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Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King

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Tennis legend Billie Jean King is serving up two new projects: On April 20 in Beverly Hills the Women's Sports Foundation (founded by King in 1974) holds the first annual Billie awards program. And King has an endorsement with RainbowVision resort retirement communities for LGBT folks and friends. The Santa Fe, N.M., site opened last November; the Palm Springs, Calif., site, set to open in 2008, includes the Billie Jean King Fitness Center and Spa.

Why don't you start by telling me a little about the Billies? We wanted to honor people -- media -- who have done great things for girls' and women's sports. Women's sports is not covered very much -- about 8% of coverage--and sometimes we're not portrayed in the most solid way. When I played Bobby Riggs or Anika Sorenstam played in the PGA, the only reason everybody got so excited is because we crossed into the male arena. Of course, 90% of the media's controlled by men, so all of a sudden they're interested.

Do you think we've made progress since the time you first entered women's sports? We have made progress, but we have so far to go. We need more professional opportunities at the top for women's sports. When little girls grow up, just like little boys, there's this top element that inspires and motivates them. We have to keep Title IX strong. The other thing we're trying to do is stop the drop: We know that girls drop out of sports and fitness twice as fast as boys from ages 8 to 18. Around girls, it's about looks instead of feeling good. [But] if you feel good, you'll look better, OK?

Tell me how you got involved with RainbowVision. They called me. [President-CEO Joy Silver] wanted me to be involved because I've done a lot of things first. She likes that.

What makes RainbowVision different from other retirement communities? What I like is that help is there when you need it. When you're ready for assisted living, it's there. You can live there with or without it. I know because I'm taking care of my parents. They're in their 80s now, and it's a worry. One thing I think is really good -- I said [to Silver], "What if you want to visit a friend, but you don't want to stay with them?" So we're going to have rentals. We're going to have buy, lease, and [short-term] rent.

How involved will you be? Santa Fe was already built when I got involved. I helped put the last touches on the fitness center. We had conference calls about equipment, the things I thought were important if you want to work out. And I'll be more actively involved in Palm Springs, with the tennis court, the health and fitness, the spa, and all that.

Will you do tennis clinics? I don't know what we're going to do, but we'll have activities for sure. We're not going to have a tennis court without activities, I'll tell you that much. I can't stand an empty tennis court.

RainbowVision is targeting people in their "second 50 years." You're 62 now. Would you consider moving into a RainbowVision community? Absolutely. You don't have to be part of the [LGBT] community either. It's open. Like some of us have straight friends, and we're thinking, I want to be with my friends, period. Can't you just see Chris Evert, Martina, Billie, all of us sitting on the porch together?

Related Links: Women's Sports Foundation RainbowVision

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