remind you of this day. To remind you of this lesson."

Don't ever quit.

What we're made of -- our character -- emerges when the odds against us seem insurmountable. And sometimes it takes precisely such a fight -- a fight like cancer -- for us to recall the lessons we've been taught in order to achieve what we're meant to achieve. Without the challenge, we never truly rise. It's why I wear Jim Harrison's scar above my eye with a degree of pride. It's a reminder, along with my other scars, of the lessons I've had to learn the hard way, and what I am today: scarred but not defeated.

This year -- 2011 -- marks my twentieth anniversary of being alive. Back in 1991, I was given eighteen months. And while these twenty years have been exhilarating, especially being married to the love of my life, on other fronts they have not been easy.

Much of it was self-inflicted because of the path I've chosen: writing. And not just any writing, but fiction. As many of you know, the road to becoming a published novelist (same with actors and other artists) is one of the most difficult roads there is. It's no place for quitters. You've got to have "thick skin," strength, and stamina. "Sticktoitiveness," as I've heard it described.

I started writing when I was ten, and my first professional writing job, for which I was actually paid, was in 1972, for the Dr Pepper soft drink company, in Dallas, Texas. Since then, when paid writing jobs weren't available, I've had to work at every kind of job imaginable to support my passion to write. I cannot tell you how many windows I've washed, how many nails I've hammered, how much concrete I've shoveled, how many toilets I've cleaned or floors I've vacuumed. And I didn't quit. Here I am!

Robert Werden, a veteran Hollywood film publicist, once told me this: "the longer and harder the road, the sweeter it is at the top." And after having come through what I've come through, I can say this: the tougher the road, the more difficulties you encounter -- the greater the joy, inner strength and capability you will develop.

An easy life produces shallow roots; a hard life produces deep roots. It's true for trees. It's true for us.

So when my intrepid fictional hero, Aleksandr Talanov, gets the stuffing beat out of him in one of my books and later turns it to his benefit, remember: I've been there myself, just as many of you have. The world is full of hardship and triumph. My experiences help define who I am. Such experiences also make Talanov who he is: a character whose victorious battles against the odds always come at a cost, but produce solid character and lasting reward.

I look forward to your partnership and comments in this exciting literary journey.