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Happy 77th Birthday to Billie Jean King!

Tennis player Billie Jean King speaks onstage during the 30th Annual Salute To Women In Sports Awards at The Waldorf=Astoria on October 13, 2009 in New York City.

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Billie Jean King has had such a remarkable life so far and you have to figure that as she turns 77 years old today, she is still looking ahead and dreaming new dreams.

Ever since she burst onto the scene in 1961 and won the Wimbledon doubles championship as a teenager, she’s been in the thick of things. Her tennis career was one of the greatest of all time as she won a record 20 Wimbledon titles (six in singles) as well as singles titles as the US Open four times and  a French Open and an Australian Open title making her one of just a handful of female players to have won the sports four grand slam singles titles in their career. When you add in all of her doubles and mixed doubles at the big four, she won a whopping 39 of them.
While she was the number one player in the world, she successfully led the battle for equal prize money and for Title IX which required parity for girls sports in school. She also, by the way, formed the women’s tennis tour that still exists today as well as the Women’s Tennis Association, the Women’s Sports Foundation and World Team Tennis.
Billie Jean’s fame grew even more in 1973 – the year she won the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon – when she beat Bobby Riggs in the famous Battle of the Sexes match. It was a huge nationally televised event and when Billie Jean easily won in straight sets, it was a huge win symbolically for gender equality.

These are lasting legacies and since coming out as a lesbian a few decades ago (She and former pro Ilana Kloss have been together for more than 30 years), Billie Jean has been vocal on the LGBT front as well and helped raise millions of dollars for AIDS charities.

Her life has been trying to make things fair for everyone on and off the court and it’s been so wonderful that she has been recognized for her contributions in some big ways including receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama , having the United States Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow (site of the US Open) named after her, and most recently having the Fed Cup team competition renamed the Billie Jean King Cup.

Billie Jean inspired me so much when I was growing up and it was a real highlight of my life to be able to meet her a few times and talk to her about her life and career.

She is so modest and more interested in other people than talking about herself and mostly, she is just so cool!
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4 Remarks

  1. Happy Birthday Billy Jean King

  2. Billie Jean, spell check can suck

  3. Hi Greg, it’s Vernon in Johannesburg, I turned 78 today and I’m not impressed with being two years off 80. It happens, folks, not just to other people. Seizing the day is ever important.

    I’ll take this opportunity to thank you, Greg, for the incredible work you do on your page, every day. You’re always there…reliable and constant and with lots news and gossip about ‘the good, the bad and the sometimes-ugly’. You’re very professional and I thoroughly enjoy the day’s snippets…every day…

    I just watched ‘The Boys In The Band’ on Netflix and I had difficulty comparing it to the live show my friend and I saw off-off Broadway in October, 1968. It sure was an eye-watering piece at that time, especially for this notable ‘greenhorn’, with my eyes coming out on stalks. The play was way ahead of its time, for sure. In this latest film, I thought Jim Parsons gave an award-winning performance.

    My friend David and I had travelled from South Africa and arrived in New York on the last voyage (to America) of the RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH. On our first night in New York we saw Pearl Bailey in ‘Hello Dolly’. On the second night we saw Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur in ‘Mame’ and it was on our third and last night that we took in ‘The Boys in the Band.’

    We stayed at the YMCA. O.M.G – that’s another story…not for publication. Put it this way, David and I left New York ‘considerably more worldly’!!!

    One other thing, I just read Dustin Lance Black’s memoir ‘Mama’s Boy’. I found it exceptional. An incredible family story told with searing honesty and with an exemplary turn of phrase. If you know him, do tell him Vernon in South Africa is paying homage to him with a bow and vertical hand waves. He’s a man of substance and, yes, I did think ‘Milk’ was brilliant.

    Richest blessings for your hard work to entertain and inform us. Deeply appreciated.
    Vernon

  4. Happy birthday Vernon!!!! Thank you for those kind words – they mean so much! And those great memories you shared – wow!!! Really enjoyed reading about those. Best to you! Thanks for appreciating the blog xo

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