BILLIE JEAN by Billie Jean with Frank Deford King


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Billie Jean tells all--sort of--in a rambling, repetitive, poorly written but scrappily candid memoir, one that's sharper on BJ's colleagues than on self-portraiture. Inevitably, BJ starts off with last year's lawsuit/lesbian scandal; affirmations of love for husband Larry are without apologies (""Obviously I must be bisexual. . . . I never felt so soft and feminine in all my life""). But in these first chapters and throughout, the chatty, awkward narrative slides around from topic to topic--the Bobby Riggs match is mentioned in dribs and drabs along the way--and there's no real attempt at a chronological autobiography. Among the fragmentary recollections: growing up lower-middle-class and upwardly striving in Long Beach, CA; marriage to freakishly placid college-beau Larry; sexistly neglected teenage years around the So. California Tennis Association; having an abortion--but not for career reasons; a few big matches. Still, if thoroughly disappointing as life-story, this short book does fine as a forum for Billie Jean's edgy, back-and-forth grudges, frustrations, and opinions: on the press and its double standards, on the endorsement rackets, the pros and cons of unions (the NFL union is ""socialistic""), the triumphs and limitations of feminism, the problems of female tennis physiology (vaginal itch, backhand volleys if you have ""big boobs""), the psychology of ""tanking""--purposely losing. And, above all, on fellow players: the British, who ""still think like r/u's"" (runner-ups); the dumb, uninvolved, traditionless younger players; Martins, who ""seems to possess a weak grasp on the everyday fundamentals of life""; old rival Maria Bueno (""a con, really""); such chauvinist pigs as Ashe and Kramer; Margaret Court (""what a champion she was!""); Virginia Wade; ""highstrung the wrong way, just as McEnroe is highstrung right""; and lots about Chrissie--""Little Miss American Pie."" Sloppy as a book, shallow as a memoir--but surefire as a cantankerous tennis grab-bag with a tad of tasteful sensationalism.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1982
Publisher: Viking