Former pal of Tina Turner shares inside story of Simply The Best icon

Tina: HBO releases teaser for Tina Turner documentary film

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But sitting in his Peterborough flat, with tears welling in his mascara-lined eyes, Eddy Armani had more reason than most to be enthralled when he sat down to watch the show this week. Eddy, we can reveal, was the singer’s closest friend and confidante for the best part of 20 years until he was cut off when she met her second husband, German music executive Erwin Bach.

Seeing Tina at the ripe old age of 81, talking frankly into the camera as she looked back on her extraordinary life, was at times too much for him to take.

But rather than feeling bitter and angry like so many spurned friends do, Eddy was overcome with an altogether different emotion – peace.

“I have never stopped loving Tina and I am so happy that she is happy,” the 64-year-old reveals in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express.

“I didn’t cry but I did get a bit tearful towards the end of the documentary because it brought back memories, including all the bad times when she suffered – it is great to see that she is in a good place now.

“Erwin has given her a sense of security and love that she always craved, but was never able to get when she was younger.

“She is obviously happy and has come to terms with her past – and that gives me a great sense of peace.

“Tina and I were as thick as thieves and I feel so blessed to have had her in my life.

“And even though I know we will never see each other again, I cannot be anything but grateful that we got to spend all that time together.”

Eddy was just 12 years old when he first bumped into Tina at a shopping store in his native Los Angeles, California.

Back then the singer, who was born Anna Mae Bullock in Brownsville, Tennessee, was at the peak of her early fame as one half of the husband and wife duo, Ike and Tina Turner.

The couple had recently joined the Rolling Stones on their UK and US tours and by coincidence Tina had just become the first female black artist to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, having previously recorded the River Deep – Mountain High classic with Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound.

But their phenomenal success, clocking up a string of awards and Top 10 hits, hid a private pain.

Cocaine-addicted Ike was abusive behind the scenes, cheating on his wife and sadistically beating her whenever the mood took him, as is recounted in the Tina documentary on Sky.

Showing how trapped she was, the star was with her husband’s mistress, Ikette backing singer Ann Thomas, when Eddy spotted her across a department store floor in 1968.

He recalls: “I was with my mother and sister looking for clothes when I heard this voice – and I froze.

“I looked over and Tina was talking to Ann. I told my sister, ‘That’s her!’ I walked over and was completely hysterical, shrieking: ‘Oh my God, I love you.’ I annoyed her so much that she left the shop, but I was besotted and started calling their recording studio every day asking, ‘Can I speak to Tina Turner?’

“This went on for about a year then one day the receptionist said, ‘I’m going to give you a gift, we are opening the recording studio, I’ll see if I can invite you, but you have to behave.’

“I was introduced to Ike and Tina at that event and he later made a joke that I was going to be put in charge of the fan club.

“I called up on Monday morning and said, ‘When do I start?’”

Eddy began working as a runner with Ike and Tina’s band, giving him a front row view of the couple’s dysfunctional relationship. “Ike was schizophrenic and everybody lived in fear of him,” he says. “When he walked down the hallway, we used to stand to attention.

“He was clever and would never beat Tina in front of us, but sometimes we could hear yelling. When he came out of the room, he would look at me like, How much did you hear? I would pretend I was busy typing. It was scary.

“Ike acted just like a pimp. He made Tina feel special in a way that her own mother, who rejected her as a child, never did.

“Then he stripped her down to nothing and slept with anything that moved.”

The documentary shows how Tina was so controlled by her husband that she found herself broke and without friends when she finally left him following another nasty fight en route to a Dallas hotel in 1976.

She tried to make ends meet by hitting the road as a solo artist playing at small “supper clubs”.

But Eddy, who by then was her personal assistant, reveals: “There were times that she couldn’t afford to pay me.

“She wasn’t making a lot of money and she had to pay for the band and everything and she could spend money like water.

“I remember once going to the Neiman Marcus store in Los Angeles where she spotted an $1,800 bag as we were leaving. She said: ‘I have to have that.’

“She asked the girl to hold it, but she refused so Tina pulled out a cheque book that was only supposed to be used in emergencies and said, ‘The accountants are going to kill me!’

“Eventually, the accountants had to take her cheque book away.”

Eddy filled a void in Tina’s life by moving into her four-bedroom house in LA, where he helped care for her four children.

He also relocated to London with her when she recorded her record-breaking Private Dancer album in 1984.

He says: “Tina got the love she was missing in her private life from her audience and that’s why she came alive on stage.

“But at home she was a completely different person – much softer and quiet. We liked the same old black and white movies and would stay up late drinking champagne and giggling and gossiping.

“Tina loved Häagen-Dazs ice cream and she used to beg me to eat half the tub so she wouldn’t be tempted, saying ‘This stuff is dangerous.’ But if I didn’t eat fast enough, she would say, ‘Oh Eddy, forget it you’re being too slow,’ and she would grab the tub from me.”

The trauma suffered at Ike’s hands haunted the star all her life and she remained terrified of him until he died from a cocaine overdose aged 76 in 2007.

Eddy says: “Once we were watching an old movie with a scene with a wire hanger and Tina started crying. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ She said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it, it’s too painful, Ike used to beat me with a wire hanger.’

“She has never told the public why she really moved to Europe and it was because she didn’t want to be driving in Los Angeles and see Ike pull up beside her.

“As long as he was alive, she could never feel safe.”

Tina was also haunted by her failure as a mother, as is shown in the documentary, especially after her 59-year-old son Craig, who Eddy remembers her being closest to, committed suicide in 2018. Eddy says: “She had to work. She was lucky if she saw her kids 30 days in a year.”

Tina shows how the star lived in Ike’s shadow for much of her career.

It also portrays her stunning comeback when she was transformed into one of the best-selling artists of all time, with 12 Grammy awards under her belt, making her ex a grim footnote in her past.

Today she lives in Switzerland with Erwin, 65, who she met on a visit to Germany in 1986 and married in 2013.

Sadly, she is in poor health having suffered a stroke and being diagnosed with cancer, which required a kidney transplant, just a short time after she wed.

“I liked Erwin when I first met him in London but he is German and boring and he never took to me,” Eddy says.

“In 1987 we spent Christmas in Gstaad in the Swiss Alps and everything I did was a problem. Eventually I told him, ‘Oh **** off!’ He went crazy, saying ‘I will not spend one more day in this house with that man.’ Tina tried to keep the peace but she was caught in the middle.

“She had to choose and obviously I had to go – I haven’t spoken to her in years.”

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