On November 26, fans from all over the world gathered to mark what would have been Tina Turner‘s 84th birthday.
But one person who played a key role in her life collected his thoughts alone at a central London church.
Eddy Armani was the Queen of Rock’n’Roll‘s assistant and best friend for two decades.
Six months after she passed away at her home in Kusnacht, Switzerland, following a series of illnesses, he is still struggling to accept she has gone.
“I dream of Tina a lot, I always have,” Eddy, 67, tells Woman’s Day exclusively.
“But since she passed, I have had some really disturbing moments. I will go to bed and dream about her. Then, I wake up in a panic when I realise she’s not there. “This year I went to church for her birthday, and I lit some candles and I had my private time. I thought about our lives together because it’s been incredibly difficult to let her go.”
Eddy was 12 years old when he first bumped into Tina at a Los Angeles department store in 1968. The encounter came the same year she had signed to Blue Thumb Records with her abusive husband Ike Turner. It inspired Eddy to do his best to meet the star again.
“I made a nuisance of myself, basically,” he says, speaking from his home in Surrey, England. “I was able to get a number for the recording studio where they rehearsed and for a year it became my mission.
Part of the family
“Every day after school, I would go home and pick up the phone and call the studio. There was a lovely woman who thought it was fascinating that I was being so persistent. “After about a year, she said she had a surprise for me and invited me to the opening of their new recording studio.
“Then, when I was 14, I started Ike and Tina Turner’s fan club, and I would go down to their office on weekends to answer the fan mail and stuff. “Tina’s children were just a few years younger than me and I made friends with them. Sometimes she would come home and I’d be playing with the boys and she’d say, ‘What are you doing here?’ I would reply, ‘Oh, I came to play basketball with the boys.’ And of course, I had no interest in sports at all, I just wanted to get a glimpse of her.”
Eddy was by Tina’s side when she finally found the strength to leave cocaine-addicted Ike – who died aged 76 in 2007 – in 1976.
“There was an incident when Ike threw a pot of hot coffee at Tina and started choking her,” says Eddy. “They had a show to do at the Hilton in Beverly Hills and she wore a big wrap around her neck and performed like she didn’t have a care in the world. “I went back to see her afterwards and when I saw all the bandages, I started to cry. But Tina said, ‘No tears, Eddy, I’m fine.’ That’s how she got on with her life.”
Eddy was later hired as her assistant before becoming her best friend. He says, “If Tina told you to do something, she would expect it done. Sometimes I would say, ‘No, I don’t think that’s quite right,’ and she’d give me a look. I’d say, ‘Oh sorry, your majesty,’ and we’d start laughing.”
Eddy has now released a book called The Real T: My 22 Years With Tina Turner, talking about what it was like to work alongside her.
He stopped hanging out with the Private Dancer singer shortly after falling out with her German husband Erwin Bach in the late 1980s.
Eddy says, “It was so sad when we stopped seeing each other. I was Tina’s best friend and we did everything together. There was nothing we didn’t talk about. We’d be on the road for six weeks together in South Africa or wherever, and when I got home Tina would call me and we’d be on the phone for two hours.
A story of love
“That is how close we were, and even to this day, I’m still close to her family, even though there are not many of them left now”.
“How did I feel when I found out she had died? I didn’t feel, I thought it was a prank. I was at my local pub when the landlady said, ‘Eddy come here.’ I thought, ‘What have I done?’
“She said, ‘Tina just passed away.’ I looked at a news report on her mobile phone and I started screaming. “I have to say that I still haven’t mourned and that’s because of the huge outpouring of love for Tina, which has been nonstop.
“That’s when I decided people need to know my story. It’s the story of a boy who fell in love with this incredible woman who conquered the world from the stage, and
how that woman made all his dreams come true by inviting him into her life.”