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Old Mar 3rd, 2013, 09:32 PM   #1
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Sparkles like a Jewel: The Julie Heldman Thread

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Old Mar 3rd, 2013, 09:33 PM   #2
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Re: Sparkles like a Jewel: The Julie Heldman Thread

Julie Heldman's Reunion Blog:

http://www.wtatennis.com/news/articl...s-reunion-blog

Julie Heldman's Reunion Blog

The former world No.5, Italian Open champion and Fed Cup rep reflects on the Original 9's gathering in Charleston.
Published April 18, 2012 12:36
Julie Heldman

CHARLESTON, SC, USA - On Sept. 23, 1970, a group of nine women put their careers on the line at a ground-breaking women's professional tennis tournament in Houston, Texas. I'm proud to say I was one of those women. Today, we're known as the "Original 9" - our names are Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Judy Tegart Dalton, Kerry Melville Reid, Nancy Richey, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Val Ziegenfuss, and me. Strong-willed women all.

From the start of Open Tennis in 1968, the game's ruling body (then called the United States Lawn Tennis Association), was dominated by men who saw little value in women's tennis. The USLTA kept increasing the schedules and the prize money for the men players, while shrinking those of the women. It got so bad that the Pacific Southwest tournament in Los Angeles in September 1970 announced a prize money ratio of 8 to 1 in favor of the men.

Outraged, the women pros turned for help to my mother, Gladys Heldman, the publisher of the influential World Tennis magazine, a fearless supporter of women's tennis, and an extraordinary promoter of tennis events. She leaped into the fray, rapidly organizing a women's tournament in Houston, Texas to compete with the Los Angeles event. The men in power at first verbally approved the Houston event, perhaps figuring these uppity women would fail. But when the tournament was about to start, the USLTA made an about face, threatening any Houston competitor with suspension. That would have meant expulsion from all major events, including the Grand Slams. Despite these dire threats, we didn't waiver.

In September 1970, Gladys Heldman put on a tournament for the ages. Billie Jean, the drawing card, played even though she was still recovering from knee surgery. I was also injured, but I played one point out of solidarity with the women. Rosie won that first tournament, beating Judy in the finals.

Our act of courage sparked the beginning of a revolution in women's pro tennis, and eventually in all of women's sports.

Flash forward 42 years to Charleston in April 2012. For only the second time in all those years, the Original 9 held a reunion, and it was a doozy. The Family Circle Cup and the WTA outdid themselves. They flew us in, put us up at the five-star Charleston Place Hotel, had our hair and makeup done, and thrust us in front of the cameras. We were showered with gifts, feted at a buffet for 300, honored on stage at a ballroom dinner for 700, and presented on the tournament's stadium court on Saturday night.

WTA CEO Stacey Allaster and her staff showed us how a top-notch organization is run. That was a long way, baby, from the early days of the women's pro tour.

Houston was the first tournament of the women's pro tour, whose first title sponsor was Virginia Slims cigarettes. During that first year, the nine of us were joined by other rebel women players, and there was a feeling of togetherness amongst us all.

That's not to say we were all lovey-dovey. We were also out to beat the socks off each other. But we were in the trenches together. Dim lights and low ceilings challenged our skills. We drummed up interest by tirelessly teaching clinics, attending cocktail parties, and giving interviews. When attendance was low, we'd even snag passing pedestrians to come on in and watch. At the time, newspapers didn't understand how the words "women" and "athletes" could go together, so they often sent fashion reporters to cover us. They liked our dresses but didn't know a forehand from a serve.

But with my mother orchestrating the tournaments, Billie Jean winning most of them and playing the press like a Stradivarius, and the rest of us trying our damndest to be the next star in the wings, that first year was something special.

So that's the backdrop to our weekend in Charleston. When Peachy Kellmeyer emailed us to say the reunion was on, all nine of us accepted within the hour. We had missed each other. We'd gone through so much together. No one could understand us as well as our old rebel pals.

The only person missing from the group that started modern women's pro tennis was my mother, who had died in 2003. But she was there in spirit, as one-by-one the Original 9 praised her incredible contribution to women's tennis, and the WTA honored her with the Georgina Clark Mother Award, which I accepted on her behalf.

Because the Original 9's competitive days were long gone, we could just spend time talking about our lives and reminiscing. In Charleston I went to kiss Nancy Richey on the cheek, and she laughed and said, "We wouldn't have kissed each other back then." The two of us were too busy having three-hour, knock-down, drag-em-out, backcourt marathons.

We were all looking forward to Charleston, but no one was prepared for just how magical the reunion would be. It wasn't just the honors, though frankly they were pretty wonderful. And it wasn't just the gratitude of former and current champions for what we had done.

It was seeing Val, who is now a successful real estate agent in San Diego, and who has retained her wonderful smile. And Peaches, the greatest junior player ever, who has bravely struggled with illness and adores her young granddaughter. And Kristy, who has become a cowgirl in Idaho, where she and her husband John have a ranch for teaching needy children to ride horses.

And Judy, the irrepressible "Old Fruit," the instigator of the reunion, who came the farthest, flying in with her daughter Sam from Australia. And Kerry, the other Aussie, who met South Carolina native Raz Reid while playing World Team Tennis in the 70s, married him, and adopted the state as her own. And Nancy, once a relentless competitor and now a quiet source of strength to her friends, mother, and brother Cliff, who accompanied her to Charleston. And height-challenged Rosie, the first winner of the Family circle Cup, always fearless, feisty, and quick with a quip. And of course Billie Jean, still and always a champ, the first great star of the first women's pro tour, who can't walk down the street without being mobbed by adoring fans.

Saturday night, our last in Charleston, we stayed up past midnight signing mementos for each other and for the WTA, and none of us wanted to leave, so that we could squeeze out another few minutes with each other.

We've all vowed to stay in touch, and we're already talking about the next reunion, when we can once again laugh and talk and treasure old times. Rosie says we shouldn't wait another 40 years, because it'll be too late. We're strong-minded women. We won't wait.

- Julie Heldman, April 2012
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Old Mar 3rd, 2013, 09:37 PM   #3
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Re: Sparkles like a Jewel: The Julie Heldman Thread

Gladys Heldman: A Daughter's Perspective

Accepting the Georgina Clark Mother Award on behalf of her late mother, Gladys, Julie Heldman gave a powerful speech.
Published April 13, 2012 10:51
Julie Heldman; Gladys Heldman (photo courtesy of International Tennis Hall of Fame)

CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Among the highlights of the Original 9's reunion weekend in Charleston was the presentation of the third annual Georgina Clark Mother Award, which was created in memory of one of the WTA's most loyal servants. British legend Ann Jones received the inaugural award in 2010, while last year's honoree, Judy Dalton, was on hand to announce the late Gladys Heldman as this year's recipient. Heldman's daughter, Original 9 member and former world No.5 Julie, accepted the award on behalf of her mother - delivering a speech that did the matriarch of women's pro tennis proud.
JULIE HELDMAN:

Thank you for honoring my mother with the Georgina Clark Mother Award.

This award is certainly not because Gladys Heldman was a traditional mother. She was unapologetically unconventional. She didn't cook, she didn't clean, she didn't vacuum. She was uninterested in makeup and frilly dresses. But she was a helluva role model. She taught us to value education and success, she was committed to helping others, and she stood up for what she believed in.

This weekend we are celebrating the founding of the Family Circle Cup and the founding of the women's pro tour. My mother had a role in the founding of this tournament, and she was the driving force, the shepherd, and the guiding light for the beginning of the women's pro tour. Yet my mother never took a dime from women's tennis. In fact she dug deep into her own pocket.

Here's why she was uniquely qualified to be the founder of the modern women's tennis tour:

She was extraordinarily hard working. She graduated from Stanford in three years, at the top of her class. In 1953, she started, owned, edited, and published World Tennis, which became the world's largest and most influential tennis magazine. When she sold the magazine in 1972, she liked to say she was replaced by seven men. That's probably true.

She was committed to unlimited opportunities for women. In the 1950s, she was often asked "Isn't it nice your husband lets you work?" My father was a distinguished scientist and businessman who had married a force of nature, and nothing was stopping her.

She had a bully pulpit. For years she used her editorial pages to campaign for open tennis, and when that battle was won in 1968, she championed women's tennis, calling for more tournaments and bigger prize money for the women pros.

She was a self starter who was driven to succeed. She had no experience in journalism, but she taught herself to write and edit articles and to sell ads, the life blood of magazines. I remember her each month going without sleep for days, typing furiously, chain-smoking cigarettes, and laying out articles all over her bed, all to send the magazine to press on time. She was never one day late.

She was a phenomenal, creative promoter who batted 1,000. Her most successful promotion before the women's pro tour was the 1962 US Championships at Forest Hills. The field had been weak for years, because top tennis players were playing in Europe for bigger under-the-table money. No one knew how to solve the problem. So Gladys took over. She and a group of friends ponied up enough money to jet the players in from Europe and treat them like kings. The tournament was a huge success. She saved Forest Hills.

She focused on the goal and didn't back down, even when she ruffled feathers. The Forest Hills promotion is a perfect example. The men who ran the United States Lawn Tennis Association resented her coming in and doing a better job than they had. After her astonishing success, they kicked her out. She succeeded in part because she was headstrong and sometimes difficult.

She knew everyone in tennis. She attracted advertisers by cold-calling the heads of big companies. If she struck out, she'd go to Tiffany's and buy herself something expensive. She owned three gold cigarette lighters, but she also got lots of ads and lots of business connections. She brought Joe Cullman, Chairman of the Board of Phillip Morris, into tennis, and his company became a major presence.

She was dedicated to helping tennis players. Without any publicity, she paid for players who couldn't afford to compete. At a time when opportunities were few for players of color, she reached out a hand to those in need.

All of these traits came in handy when she founded the women's pro tour.

Her work ethic led her to ignore her busy schedule and help the women players. At Forest Hills in 1970, the women were furious that the upcoming Los Angeles tournament had a prize money ratio of 8 to 1 in favor of the men. Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals and Nancy Richey approached my mother, asking her to help start a competing event. My mother had a magazine to run, there were people from far and wide to meet at the Open, and my parents were in the process of moving from New York City to Houston. Yet when she heard the women's cry for help, she jumped into action.

She started immediately. Within days she gained verbal permission from the men in power, contacted people in Houston to run the tournament, and rounded up the players. Yet when the Houston tournament was about to start, the men in power made an about face, threatening to suspend any player who competed in Houston. Those suspensions could cause havoc for the players and the club. So Gladys reassured them all.

Her creativity as a promoter led to a unique solution. In 1970 the rules distinguishing amateurs and pros were complex. To make the tournament work, my mother creatively made all the players contract pros for one week by signing them up for $1. That solution protected the players and the club.

Her connection to Joe Cullman was vital. She called him and got Virginia Slims, his company's new women's brand, to support the tournament.

That first event was a great success. The nine of us stood up for ourselves and for women's tennis. Virginia Slims had a public relations coup. And after the finals, the Original 9 ate spaghetti dinner at our house and then chose my mother to head a women's pro tour. Before the lights were out that night, she attacked her Rolodex, contacting anyone vaguely capable of promoting or sponsoring a women's pro tournament. She signed up Virginia Slims to be the tour sponsor. And she never stopped reaching out to women players, supporting those who had already committed to the Virginia Slims tour, and enticing those who hadn't.

For the next two-and-a-half years, my mother was the force behind the scenes, and Billie Jean King was the tour's greatest star, without whom the tour would not have succeeded. And the rest of us players worked hard, putting our careers and the future of women's tennis on the line.

Yet some of my mother's strengths were also her downfall. Those years were a rough go for her. She was still running World Tennis. There were fights with tennis associations and unreliable promoters, and it took a huge toll on her. And then she was booted out of women's pro tennis when the Virginia Slims Tour agreed to combine with the rival USLTA women's tennis tour. Why? She was outspoken, she was mercurial, and she was difficult.

Thank heavens Gladys Heldman was difficult. It meant she stood up for the things she believed in. It meant she wouldn't back down. It means she and the Original 9 players started what has become the most successful women's pro tour in all of sports.

- Julie Heldman, April 6, 2012
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Old Mar 3rd, 2013, 09:42 PM   #4
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Re: Sparkles like a Jewel: The Julie Heldman Thread

A typical Julie quote (from Sports Illustrated)

August 18, 1969

They Said it

Julie Heldman, U.S. Wightman Cup tennis star who won the women's singles title at the Maccabiah Games in Israel: "Tell 'em I owe my success to eating bagels and lox and kosher pickles."
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