Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles

Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles

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by Kathleen Turner

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From her film debut as the sultry schemer in Body Heat to her award-winning role as Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, actress Kathleen Turner's unique blend of beauty, intelligence, and raw sexuality has driven her personal and professional life. Now, in this gutsy memoir, the screen icon tells us of the risks she's taken and the lessons she


From her film debut as the sultry schemer in Body Heat to her award-winning role as Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, actress Kathleen Turner's unique blend of beauty, intelligence, and raw sexuality has driven her personal and professional life. Now, in this gutsy memoir, the screen icon tells us of the risks she's taken and the lessons she's learned-sometimes the hard way.

For the first time, Turner shares her childhood challenges-a life lived in countries around the world until her father, a State Department official whom she so admired, died suddenly when she was a teenager. She talks about her twenty year marriage, and why she and her husband recently separated, her close relationship with her daughter, her commitment to service, and how activism in controversial causes has bolstered her beliefs. And Turner reveals the pain and heartbreak of her struggle with rheumatoid arthritis, and how, in spite of it, she made a daring decision: to take a break from the movies and relaunch her stage career.

Along the way, Turner describes what it's like to work with legends like Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, William Hurt, Steve Martin, Francis Ford Coppola, John Huston, John Waters, Edward Albee...and, with characteristic irreverent humor, shares her behind-the-screen stories of dealing with all types of creative, intimidating, and inspiring characters.

Kathleen Turner has always known that she would play the lead in the story of her life. It's impossible not to take her lessons on living, love, and leading roles to heart. And it won't be long until you'll be sending yourself roses!

Editorial Reviews

In 1981, Kathleen Turner electrified audiences with her devilishly sultry debut performance in Body Heat. In the next decade, the raspy-voiced thespian added leading role credits in movies such as Romancing the Stone, Prizzi's Honor, and V. I. Warshawski, before painful rheumatoid arthritis severely limited her film career. Send Yourself Roses does much more than recount her impressive fling as a Hollywood temptress and its abrupt curtailment. This strikingly candid autobiography reveals the private struggles of a talented, controversial actress. Turner writes frankly about her childhood as a globe-trotting "State Department brat," her 20-year marriage and what destroyed it, and her deep commitment to activism.
Publishers Weekly

Turner has starred in films as diverse as Body Heatand Romancing the Stone; she's had rave reviews for her stage performances in The Graduateand Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Now Turner, with the aid of Gloria Feldt, bares her heart to readers in an upbeat account of her life and work. Turner discovered the theater when she was a teenager living with her Foreign Service family in London; from then on, she took every opportunity to study acting and to perform. Eventually, she landed the steamy lead in Body Heat. Playing such a sexually voracious female role might have typecast her, so she followed it with a comedy, The Man with Two Brains. As she discusses the other acting roles she's chosen, she's emphatic that "the selection of material and characters I play reflects my values." She's also been deliberate in her offstage life-her decision to marry, to have a child and to divorce. With great candor, she details some of her worst struggles, battling both rheumatoid arthritis and alcohol. In the end, she's realized it comes down to "taking the lead role" in her own life. While she may indulge in swear words a bit much for some readers, Turner's vision of life's many possibilities-even as she gets older-is surely inspiring. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

There seem to be two types of celebrity memoirs: the juicy, tell-all variety (e.g., Rosie O'Donnell's Celebrity Detox) and the ones that are meant to impart wisdom (e.g., Kirk Douglas's Let's Face It). Turner's is the latter. Though she talks about her life growing up around the world and her struggles as an actress, her memoir is much more about what she has learned from life. And what the reader discovers is that Turner has, euphemistically speaking, a healthy ego about her looks and talent; that she struggled valiantly and silently against intense rheumatoid arthritis; that she thinks it's important for a woman to have a good voice (literally); and that she fervently believes in the importance of service and activism. She is one strong woman and likable in her confidence, and for celebrity bio lovers who are looking for the gossip, she does share some fun tidbits about her films: she didn't like working with Nicolas Cage in Peggy Sue Got Married, and she and Burt Reynolds are "sworn enemies." For all public libraries.
—Rosellen Brewer

Jane Fonda
"Through all of her roles—personal, professional, and in service to others—Kathleen Turner stays true to herself, and I admire that. Send Yourself Roses is an intimate and fun read about an exceptional actress who is also a very gutsy, out-there woman."
Michael Douglas
"Kathleen has always told it like it is. She has good insight, a great sense of humor and Send Yourself Roses is an enjoyable read."
Cindy Adams - NY Post
"A real page Turner."
Cindy Adams
A real page Turner.
NY Post

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Grand Central Publishing
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Read an Excerpt

Send Yourself Roses

By Kathleen Turner Gloria Feldt Springboard Press
Copyright © 2008
Kathleen Turner and Gloria Feldt
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-58112-7

Chapter One The Best Role Is Always Ahead

I am fucking exhausted. Wonderfully, joyfully exhausted, and filled with such extraordinary happiness and gratitude.

Those were my feelings after the two closing London performances of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on May 13, 2006.

People ask, "How can you do that-two grueling three-and-a-half-hour performances one right after the other?" The four of us actors-Bill Irwin as George, Mireille Enos as Honey, David Harbour as Nick, and me as Martha-joked that it's actually one six-act play on days when there are two shows, since we're all on stage during most of the show. I liken the energy and the skill this takes to being an Olympic athlete. Which is quite a feat for someone whose feet have sacrificed most of their toe bones to rheumatoid arthritis. That's why I padded around the stage in those funny soft little slippers.

I never feel tired when I'm onstage. Offstage before and after, I wonder how the hell I did it. But onstage, it just doesn't happen. The exhaustion doesn't hit me until the very, very end when I, or rather Martha, is on the floor and George asks, "Are you all right?" and Martha says, "Yes ... No." Then I can allow myself to feel the body pains, to feel the mental pain, to feel the heart pain, of the character.

There's a moment in the curtain call after we've all taken the first bow together. Bill and I step back and Mireille and David take their bow. Then Bill and I step forward to take ours. The sound crescendos; it comes in this huge wave. It feels as though it pushes me back physically. It's such an amazing feeling that it takes my breath away. And I just start to beam. I feel so grateful, so grateful, to us, to them, to me, to God, that we have this incredible experience in our lives. All of us: the audience, cast, and crew. Even the critics-everyone says it's the first time the London theater critics have all agreed and given rave reviews to any play. The audiences jumped; they were on their feet applauding us almost every night. It has been a tremendous, absolutely amazing reward for the effort we have all put out and, yes, somewhat of a redemption for me.

I look out at the audience and return the waves of their love and appreciation with a full heart.

When I first read this play in college, I knew I wanted to play Martha someday. I was thrilled by Martha's recklessness, how she has no thought of consequences. Like the way she slices through George, contrasting his inadequacies in sharpest detail to her own "necessary greater strength." She's dangerous as hell but also very exciting and rather endearing.

Or at least I was convinced I could make her endearing. Even back then, I was sure I had the skill to make audiences love the characters I played. Heavens, I was twenty, and I believed I could do anything and that Martha would be a fitting challenge for me when I turned fifty. I always kept this idea in my mind.

Fearlessness at twenty springs from not knowing what challenges lie ahead. Fearlessness at fifty comes from having wrestled with life's challenges and learned from them.

Many challenges good and bad, steps I've deliberately planned or opportunistically seized, choices I've made, risks I've taken, came between the idea and the reality of playing Martha. Each of them helped to form me, to teach me, to prepare me.

The Right Moment to Tell My Story

People say to me all the time, "Oh, you're such a regular person." And I wonder, As opposed to what? An artificial construct?

Just before I left New York for the London run of Virginia, this book started-as many good things do-over tamales, jicama salad, and a margarita (light salt) at Zarela, a favorite Mexican restaurant. Gloria, who has been a good friend since we worked together at Planned Parenthood Federation of America-she as its president and CEO and I as chair of its Board of Advocates-said she wanted to write my biography. She told me I had a lot to say. I was rather embarrassed at first by the thought of that much emphasis on myself. It seemed too egotistical.

Then I thought about something I'd heard, that the object of our lives is the growth of our souls. And I feel that my soul is finally in a place where I can contribute. This particular moment in my life is a good time to take stock of all that. So I said I would like to be the practical, regular person that I am, and share my life lessons that might be of service to others. Finally we both figured out that I couldn't share my lessons very well without telling my story too.

I feel about this book like I feel about my acting roles. Send Yourself Roses is my truth as I see it. But every story has many truths. Take from mine whatever you will.

I do have stories to tell, and I believe in the power of sharing them. Many come from my film and stage work. I'll explore how my roles have broken new ground for women, how they've spanned sexuality from a femme fatale to a woman playing a man playing a woman. I want to share my passion for service. And I've had personal tragedies, rocky relationships, out-of-control drinking, and snarky critics to contend with. I've come back against all odds from a debilitating illness and being told I'd be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, to which I said, "Go fuck yourself." I've experienced the joy of motherhood and the sadness of infertility, a happy marriage that eventually became a necessary separation. I've learned from it all.

But what you know isn't enough, babe: what counts is how you use it going forward.

I like where I am now and what I have achieved. I'm doing the best work of my life. I can see all that has come before: the obstacles overcome, the risks I've taken, the choices I've made, the great, great opportunities I've had, and the lessons about life, love, and leading roles that these experiences have taught me.

I don't want to be twenty again. I'm having that creative surge women often get when we pass fifty. I feel at the top of my personal and professional life.

So I'll take it from the top. Not the beginning, but now, smack in the middle of my life, or so I expect, since the women in my family have good longevity. It's the perfect vantage point to look back at what I've done so far and to look forward to see exciting possibilities I might create for my future-and those that might come my way.

The Freedom to Go On

I gave myself a special treat the day after Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? closed in London. I checked into the Lanesborough. It's a beautiful spa hotel, with wonderful service, near Hyde Park. I booked a facial and a massage in my room. I went to the hotel, washed my face, put on a robe, and that was it for the rest of the night. I didn't go back out; I didn't put on makeup or get dressed again. I watched a movie, had dinner in the room, read a book.

I melted into the bed. Maybe the exhaustion sharpened my perceptions because I felt so vulnerable to my feelings. They poured out of me, as though I'd removed my skin with my stage makeup.

I feel different, better, about my personal life as well as my professional life. So much confidence comes simply because I have reached this very good age. Women my age today are forging new ground. Society stops defining us by our reproductive capacity, sexual attractiveness, or other traditional measures, so we become liberated from stereotype. We are freed to grow into our full selves.

I couldn't have allowed myself to feel so positive in the past. When I was at the height of my film career, I didn't have the kind of respect I now have from the theatrical community. I hadn't yet proved that I have the chops for the stage. But now I have a stature I've never before enjoyed.

Virginia Woolf herself observed that when her Aunt Mary left her enough money to live on, her financial independence meant she "need not hate" or "flatter any man." She said this was of even more value to her freedom and autonomy than the right to vote.

True enough. I feel fortunate to be in a generation of women who have had the opportunity to support ourselves and be in control of our own finances-with or without Aunt Mary-throughout our adult lives. Our mothers might have defined themselves as working wives if they had careers outside the home. We have been working women. And I think we're much more interesting after we've been out in the world, even if we've been a bit battered by it from time to time. No, we're more interesting because we've taken our knocks and learned from them.

I feel optimistic about my life today because I've taken chances over the years. I've taken my own dreams seriously enough to act on them. I've accepted opportunities that have come my way without having to plan or plot for them. But I also have a long-term idea of what I want, and then I take chances on doing the things that seem to fit my talents when they come along. I take chances that move me toward my goals.

That openness to fortuity would drive other people mad. They'll say, "Okay, what will Kathleen be doing this time next year?" Well, I don't know. I don't know what I'll be doing. Maybe it's not written yet, or maybe I'll feel like doing something else for a while. I have learned to wait until the choice becomes inevitable. I used to drive my soon-to-be-ex-husband, Jay, rather crazy because he'd always want to know the shape of the time to come. And I could never give him that.

I was brought up not to think too much of myself-that wonderful WASP tradition. So it knocks me out when an actor I respect-for example, Donald Sutherland or Dame Judi Dench-comes up after the show and says, "That was one of the most extraordinary performances I have ever seen." I don't know what to say. It is just staggering to me. I've admired their work for so long, it's difficult to think they accept me as one of them.

So I say, "Thank you." I'm much too polite to reject a compliment like that-my God. It's a thrilling thought; it makes me smile out loud. And it does change things.

Acting is the study of human behavior, but you don't have to be an actor to share these experiences. And there's absolutely no end to the study, because every year you learn more, you build on the information, the understanding you've achieved. This study of human behavior is just fascinating to me. And to find the qualities or the elements that strike chords within me and others is endlessly interesting.

Soaking in the elegant tub at the Lanesborough Spa, I looked back at all these things that came before in my life. I looked forward to my future with the excitement of embarking on a new stage of life. I felt the satisfaction now ... and the freedom to go on from here.

And then I got up at six the next morning to catch my flight back to New York.

Kathleen Turner Is a Verb

I'm happy to be back in my city. I've been identified more and more with New York over the last few years, though I've been here since I drove here from Baltimore, straight out of the University of Maryland, in 1977. I'd skipped the graduation ceremonies and told them to send my diploma to my mother in Missouri because I was going on to my future. I had a whole hundred dollars in my pocket, and I thought I was rich.

There are so many things I love about New York: I leave my apartment early to walk over to the gym, about seven-thirty a.m. The same garbage men are there who have seen me since I moved into that apartment. They know I've had two knee operations since then, so they're used to seeing me with a cane or crutches or walker. They ask, "How's it goin', how ya doin', how's your leg? You don't have a cane-this is great." I say, "I'm healing, everything's terrific." Then I walk on up toward Broadway, and while I'm waiting at the light, the 104 bus stops. I take that line often because it goes up and down from the theater district. The driver swings open the door; he goes, "Yo, Turner, you're lookin' good. How ya doin'?" I say, "I'm doing great, thank you." And I'm thinking, Okay, garbage men love me, bus drivers love me-it's just fantastic. New York is like a small town, because people, all kinds of people, are so friendly and it makes me feel like they're proud of me.

Being back home, routines become comfortingly normal again. I like the little things. I like grocery shopping. I like going to the pharmacy; the pharmacist is my friend. He's known me for ten years. These are the same stores I've been going to year after year after year. Makes me feel at home. I like planning meals and cooking for family and friends and for myself. I do not like cleaning. I'll vacuum if I have to, but that's about it. I don't like people fussing about me, though. All this business about having a car standing by for when you might need it is just another person to take responsibility for. I'd rather go out and get my own taxi and not have anybody else tied up in it. I think that's a real waste of my energy, and I don't want people handling my life, always knowing where I'm going, what I'm doing. It's none of their business. In fact, I'm downright stubborn about that. Stay out of it-I'll handle it, thank you. Please, for heaven's sake, I'm a New Yorker.

From my bedroom I can see both the sparkling Hudson River and the lights of the city. I wake up every morning to this beautiful light on the buildings and I think of what a magnificent accomplishment New York is. Since 9/11, my connection to the city has become even deeper. I think people associate me with New York more strongly too because of my involvement with the 9/11 rescue and cleanup efforts. I felt it was my responsibility to do what I could. I actually flagged down a fire truck and convinced the firemen I could be of use. So they took me to where I could help organize the clothing for the rescue workers, and I made myself available to speak to the media when they needed me to tell people what supplies and volunteers were needed.

As soon as I got back home from London, I started on a new fitness program. I had gotten out of shape and gained weight there, where I didn't have my normal workout regimen. The eternal struggle, you know. It gets to be more of a challenge each decade. I call my trainer "my little Italian Nazi." Her name is Suzie Amatuzi. The new program is an incredible workout. I've only been doing it four days and I already feel like I'm 50 percent back.

"I already feel like I'm 50 percent back." Now, that's a real Turnerism! I waste no time.

And I had no time to waste even if I'd wanted to. It's been a rapidfire week since I returned, between spending time with my daughter, Rachel, catching up with friends and the charitable organizations I support, and slipping back into my household routine in my apartment. I love having an apartment where I can see so many facets of the city I love. The busier rooms-my office and the living room-are all in the west part of the apartment, with the calmness of the river affecting them. My grandmother's deep blue parlor rug is in my living room. It was just like new when I got it because she never let anyone into her parlor, but I use it constantly.

After Jay and I separated and he moved out last year, I had the walls painted colors, some that excite me, some that give me a peaceful feeling. I delight in the vibrant blue, gold, and red furnishings of my slightly chaotic apartment.

It's always slightly chaotic with a teenager in the house. The minute I got back to New York, my daughter got sick. Usually when I finish a long run or a big job, I break down and get sick. But I haven't this time and I think it's because my kid needed me every day. When she gets well, I know I'll go under.

"You know, kid," I said to Rachel this morning, "you are really busting my chops here. Every day it's something." And she goes, "Well, it's not my fault." I said, "Well, no, it's not your fault. You got sick. And then you twisted your knee. But you know what-I've been waiting on you for days now. Taking care of you. Making your food. Bringing you water. Honestly. Getting you to the doctors, getting the doctors to you."

It was a funny thing, though. Last night she said, "I can't believe how painful this knee is. Next time you say your knee hurts, I'm going to do anything you want." I said, ?Yeah, sure, thanks, kid. That'll be a cold day in-August." But I know she means it. She's a great kid: bright, funny. She has a good sense of humor. She's quite irreverent. She's very empathetic, with a great sense of other people. She will see that someone is needy or timid and immediately respond to their needs. It's a marvel to me that we have raised such a great young woman and that she's so ready to be launched into the world.


Excerpted from Send Yourself Roses by Kathleen Turner Gloria Feldt Copyright © 2008 by Kathleen Turner and Gloria Feldt. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Michael Douglas
Kathleen has always told it like it is. She has good insight, a great sense of humor and Send Yourself Roses is an enjoyable read.
Jane Fonda
Through all of her roles—personal, professional, and in service to others—Kathleen Turner stays true to herself, and I admire that. Send Yourself Roses is an intimate and fun read about an exceptional actress who is also a very gutsy, out-there woman.

Meet the Author

Kathleen Turner is an actress and activist probably best known for her Oscar-nominated performance in Peggy Sue Got Married and Golden Globe winning role in Romancing the Stone. She is actively involved with local charities like the Child Advocacy Center and City Meals-on-Wheels and she chairs Planned Parenthood's celebrity Board of Advocates.

Gloria Feldt is the author of The War on Choice (Bantam 2004), a nationally prominent women's rights activist, and the former President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Dianne Levtchenko More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Kathleen Turner's openess about her life. She's had such a great career and is so talented, nd she writes with openess, warmth and humor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JaneAustenNut More than 1 year ago
Send Yourself Roses" is interesting ,but, she sometimes expands to much "toots her on horn" on her own accomplishments.The book will keep you reading and help you to learn from her choices and mistakes. It is an easy read and well-written. When you read it chances are that you will feel better for having read her memoir.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really thought I would enjoy this book. What I know of Kathleen Turner's life has been anything but boring so how this book manages to become such a snooze is beyond me. KT's ego is overwhelming. She seems to spend all her time trying to make herself look good and guess what--it doesn't work! One of the worst books I have ever read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't understand those who have written that Kathleen Turner's memoir is unreadable and full of ego. Are we reading the same book? Did the reviewers read the part where she has a tendancy to blame herself when things go wrong? She gives us insights into being fifty and fabulous and realizing our full poential as women. She's honest about her disability (RA), her drinking issue, taking responsibility for the breakdown of her marriage, the guilt associated with being a working mother, etc. I think the book is good and I'm surprised by the negative comments. She is committed to her career and public service, and I think a role model for women. I recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sadly, Kathleen Turner's lack of humility and her condescension to others really ruined my enjoyment of this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Perhaps Turner's story is worth telling, but the book is written so poorly that I had to put it down. I just couldn't go on.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought she was sexy before I read the I'm sure of it! The book is a great account of her life story with insight and character. No doubt, biassed I would recomment this book because Kathleen Turner is absolutely wonderful...the phenomenal woman
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though Kathleen Turner has never been one to pull any punches, the book has already become a source of much discontent. On the other hand, when all of Kathleen's leading men are actively working in a male dominated movie industry where women are washed up at forty, I stand ringside and cheer--GO KATHLEEN! I loved the book! I admire Kathleen Turner as one of the most talented actresses in Hollywood or the New York or London stage. I found the book a good written exposition worthy of reading, and I was amused and entertained in the process.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought it was an excellent memoir and account o f her life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, so as a Bookseller I often get advanced reader copies of soon to be released books, and I'm sorry to say that I was very disappointed by Kathleen Turner's book, 'Send Yourself Roses'. I enjoy Kathleen's talent, a lot of her movies, and her sense of comedy. However, this one was so self-centered and self-congratulatory that I barely made it through the first couple of chapters. And, I consider myself a fan. Everyone in her life is an extra, including her former husband and child, and it just reads as very mechanical and cold. I'm not sure if I'll be able to finish this one, but it's made it's way into 'the library' in my house 'i.e., the bathroom', and we'll see if I make any further progress on it or if it gets tossed after a couple of months. For now, I'm not impressed and wish I were. She's an amazing talent but apparently a very shallow human being 'and, this is an auto-biography, so it's not like it's someone else's take on her life so far'.