The Turnbow Family! And Now, Some Serious Investigative Journalism!

(This article is Re-Printed from “The Slog Paper”. Thanks Guys!)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Celeb And Now, Some Serious Investigative Journalism!

posted by Adrian Ryan on January 30 at 22:01 PM

Michael Moore. Well, he’s a lovely man. Lovely. I’m not against him. But he is to an optimist’s attitude what salt panties are to a snail’s clam. His films take my fitful little attitude—desperately sunny with threatening apocalyptic storm fronts (“The waters aren’t rising that much! And we’ll all be able to rush the border when Huckabee disbands Congress and claims America for Jesus, no problem!”)—crumple it into a poopy little wad and flush it straight to hell. I just forced myself to watch Sicko. I’d avoided it long enough. It destroyed me.

But never mind all that.

I noticed something as I watched the film, just a few minutes in, and it was this energetic young fella…


…and he is called Eric Turnbow. You will recognize him as the daring gentleman who made the pilgrimage to London for the express purpose of videotaping himself walking across Abbey Road—a la The Beatles on their famous album cover—but, um, on his hands.


He promptly dislocated his shoulder. Superlative British healthcare ensued. All of this is documented in Mr. Moore’s film.

Eric Turnbow is from Olympia. He is a musician. You might know this.

But, here is what you might don’t know:

Eric Turnbow, famous shoulder-dislocater, is also the brother and/or male sibling of none other than this man…

(Photo: Barbara Pomer)

…who lives in Seattle, and is called Jon Strongbow. Jon has, for as long as anyone can remember, been creating distinctive psychedelic Seattle landscapes like this one…


…which hung at places like Gravity Bar, when there was a Gravity Bar, and still hang at places like Traveler’s on Pine Street and Twice Sold Tales. He is a prolific artist, fascinating local character, and Pike Place Market fixture. You might even know this!

But what you probably might don’t know even more is that both of these brothers—-Turnbow and Strongbow—-are the sons of this Oly-guzzling son-of-a-gun:


…and he was, and is, called Avaton Turnbow. He ran a psychic bookstore in downtown Olympia in the ‘60s, until he decided it was a better idea to found his very own religious cult. He called it “The Fellowship,” and had himself all sorts of jaunty adventures, I’m sure. He sounds like an interesting dinner guest.

Indeed, a source that will eat me alive if I name him (or her) says, “Almost every member of that family is a mad genius. I adore them all.”

Sounds like a fascinating story, doesn’t it? Just, doesn’t it?!

(The Turnbow Family of Olympia WA. pictured Here in 1962! Jon, Tim, mama Jean holding Marilyn, Katherine, Mark, Papa Winston, and Eric Turnbow)! What a brood!

RSS icon Comments


Adrian… I am continually amazed by the depth and breadth of your knowledge.

Posted by M | January 30, 2008 10:13 PM


Posted by Mr. Poe | January 30, 2008 10:23 PM

Coolness. I’m gonna rename my firstborn child Avaton.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 30, 2008 10:29 PM

Yes. I, too, have abandoned all remaining hope.

Posted by elenchos | January 30, 2008 10:32 PM

I know a Turnbow or two. Shit is totally like going down the rabbit hole. The more I learn, the wilder it gets.

More please! Please more!

Posted by I do! I do! I do! | January 30, 2008 10:33 PM

Who needs Kevin Bacon?

Posted by Jim Demetre | January 30, 2008 10:36 PM

This is the best thing I’ve ever read on Slog. Thanks!

Posted by Matthew | January 30, 2008 10:46 PM

“But he is to an optimist’s attitude what salt panties are to a snail’s clam.”

I’m not really sure what this sentence means, but I am pretty sure its fucking awesome.

Posted by Giffy | January 30, 2008 11:13 PM

superior post

Posted by LH | January 31, 2008 12:22 AM

More Strongbow and secret cults please.
(is he related to that Strongbow beer? hmm.)

Posted by treacle | January 31, 2008 1:25 AM

Great Success!

Posted by Vasya | January 31, 2008 5:41 AM

A dipshit, a hippie, and a psychic cultist. What a contribution.

Eric Turnbow’s medical treatment for his self-inflicted dipshit stunt is supposed to be an argument FOR universal health care?

Posted by Fnarf | January 31, 2008 7:42 AM

Yes a great story, if someone else writes it. (“salt panties are to a snail’s clam…”??)

Posted by Budder | January 31, 2008 7:47 AM

Strongbow! I haven’t seen him around for years. I still have a tape of his album.
He told me once he renamed himself, kind of after the cider, but also he wanted a name that was strong and resilient.

Posted by –MC | January 31, 2008 7:52 AM

I remember Strongbow from his turns harassing young women at poetry readings. He sang abysmally bad poem songs and thought he was fascinating. When rebuffed, he got nasty. Blech.

Posted by Verde | January 31, 2008 8:15 AM

Adrian = love.

Posted by NaFun | January 31, 2008 8:22 AM

With a name like “Avaton” you really only have two choices in life: Found a cult or being a psychic.

Apparently, this guy did both. Kudos.

Posted by Phelix | January 31, 2008 9:01 AM

Avaton owned a metaphysical book store in Olympia.
He created a religion called “The Fellowship”, which as far as i know, never kidnapped anyone or held it’s members hostage along with their bank accounts. The Fellowship evolved into Cosmic Awareness Communications. They have a website which, for those who may be interested, provides deeper insight into the workings of the Universe.

And may I say how sad it makes me when I read that someone can get written off as a “dipshit” or a ‘hippie” or a “psychic cultist” by someone called “FNARF” who clearly doesn’t know the whole story.
I wonder what kind of label has been assigned to you?

The point made in “Sicko” is that even a foreigner who injured himself by walking on his hands across Abbey Road in London, was treated in a hospital FREE OF CHARGE.

If there’s a “DIPSHIT” anywhere, it’s the US healthcare system, and the way that many of it’s own citizen’s are just one illness away from total bankruptcy.

Posted by Babs-Ra | January 31, 2008 9:33 AM

Babs-Ra, healthcare is an important issue. None of these loons have anything to do with healthcare issue.

A guy who injures himself walking across Abbey Road in London because his brain is fried on Beatlemania is a “dipshit”. That is the technical term. A guy who wears a jester’s hat in middle age is a “hippie”. If he also harasses girls at poetry readings, he is a “creep” and probably a “dipshit” as well. Someone who believes in Cosmic Awareness is …. oh, never mind.

Posted by Fnarf | January 31, 2008 9:47 AM

Sentence 3 made me spit coffee, violently. Thankfully, wore by brown shirt today.

Posted by wbrproductions | January 31, 2008 9:50 AM

‘my’, as in my-ho-my. And its line 4, dammit.

Posted by wbrproductions | January 31, 2008 9:52 AM

I have always hoped that if I were (god forbid) to breed that my son or daughter would grow up to be some kinds of enigmatic figure and/or cult leader.

But to achieve this, the parent must bless their child with a name that has some extra zing. Avaton is about the zingiest! And so it has made it onto my list of names that would surely inspire a future as some kind of evil genius. Its not all cliche like Damien or Anton or Aleister either, and it seems pretty unisex. I LOVE it!

Posted by Queen_of_Sleaze | January 31, 2008 10:05 AM

@ 19:fnarf…they have nothing to do with the health care issue? au contraire. jon strongbow, like many-to-most pike place market vendors–is uninsured, and in need of insurance. his brother was in sicko. ironic? maybe. poetic? perhaps not. health-care-related? fer sher.

Posted by adrian | January 31, 2008 11:49 AM

Oh FNARF!! There you go, applying labels yet again. I see your new operative word is “LOON”. How lovely!!

Eric’s brain is not fried on beatlemania, and he used to be quite agile at handwalking. Unfortunately, he had what is known as an ACCIDENT. Did you ever have one of those? Like maybe slipping on ice ?? I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve actually had an ACCIDENT or two, myself. That does not make me, or anyone else – a “dipshit” .

Strongbow wears all types of hats while WORKING at his daystall. These hats are known as COSTUMES. Ever hear of those?? You know – the clothes that street artists and performers wear while they are working. I’ve seen him wear Safari Hats, Joker’s hats, large straw hats and other interesting head gear, while at work. That does not make him a ‘hippie”. Not that there is any negative connotation to the word Hippie – what does irritate, is your propensity for labeling people.

By the way – when you were photographed wrapped up some bizarre gold suit near a body of water…what did everyone label “YOU”?

Posted by Babs-Ra | January 31, 2008 12:13 PM

They called me beautiful, Babs. Beautiful.

Posted by Fnarf | January 31, 2008 12:19 PM

Hey Adrian, great job. But guess what… there are THREE MORE Turnbow siblings. (Myself included — mad as a jester’s hatter and presently doing a tour at Harvard Divinity School.)
My older brother is a techie wiz and cunning linguist likened to David Letterman, my younger brother a Gatesesque entrepreneur and land baron, and my sister is a musical savant, formerly of the the DC band The Despondant Astronauts. And besides his handwalking expertise, Eric is also a successful entrepreneur, chess master, and musical wunderkind himself.
So pitch a tent baby — cuz that’s just the first generation!

Posted by Katherine Turnbow Peil | January 31, 2008 1:51 PM

This is one of the best Slog posts ever! I totally hope the Stranger pulls together a story on this family for the print edition. They’re totally fascinating.

And I’m in agreement with most of the other Slogistas that AVATON rocks as a name. My sis named her first child Pandora. The second is Eve. If she decides to have another, I’m totally lobbying for Avaton as the next name.

Posted by Jerry | January 31, 2008 2:04 PM

@ 26:
oh, i know katherine. i know all about y’all. i was so hoping you’d write! please continue:

Posted by adrian! | January 31, 2008 2:36 PM

Is there a problem here?

Posted by Wolf | January 31, 2008 4:16 PM

Oh, this is so interesting! I am the last of the Turnbows and yes, we are an eccentric bunch. How cool to see a slog about our fam.

Great to hear from my sister Katherine too who is going to school at Harvard and getting smarter than ever.

Eric can still walk on his hands, Strongbow is one of my favorite humans ever, and my brothers Marc and Tom are heros to me. Avaton is a wonderful human as is his wife Vikki. Then of course there is the matriarch of the family, our beloved Jean. She’s pixilated.

Thanks for writing about us!

Marilyn Turnbow
Olympia, WA

Posted by Marilyn | February 1, 2008 9:16 AM

I am flattered about the article. Thank You! I do wear many hats including Karaoke Pioneer, High Tech DJ, Business Owner, Songwriter, Guitar, Bass, and Piano Player, and Proud Home Owner among others. I DO NOT, however resemble in way shape or form a “Dipshit”, thank you very much! That is just not who I am, and I frankly find it insulting. Keep blogging though! It is the American Way! I may be offended, but certainly not startled. I also enjoy a good laugh, even if it is at my own expense!

My two trips to England had a Genesis washed in my love of music, and the Super group “The Beatles” in particular. I was able to spend 10 days in Liverpool and tour all the houses they young Fab lived in back in the 50′s and early 60′s. It was amazing. You need to see “Penny Lane”, a real street in Liverpool that Paul actually wrote the song from looking out the window of his car. It is fascinating. It all comes alive to you. I strive to write music that intense and simple at the same time. John and Paul were simply the Mozart’s of our generation. Their work will be cherished for millions of years!

I also spent several weeks, over two separate trips in 1992 and again in 1997 in London England. To go to “Abby Road” and sniff the Beatle air there, and see Paul’s house that he still owns today on Cavendish Avenue is stunning. It is inspirational! I was a on a mission of truth that was beautiful!

I never intended to fall or get injured on my pilgrimage to London in 1997. I simply wanted a photo op that was unusual and different. All the tourists were walking in stride to recreate that famous Abbey road cover. I had to do it, as Michael Moore put so eloquently, “My own Way!”. It had to be different! It had to be, well, original. Unfortunately I lost my balance and ended up in the hospital. Lucky for me they did have socialized medicine. I assure a trip like that to a state side hospital would have cost Thousands of dollars, and that is simply a fact. I had my visa and was ready to pay for the stay, but they waved it and gave me my meds for about $7 or something. Amazing! Looking back on it I am glad it happened now! I was in the spirit of it all, and documenting it as went, thank God! I was honoured to be included in the movie “Sicko” which is a brilliant piece of work. I am hoping that it snags the coveted Academy award this year. It deserves too!

So there you have it! The rest of my family are all cool people with individual talents and personalities. We are honored to be included in your discussions, and proud to be called “Turnbow’s”! Thanks You!

Eric Turnbow

Posted by Eric Turnbow | February 2, 2008 3:42 AM

Ahh, the Turnbow clan. Known them for 30+ years. Eccentric, daring, weird, loyal, fun and everlasting!

Posted by oggydoggy | February 2, 2008 9:18 AM

Hi Marilyn! You’re awesome!

cheers, Pit

Posted by pit | February 2, 2008 10:30 AM

Turnbows are not Normal; thank god! Our planet desperately needs more people like them. The harsh negative judgments thrown around here by one of the writers is quite revealing. Judging someone simply by what kind of hat the person is wearing? Why would you write off someone because of his hat? Speaking of sanity, how sane is that? How can someone feel that threatened by a person wearing a jester’s hat? This kind of fear of others because they are “different” is exactly the kind of fear and insecurity that led this country to do an immoral pre-emptive strike in Iraq and then ignore all of the death, destruction, and hell we have created.

If someone thinks it’s silly or obsessive to go to England to revel in one’s love of the Beatles, then well and good, but just how is this bad or damaging to the rest of us? As far as I’m concerned, I’d much rather a person was obsessed with the Beatles to the point of making a pilgrimage to England than a lot of other obsessions I can think of – like, for instance, those folks who are obsessed with, say, guns – and where that obsession leads them.

The basic purpose of life is to be of use to others and to leave this place a better place than we found it for our having been here. Mission accomplished for the Turnbow Tribe! They all qualify based on contributions already made for making this planet a better (and more fun) place to live.

Having known this family for over 50 years, I can attest to what a special family it is. Not even counting the family’s art and music contributions to our culture, all of the Turnbows have made this a better place for us all. I am especially grateful for Jean Turnbow’s kindnesses to me and my family, which I hold deep in my heart. One of my fondest memories of life so far is a day 27 ½ years ago when I went for a walk on Fish Trap Loop with Jon, his guitar, and three or four other Turnbows and friends. The beauty of that day, the music, the sense of connection I felt with these wonderful people on this wonderful day was just a perfect moment that has enriched my life forever. I always will remember the beauty and perfection of that moment.

Posted by Marc | February 2, 2008 12:27 PM

Amen, Marc. Up with Turnbows! Up with Strongbows!

Up with hats! Of ALL kinds!

Posted by Babs-Ra | February 2, 2008 7:48 PM

oh yes, I know the Turnbows. and I love them dearly. In fact, they are my only source of entertainment in my otherwise boring and seemingly “normal” life. If you don’t have a Turnbow in your life, then you HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE MISSING!
that would make for a great t-shirt…
“Everyone needs a Turnbow.”
just give me credit when you make millions.

Posted by kati arledge | February 2, 2008 8:57 PM

The Turnbows are the greatest family since William, Henry, and Alice James. For thirty years they’ve made me smile till my face hurts. Anyone who attacks them deserves to be named Fnarf.

Posted by Craig | February 3, 2008 8:18 PM
(The Turnbows on 07-04-2002 @ The Tom Turnbow Black Lake Estate ). Pictured from the left are Marilyn, Eric, Tom, Father Avaton Winston, Katherine, Mama Jean, Marc, and John (Strongbow) Turnbow)!

          (Turnbows in 2002! Dad’s 75th Birthday Party @ Black Lake)

       (This is a cool  “Turbow Family” collage made by Eric Turnbow)