This is the only official Glenn W. Turner® website
This is the only official Glenn W. Turner® website
The cover of this magazine had the musical "Jesus Christ Super Star on it.
Balancing on two chairs (left). Glenn Turner tells a Des Moines audience, "I am indeed a con man because 'con' means confidence-- and I sell that product." In his home base of Orlando, Florida. Turner sponsored the Miss Orlando beauty pageant, and shored up the confidence of contestants by giving each a $100 bill in "go out and buy a real pretty dress."
by THOMAS THOMPSON
One's first few moments around Glenn W. Turner® are spent in accommodating to his appearance, as a man might bite on a gold coin to see if it is real. The first time I laid eyes on the fellow, he was wearing a double-knit suit whose green hue seemed copied from a neon sign, elevated boots construction of ivory-colored unborn calf, a toupee carefully sculpted to his head, and a new pair of mesh under ware briefs. I am privy to the latter fact because Turner was so enthusiastic as to style and stride that when words failed him, he quickly unfastened his trousers and let them down momentarily so that all in his office--astonished visitors and nonplussed aids alike--could see.
The office itself takes some getting used to. It has eggshell carpet deep enough to hide in, a massive desk on which rests an open Bible and a silver Rolls-Royce top (when one twists the the spare tire it becomes a music box and tinkles "The Impossible Dream), furniture of snowy vinyl and suede appropriate to a high-rollers suite in any good Las Vegas hotel, a wide screen picture window of bulletproof glass whose view is of an interior business corridor, and two dominant oil paintings. One painting is directly behind Turners chair and represents a sharecropper behind a mule. "This is Mr. Turner's yesterday," explains an aide, referring to her employer's birth and child hood on a South Carolina farm. The second Painting, whic Turner faces as he does business, shows a rocket ship streaking through the cosmos, onward and upward through a shower of comets and exploding stars. "This," says the assistant with almost reverent prophecy in her voice, "is Mr. Turner's tomorrow"
It is today, the here and now, that makes Turner, who is only 36, of interest, an only-in-America phenomenon. A little more than three years back he was broke and bankrupt--a familiar condition for the eighth grade dropout whose lack of education is matched by the fact that he was born with a harelip and still speaks with that unfortunate handicap. But as he tells the story, he borrowed $5,000 in 1967 to start a cosmetics company, "the field with the highest profit potential in business-- they powder 'em when they come into the world and paint 'em when they go out"--and set up shop in a one room office in Orlando, Fla., so chosen because that city was near both Cape Kennedy and the then just announced Disney World. He named the it Koscot Interplanetary, Inc.
Using unorthodox business techniques, so unorthodox that at least 20 state attorneys general have investigated him and several were moved to the various court actions against him. Turner claims nonetheless to have built an empire which has served the country from sea to sea, moved into at least nine foreign countries on four continents', branched out into helicopter manufacturing and sales , a wig company, a mink house which markets everything from fur-covered golf tees to $5,000.00 maxi-coats, a music recording firm, and several other enterprises which count consisted of 37 corporations employing some 200,000 people (mostly salesman) and valued --by Turner's own estimate, since he since he owns 100% of the stock--at somewhere between $100 million and $200 million.
His latest endeavor, a self-motivation course called "Dare to Be Great," will someday become, predicts Turner, "the international language of the world. "Turner dreamed up the company as a way to spread his personal philosophy ,i.c., that with every human being lies a great pool of resources largely untapped, doomed to grow stagnant. He originally planned to call his course "Dare to Be Big," but he feared that women particularly plump women, would not want to be any bigger. No he has his grandiose plans to install it as a course course in every school in America ("If we could start each day with 'Dare to Be Great, "then there'd be no more student protest") to build colleges around his its philosophy, to translate it into the language of the world. Already linguists are converting the lessons in German and Italian.
"Dare to Be Great" comes in a large, fat black briefcase then when opened, contains 20 tape cassettes, a tape recorder and while plastic notebook which repeats--in print--the same material on the tapes. There are 20 chapters, called "Orbits," inference to Turner's enchantment with outer space. The introduction page offers advice to the student who wishes to become great.
"Congratulations! You have just decided to change your life. You are now in the process of becoming a new man. William James, the father of American philosophy , said, 'The greatest discovery of my generation is that we have learned we can alter our lives by altering our attitudes of mind.'"
"Play the cassette tapes over and over again. The power of timed repetition is immeasurable. For example, , tell a person something repeatedly and this is what happens. The first time he says, "I don't believe it." The second time he says, 'Well, maybe so.' The third time he says, 'Well, it kind of makes sense.' The fourth time, 'I believe I'll try that.' The fifth time, 'That's great, I used it today!'"
When one browses through the textbook and listens to the cassettes' the material seems innocuous, familiar, sometimes naïve, hardly destined to wakeup a sick and weary world. It is Dale Carnegie, Dr. Coue and all the other self-improvement wheezers all over again. There are quotations from Disraeli, Goethe, Chesterfield, Seneca, Emerson, even Napoleon---"Imagination rules the world." Mostly it is a potpourri of salesman patter and a coach's pep talk: "Develop a Positive Mental Attitude! Remember Everybody's Name! Do It Now! Don't Put it Off until tomorrow! If you have the intelligence to lean down and tie your shoestrings, you can reach up and lace the stars!"
But when one learns that it can cost up to $5,000 to take the complete course--four "adventures" which will eventually consist of some 40 tapes and a dozen seminars--one realizes that the amount of money. Turner could make off his philosophy might someday approximate the budget of an emerging, if not developing, country.
Turner approaches each day as if he had just been shot out of the Zacchini Bros. circus cannon. He comes on like a hurricane boring across central Florida. He shakes hands with a grip that could rip a telephone book in half. "I love to lift weights," he explains. "It makes you feel you can pick up the side of a house. You can't, of course, so instead you go out and do something great!" "Great" is the key word. It pops up in the man's every fourth sentence, paired with an equal number of "Fan-tas-tics!" He travels more than a presidential candidate does every week before elections. One day's schedule might read, "Breakfast meeting. San Francisco, lunch address, Reno, dinner speech, Phoenix; 10 pm conference, El Paso." The schedule could just as easily read Singapore or London or Sydney, because he has been to all of them in the past few months, spreading the word, selling "Dare to Be Great."
"In London, 300 people came to the airport in a rain and cried when I left. They begged me to stay there and help them." said Turner, who seemed totally amazed at the reaction. Fifteen years earlier, in the U.S. Army, his sergeant detailed him to scrubbing toilets to keep him and his harelip out of sight. ( Glenn was in the air force not in the army just one more error made by this author.)
He travels four days out of five. There is scant time for his wife, Alice, a tall, gentle blue eyed Tennessee blonde, who affects complicated hairdos and who could command the front line in any theatrical production where a certain remote sexiness was required. When he does find an off afternoon. Turner gatherers up Alice, their three sons and baby daughter and they set off on a houseboat, meandering up the St. Johns River, past cypress, past suspicious looking logs that might be alligators, into the quiet and the stillness. Turner pulls his engine back to its most gentle speed when passing an old black fisherman asleep on bank. "I commit myself so totally to my family on these days," he says, "that there can be no doubt in their minds as to my love. They understand why I can't be with them more."
Not is there time for a social or intellectual life. The last book Turner remembers reading and liking was The Carpetbaggers. "I'm gonna be bigger than Howard Hughes someday," he said as he shut its covers. When he dines, he does not look at his food, or quite probably, even taste it. He went to see Love Story and four days later could not remember being there because his mind had been racing throughout, his own dreams and schemes were more vivid than anything he could see on the screen.
On a very recent day, while scuttling across the country 40,000 feet up in his Lear jet, one of eleven aircraft operated by his personal fleet. Glenn-Aire. Turner was engrossed in plans to (1) buy or start a newspaper because he is upset with the existing publication in Orlando, which often attacks him or worse ignores him, (2)start a pantyhose company, (3) create a cash credit card wherein a customer would get a ten percent discount at a vast network of stores around the country if he paid in hard money, (4) build a chain of motels called Commuter Inns where mother house would be a 42-story wonder in Orlando erected in the shape of a rocket ship, and whose guests would endure both countdown and blast-off to reach their rooms.
And, while working his way through an enormous stack of mail, he suddenly looked up and announced, "I'm thinking about starting my own post office. I have the network already, I can deliver anything anywhere in one day."
The fact that Turner was flying at the moment from Orlando to Boston where he would address a mock United Nations Assembly sponsored by Harvard Law students, and where he would coincidentally attend a dinner for possible Democrats presidential candidate Senator Harold Hughes, was not lost me either. Particularly when a remark that Turner had made a day or two earlier was so fresh in mind. He had been showing me around his new vast headquarters in Orlando, a blue metallic building that seems to stretch on longer than a Cape Kennedy hangar, and I had asked if he was interested in politics, in running for elective office. "I wouldn't want to be a senator or a President," he had said,, "But I wouldn't mind being a kingmaker." He said that he would never be so presumptuous as to tell his huge number of employees how to vote-- "but it certainly wouldn't hurt some candidate if I announced how I personally was voting."
Shortly thereafter we passed a chamber of humming computer and Turner tossed out a remark that seemed to illuminate itself in red lights and a warning siren. "I have the name of every registered voter in Florida on that computer," he said, "and four years from now maybe I'll have every voter in America on there."
"Why would you want that?" I asked.
"You never can tell," Turner said, "Might come in handy someday."
Glenn Turner is of course that American classic--superhuckster. He looks like the man you bought your last used car from, or the fellow who knocked at your door with that fantastic encyclopedia off. He is part carnival barker, part fundamentalist faith healer with all the raw sexual force of Elmer Gantry, part snake--oil salesman. But more that that he is a box of paradoxes packed inside a crate of enigmas and delivered to the center of a side-show hall of mirrors. Every time I was tempted to yell "flim--flam man" and zip up my wallet pocket. I would discover something disarming, like the fact that Turner is one of the largest employers of handicapped and mentally retarded people in the state of Florida. He has taken on sponsorship for Flame of Hope perfume. that fragrance manufactured by the retarded and chair maned by Mrs. Rose Kennedy. He has donated $1 million to build an opportunity center for the handicapped and retarded in his native South Carolina.
On his personal staff are many people to whom fate seemed to have dealt losing hands. A pair of 19-year-old twin dwarfs, orphans, only 33inches high, joined Turner's company as cosmetics distributors and quickly were promoted to good will ambassadors. Now they ride on the Lear jet, occupying only one seat, and they stand before large audiences and tell how Turner treated them as human beings and changed their lives. A 31-year old blind man from Maine whose college history degree earned him a job pitting olives in a pizza parlor for $48 a week is now making $30,000 a year for Turner. "Glenn Turner was the spark that set my life on fire." he says.
One recent afternoon a mother brought her mongoloid daughter who painted sunflowers into Turner's building, and though they had no appointment, both were quickly admitted to his private office. "You keep those kind of people away from Turner and that's the quickest way to get fired." said a secretary. Turner interrupted his crowded schedule and spent half and hour talking to the child, buying three of her primitive works for $100 each and sending her home with tears and dignity.
Turner keeps his pickets filled with wads of $100 bills which he scatters like grass seed on a dying lawn. Whe he traveled to Mexico City and walked through a peasant slum, he stopped every person he met and bent down and talked in his curious harelipped southern English to people who had no idea what he was saying. But his words seemed to light up their faces even more than the $100 bills he pressed in their hands. He used up all the money he had and ordered his aides to empty their pockets as well.
After his speech at the Harvard convocation, he was invited to Sunday night supper with a group of students. As he was passing through the cafeteria line, he was abruptly solicited by an SDS member for contributions to welfare power march on Washington. Turner lectured the hirsute student for several minutes. "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for one day," he said, standing there is a full-length mink coat, "but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life." Then he dropped a $100 bill into the astonished radicals' Granger pipe tobacco can.
While driving down an Orlando boulevard looking for the Florida Citrus Open Invitational golf tournament, of which he was a sponsor, Turner saw a bedraggled-looking man leaning against a bus stop. "See that feller there," he suddenly cried, thrusting out a gold-clothed arm, "I could make that feller a millionaire in two years!" The man never looked up, unaware that destiny in a blue Cadillac was speeding by, Turner drove on, rattled on, "My teethe may be false," he said, "but my tongue is true. I failed 27 times as a door-to-door sewing machine sales man....Sometimes I think I'm the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln 'cause we think exactly alike. He failed eighteen times before he became President!"
At first one assumes that Turner must be a conservative some where to the right of Alexander the Great. He is, after all, deeply southern, and he wears on his lapel at all times an American flag--not just any American flag, but a bejeweled one cast into ripples that seems almost to furl and un furl as he speaks of patriotism and respect for the the office of the U.S. President. But he turns out to be a moderate Democrat, dovish and disenchanted on Vietnam, outraged when an Orlando landlord refused this spring to lease an apartment to one of his black employees. Eight members of his staff who lived there threatened to move out immediately unless the man was admitted, and Turner threatened to buy the complex himself if all else failed. The black man was accepted.
When Florida's business community rallied massively this year to oppose a corporate tax. Turner went on record as being for such a tax, pointing out in speeches that it was only just and proper for business to return their part of its good fortune to the state which housed it. And by his count, Turner has taken sever hundred long-haired hippies into his sales organization. "They don't cut their hair for me." he says, but at least they wash and put on clean clothes. One of them's head my entire Eye-talian operation"
Sometimes they laugh, sometimes they are skeptical, sometimes they weep. But Turner never fails to win marked response to his exhortations. To a woman who complained of his high pressure business tactics, he replied, "When a feller reaches for the sun, he's bound to get a few blister."
Morally, Turner says, he conducts himself like Caesar's wife. "I don't drink,, smoke or play around," he confided in a speech before the Chicago White Sox, who were interested in signing up for "Dare to Be Great." "In fact. I'm just about perfect."
Turner built his empire on the controversial principle of "multilevel" selling. In essence, he sold distributorships in his cosmetics company which entitled a person not only to sell the Koscot distributorships in his cosmetics company which entitled a person not only to sell the Koscot line of beauty aids, but to sell subfranchises to others and get a large finder's fee as well. Example; A man purchases a Koscot distributor ship for $5,000 which theoretically sets him up in business as a cosmetics salesman. But he also earns the right to sign up subdistributors for $2,000, and he gets $700 commission on each. Whe nvarious attorneys general began looking into the fast-growing Koscot operation, it was discovered that a great many distributors were not interested in selling cosmetics as they were in getting finder's fees.
One attorney general quickly branded it a "pyramid" scheme, another likened it to chain letters, still other cried "lottery" or "fraud" or "sales of unregistered securities." The New York attorney general's office took special note of the fact that Turner's representatives were painting pie-in-the-sky pictures at sales meetings, waving fat checks around and suggesting that Koscot distributors could make $50,000 to $100,00 a year. The New York attorney general calculated that at the end of 1970., there were 1,600 distributors in his state alone, and were they all to make the $100,000 by bringing other people into the program, they would have to lure 150,000 more distributors into Koscot within one year, and hese would then have to add another 150million by the end of the second year.
In Pennsylvania, the attorney general noted that each Koscot distributor was encouraged to bring 12 new people into the program a year---only one per month. Surely can sign up one man a month, the pitch went, perhaps your brother-in-law or your neighbor. But were each of these 12 new people then able to bring another 12 in, making a total of 144, and were each of these 144 able to bring in another 12, and so on down the line through 12 tiers, at the bottom of the pyramid would theoretically be 8,916,100,448,256 people or more than 2,000 times the population of the planet Earth.
Sales pitches to join Koscot as distributors and subdistributors were made at high-pressure meetings chairmaned by men with silk suits and honeyed voices who spun dreams of Golden Eagles (top sales men) who made $180,00 a year. silver Eagles (average sales men) who made $160,000 and lowly Buzzards (goof-offs. presumably) who managed $120,000. If a prospect was interested, but no interested enough to part with his $2,000 or $5,000 then and there, he would be invited for a free one-day trip to Orlando, flying on a Turner airplane, in the company of ebullient men who cried out during the journey. "How do you feel?" and roared back to one another, "Grrr-eat!" At Koscot headquarters, the prospect would heap his plate with barbeque, watch a color film detailing the history of Glenn Turner's success story, intercut and heavily embroidered with shots of idyllic sunsets on tropical beaches, expensive cars, jet airplanes, spectacular women, of a future on that soft cloud above the dust of everyday life. If the prospect was at last willing, but had not sufficient cash, Koscot pitchmen had been know to escort him directly to the bank or loan office, murmuring in his ear all the way.
Picture the left represents Turner recently returned to Marion, S.C. to visit the sharecropper's shack where he was reared. To the 12-year-old boy growing up there now. Turner said, "I was poorer than you, I had nothing. But I stand here before you and say you can make something out of your own life. Go to school, learn all you can, then call me up.. I'll teach you to be great!"
Many have changed their lives"; "Out of 500 new millionaires in 1966. 52.6% never had a high school degree. I started making my first in 1967 because I knew I had the chance."
Before one speech, Turner turned to me and said "Watch what I can do with these people." The MC introduced him as "Establishment's answer to marijuana--he can turn anybody on." Turner was off, seizing the microphone, stalking the stage, stripping off his jacket, loosening his tie. His speech was in three courses--the first uproariously country-boy funny, the second so moving that women wept, the so inspiring and promising that the audience rose to its feet in standing ovation.
I hope to be remembered," he told them, "as the fellow who created more millionaires than any other man...and by making successes out of people nobody would fool with. In my organization you'll find more losers, more dropouts, more hasbeens than anywhere else. I like the welfares. I like the failures . But there don't have to be any failures! the only failure I'd ever expect to meet is in hell, and I don't plan to go there. I'm going up....The reason I've made it as far as I have is that I'm to dumb to know why it won't work. I may be the biggest liar in the world...or the most sincere man you'll ever meet."
When he was finished, he walked down the hall. "What makes me happy is turning on people to their potential," he said. "Life is brainwashing-- nothing else! You're brain washed to think you can or you can't. People can! I'm gonna change the world."
On a gloomy Sunday morning in Boston, Turner was confined to his hotel room, waiting for a car to take him to am meeting. He was speaking of some of his new ideas--an orange flavored mouthwash to make breakfast taste good. the dog cosmetic market, "mostly untapped--and with $5 million potential each." each year." and he mentioned the $1 million castle he is building outside Orlando with moats and turrets and a boathouse to entertain 150 people, and suddenly I had had enough.
By making every man think he can drive a Cadillac and live in a castle and wear a gold suit. I wondered, aren't you emphasizing somewhat obnoxious American values? Aren't you negating the unquestionable good work you do with the handicapped and the poor?
Turner looked as if I had shot an arrow into his breast. "I use money as a too!" he fired back. "People respect money and power. You have to hit money first. I stand up in front of them as an example. How you gonna help people who are poor and handicapped and retarded--if you're the same? What I'm selling is attitude. If a man listens to me, does what I say, then his attitude will change and so will his life. He might go out and buy a Cadillac--or he might write a great poem."
Now he made a fist and pounded his other hand with it. The energies and juices seemed back up in him, eager to erupt through his words. He leaped from his chair and swept about the room. "If they ever closed us down--and they won't." he said, they referring to state agencies, "that wouldn't matter. I can sell anything." His eyes cased the suite. They fell on the drapes. "I can sell these!" he cried, almost pulling them down. "I can sell those!' he said, snatching up an ashtray. "I can sell Sheraton water glasses! If they put me in jail someday, that won't matter, either. I'd figure I was put there to reform the penal system. I'd start a course for the inmates, teach 'em how to break out." He paused for inspiration, which quickly came: "I'd call it 'Dare to be Free!''