Dan Turner was reared in Bloomington, Illinois in the Hotel Rogers where his father was manager. In 1962 the family moved to Cheboygan, Wisconsin where Turner began acting in high school drama productions and graduated in 1965. He received his B.A. from Fairfield University in Connecticut in 1969, spending a year abroad at Exeter College in England and traveling in Europe.
During the late 1960s, Turner also traveled to Malawi in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and to Alabama as a VISTA volunteer, where he wrote and produced his early play Cottonmouth .
In the early 1970s, he studied play writing with Kenneth Cameron at the University of Iowa, writing and producing a play entitled Light Years . He was, however, asked to leave this program during an anti-gay pogrom. Turner then went to Texas where he was awarded an internship from the Dallas Theater.
During this program Turner also experienced homophobic prejudice, being "called before the entire theater company and ordered to choose between gay liberation and the theater." In spite of this prejudice, Turner wrote and produced several plays and musicals in Dallas.
In the mid-1970s Turner moved to San Francisco, California where he began his professional acting career, participating in the productions of both regional and gay theater companies and collectives. Turner was associated with several prominent San Francisco gay and straight theater organizations.
At the Eureka Theater Turner also taught a course in playwriting during the late 1970s. While he appeared throughout San Francisco and Bay Area theaters and cultural/performance spaces he also performed in Texas and traveled to Los Angeles for numerous acting and publishing opportunities.
He helped found "The Ernest Players," a gay male focused theater group. Besides Turner's journalistic and critical articles for local gay papers, he continued to write poetry, novels, and short stories, some with erotic content that appeared in gay magazines such as In Touch and Blueboy.
In 1976 Turner contracted hepatitis. During 1976 Turner traveled with Tennessee Williams to New Orleans, New York and Cape Cod. Williams inspired Turner to continue to fight to live and write and, indeed, the late 1970s and 1980s became his most prolific period.
On returning to San Francisco, he wrote and produced three musical plays, two of which were in collaboration with Curzon. He also directed several plays. In February 1982 Turner was diagnosed wish Kaposi Sarcoma and was one the first patients of Dr. Paul Volberding and San Francisco General Hospital.
From this time on Turner, became an aggressive AIDS activists working for and participating in many new and experimental drugs. He visited hundreds of AIDS patients and was invited to speak, as a "long-term survivor," before groups of doctors, scientists, and Persons With AIDS (PWAs).
After eight years of battling the disease, Turner finally succumbed to an AIDS-related ilness.