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Clash of the Tinas by Rachel Johnson

Blog | By Rachel Johnson | Aug 24, 2023

Tina Brown – the Tina Turner of journalism

If you have been on the Tube recently, you can’t have missed those posters proclaiming ‘TINA’ and picturing the hoofer from Tennessee in full cry.

They’re promoting the five-year anniversary relaunch of the record- breaking eponymous musical at the Aldwych in the West End, impeccably directed by Phyllida Lloyd.

‘Set to the pulse-pounding soundtrack of her most beloved hits, experience Tina Turner’s triumphant story live on stage as this exhilarating celebration reveals the woman that dared to dream fiercely, shatter barriers and conquer the world – against all odds,’ the programme says.

The production is a collab with Mrs Turner herself and it’s an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza interrupted only by brief intervals of hitting (Ike on Tina). The greatest hits – River Deep, Mountain High, What’s Love Got to Do with It?, Nutbush City Limits, Let’s Stay Together and Private Dancer – are all given proper size-12 welly.

Whenever I see the poster, the journalist in me, as opposed to the Oldie rock critic, can’t help wishing that the life of another Tina was being celebrated too, despite the ads boasting ‘There is only one Tina’.

That is Tina Brown. We met when I was at Oxford and she blew in – she was editing Vanity Fair and Olivia Channon had just died of a drugs overdose in the Christ Church rooms of Count Gottfried von Bismarck – and took a bunch of undergraduates, including me, out to lunch to get the goss for a mag piece.

‘I liked the editor of Isis, a sparky blonde,’ she said in a diary afterwards, which remains the only nice thing anyone has ever written about me.

I have been her devoted slave ever since.

This May, she was in town to host a summit for her Sir Harry Evans Memorial Fund. At a reception for it at the US Ambassador’s residence (where drinks started at the record early time of 5.30pm, and at 7pm I couldn’t even get a glass of water as they had ‘closed the bar’), Tina said a few words. The crowd included Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. All I can say is her gift for nifty phrasemaking has if anything advanced with age (she hailed the couple as ‘the Mick and Keith of journalism’).

So, please, Phyllida Lloyd, how about doing a rock opera about the girl from Maidenhead who bewitched men of letters, edited magazines, founded magazines and so on?

Tina Brown is the Tina Turner of journalism. She too is ‘simply unstoppable’ (as the posters put it). She is ‘simply the best’ – and a rock star in her own right.