The Swiss oasis that took Tina Turner in and pulled a curtain down around her
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Kuesnacht: In her adoptive country, Tina Turner was more than just a swivel-hipped rock, R&B and pop superstar. She moved to Switzerland for its discretion and calm, carrying her very public persona into a very private country. She relished her life as a Swiss citizen – and the feeling was mutual.
Love may have had something to do with it, too: In her 2018 memoir, My Love Story, Turner shared her emotion for longtime boyfriend-turned-husband Erwin Bach – a German record producer who had set up in Switzerland.
A tribute left on the gate of Tina Turner’s house in Kuesnacht, Switzerland on Thursday.Credit: AP
On Thursday, mourners laid flowers and candles outside her lakeside villa, Chateau Algonquin, in the upscale town of Kuesnacht, south-east of Zurich.
It was here at the couple had married in 2013 and lived until her death at the age of 83.
The tributes at the gates were reflective of the Swiss discretion that had drawn Turner to the rich Alpine country in the first place.
Neighbours didn’t gawk, hound her for autographs or snap photos here. Many Swiss felt a sense of pride that she could retreat here from the pressures of the media spotlight.
Locals leave tributes to Tina Turner outside her house in Switzerland.Credit: AP
Acting like an oasis, it afforded her the semblance of a normal life after a turbulent one in her native United States, including at the hands of her late former husband Ike who discovered her, married her and – according to her memoirs – violently beat her.
Celebrities of the past including Charlie Chaplin and Freddie Mercury, as well as living stars like Sophia Loren and Shania Twain, have been drawn to Switzerland – often for privacy. Roman Polanski holed up in an Alpine chalet briefly to skirt US justice and some of the world’s financial magnates and business gurus have been attracted by the country’s relatively low taxes and secrecy about money matters.
Turner, who moved to the country in the mid-1990s and took Swiss citizenship in 2013 – dispensing with her US passport – was arguably its most famous resident in recent years.
Swiss President Alain Berset tweeted a tribute to Turner, calling her an icon and saying his “thoughts are with the relatives of this impressive woman, who found a second homeland in Switzerland.”
The superstar performing during her Twenty For Seven Millennium Tour at the Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich, Switzerland in 2000. By this time, she was calling nearby Kuesnacht home.Credit: AP
Markus Ernst, the mayor of Kuesnacht, a bucolic town on the shores of Lake Zurich, said Turner was engaged in the community, regularly lighting the annual Christmas tree and once inaugurating a municipal rescue boat that has been christened Tina.
However, he said locals went out of their way to help an overwhelmingly public figure enjoy a private life.
“One of the reasons she came to Switzerland was to have a completely normal life,” he said. “She could go to restaurants without being photographed all the time … in the street, people didn’t stare at her or ask for her autograph.”
An aerial view of the singer’s villa.Credit: AP
Dropping by the villa to pay her respects, art dealer Renate Fetscherin, who has lived in the town for decades, said people in Switzerland “would never bother anybody” and that the couple could always rest easy: “They don’t worry about paparazzi because we don’t have them.”
“Kuesnacht was very proud of having such a famous person here,” Fetscherin said.
At his upscale eatery just a couple of hundred metres from the villa, restaurateur Rico Zandonella recalled Turner as a “very dear friend” and a frequent guest who once celebrated a birthday there with colleagues “who sang for her: It was a really great celebration.”
“Tina Turner is a very big personality when she enters a room. She has a really great aura – a personality that explodes like a bomb, like she is on stage,” he said.
Years ago, Turner narrated milestones of her life and her affection and affinity for Switzerland in a glitzy TV ad for communications company Swisscom, featuring young actors who portrayed her in both early life and in highlight moments of her career.
It alluded to stereotypes about Switzerland such as the home of William Tell or a hub of ice-skating prowess; she sat in a rocking rowboat in a lake ringed by majestic mountains, mobile phone in hand. Turner recounted how her friends had to adapt to her Swiss tastes, as one actor portraying her carried out a pot of cheese fondue to quizzical looks from fictionalised guests.
Another actor waved off fans as flash bulbs popped while she clambered into the back seat of a limousine next to the real Turner, and the superstar.
“As time went by, I learned more and more about Switzerland, like that security and discretion are people’s top priority – just like they are for me,” Turner said.
“And when I finally moved to Switzerland, it felt like home right away. People respect each other’s privacy here, [they] take care of each other.”
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