Conked out on the bed, clutching the Petition For Equal Pay clipboard, Billie is lying on her back with her uncovered legs propped against the wall. I lean closer, wondering how Holly Hunter got her legs to look like that, when her quadriceps throbs and whacks me in the eye. Billie is suddenly jolted awake by the telephone. She answers groggily, and it's her husband. "Bobby's people…want to close the deal on the match," he whispers. She's tired. "I want someone else to do this for a while," she moans. Oh, whatever, Atlas. You're not carrying anything you didn't deliberately pick up. Billie Jean tells him to close the deal before she backs out of it. She then relays that her petition succeeded. "These women, they think I'm a bully," she complains. "Well, you are, honey," Larry says lovingly. "I'm not. I'm a forward mama," Billie drools sleepily. He gently talks her through kicking off her shoes and putting her glasses on the hotel table, then tells her to sleep -- the Wimbledon finals are in three hours. Suddenly, a hand grabs her clipboard. It's Bobby, and he's breathing on her neck. She screams, as any right-minded person would when faced with something as hideous and spit-prone as Riggs. They grapple tensely and…oh, it was a dream. Billie Jean is letting Bobby seep into her consciousness. I think Eckerd makes a salve for that.
"King vs. Perenchio," the graphic reads. We see Larry and Jerry, the promoter, hashing out details of the Battle of the Sexes tennis match. Billie Jean's Wimbledon final screens nearby on a small color television set. Larry doesn't understand why Billie Jean is billed as the challenger, given that she's tops in the tennis field. "He's the champion of women," Perenchio says, shrugging. Suddenly, it's game-set-match Billie Jean, and she takes the Wimbledon title. Larry is totally thrilled. "My wife just won Wimbledon," he repeats to himself, turning in awe to anyone who will listen and confirm that it's really true. Which is odd, considering that it's the sixth Wimbledon title of her career, and the second in a row.
Billie Jean calls her mother, giddy and happy and barely able to talk. Mom is mildly interested that her daughter won Wimbledon. "Honey, someone told me you're playing Bobby Riggs," she tsks. "Why don't you girls just leave him alone!" Billie Jean is stunned, sputtering that Bobby came chasing after the women, not the other way around. "See, with that lib stuff, you made yourselves targets for people like him," her mother gripes gently. "He's a hustler!" explains Billie Jean. Her mom doesn't believe it, and Billie Jean is sickened, hanging up the phone. Someone calls out to her, asking if she's ready for Bobby. "I'll kill him," she growls.
A news bulletin informs us that ABC sports paid $750,000 for the rights to air the match, which is slated for September 20 at the Houston Astrodome.
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Billie Jean dashes off the plane toward a coin-operated airport TV. Frustrated, Billie roots through her purse, but all she has is yen…a serious yen for a good woman, that is. As Bobby takes the first set 6-2, Billie fails to see any of it. We see Margaret's shadow on the court, and she misses the ball on yet another serve. "You okay, sweetheart?" Bobby asks, with all the sincerity of Pamela Anderson at an anti-silicone rally.
"What channel is CBS?" screams Billie Jean. Passersby say they can't get the match because they can't find Hawaii's CBS station -- it has a weak signal. By the way, this television moment is brought to you by ABC. By the time Billie Jean secures a radio, Margaret Court has lost 6-2, 6-1. Billie Jean can't speak. At the venue, Bobby leaps over the net and hugs Margaret, who looks bummed. Bobby looks totally proud of himself, yet at the same time acts as though this was no big deal.
At one match-watching party, women reluctantly whip out their wallets and fork over cash to their gloating hubbies. On TV, Bobby is bragging. "I am the queen of tennis, and I want King bad," he shouts. "I will play her!" This guy is such a blowhard. It's hilarious. My mother recalls him being exactly this way -- a washed-up old egotist, never truly a champion, with nothing going for him but his arrogance and the occasional decent tennis shot. ["So does my mom, who also recalls grumbling at the time of the Court match that Billie Jean could have kicked his ass, and my father agreeing with her." -- Sars
Stunned, Billie sits on another flight and realizes that she now has to play Bobby. "Riggs is a jerk. He walks like a duck," Rosie says, helpfully. "In a few days, people will forget." Again with the advice! I can see why they remain one of the world's best doubles duos. Pensive, Billie watches as an unsuspecting stewardess gets her ass groped by an obnoxious pilot. "Not a chance," BJ says softly.
And so, in commercial, we transition from Billie Jean King to the very pinnipple -- er, "pinnacle" -- of women's liberation: Britney Spears, who has crusaded for a woman's right to bare arms (and almost anything else), bounce her breasts, and dance for free soda. Nobility, thy initials are B.S.
Cooling down in a hotel suite, Bobby thanks "sweetheart" for calling, telling her she has spunk. Apparently, "some rodeo broad" challenged Bobby to a goat-tying contest. He doesn't want to do it; after all, goat-tying hits too close to home, being an integral part of so many of his favorite, private weekend sexual romps. The Court-Riggs promoter has offered Bobby fifty thousand dollars to play anyone else, and Jerry Perenchio says he'll promote a match against Chris Evert and give Bobby three times that much. "I can turn this into a national event, just like I did with Ali-Frazier," he says. Ali MacGraw and Joe Frazier fought each other? Head-to-head yoga? Stretch to the death? Bobby flat-out decides he doesn't want to play Chrissie. "People are going to feel so sorry for her, I don't want to look like a bad guy," Bobby says, a portrait of deluded sincerity. "What I really want is King; she won't go near me." Perenchio promises he'll get Billie Jean. "I'd play for free!" crows Bobby, then he chokes a desperate, "Kidding! Kidding." He pauses. "That would be terrific," Bobby spittles, horking enough saliva to turn Stonehenge into Atlantis II: Waterlogged Boogaloo
. Bobby then becomes insane. "I could be a sex symbol at age 55!" he grins. Paging Mental Clarity. You're wanted in Aisle 55.
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