Moran, Gussie (1923—)
Moran, Gussie (1923—)
American tennis player whose claim to fame lies not in her game, but in wearing lace-trimmed panties as part of her outfit during the 1949 Wimbledon tournament. Name variations: Gertrude Augusta Moran; "Gorgeous Gussie" Moran. Born in 1923 (some sources cite 1922, others 1924) in Santa Monica, California; daughter of Irish and German parents; married twice.
Won the Seabright mixed doubles crown with Pancho Segura (1946); won the National Clay Court Doubles with Mary Arnold Prentiss (1947); made the Top Ten of Tennis list (1947); won three titles (mixed doubles, women's doubles, and women's singles) at National Indoor Tennis championships (1949).
Born in Santa Monica, California, in 1923, Gussie Moran began playing tennis when she was 12; by age 16, she was counted among the more promising tennis prospects in southern California. She was coached by Bill Tilden and Eleanor Tennant , and her interest flagged only when Charlie Chaplin, who played with her regularly, warned that playing so often and hard would make her develop big muscles. Her enthusiasm for the game returned in 1945. When she began winning tennis titles around the country in the late 1940s, Life magazine added "Gorgeous" to her childhood nickname, and as "Gorgeous Gussie" she became a media sensation.
Moran was an extremely good tennis player, but not a great one. She fought her way to the quarterfinals at the Nationals in 1946, and reached the semifinals of the U.S. Nationals in 1948. Other accomplishments include a Seabright mixed doubles crown with Pancho Segura in 1946, and winning the National Clay Court doubles with Mary Arnold Prentiss in 1947. She also triumphed in her one and only Wightman Cup appearance, a doubles match in 1949, and in the spring of the same year won three titles—mixed doubles, women's doubles, and the coveted women's singles—at the National Indoor championships. Moran seemed to enjoy playing the glamour role more than the sport of tennis, and she entertained the press and public with a variety of publicity stunts, ranging from being measured for a new outfit at a press conference, and having her voluptuous measurements announced publicly, to performing a striptease behind a semi-transparent screen. But her biggest claim to fame came when Ted Tinling, who had been active in various roles in tennis for three decades, decided to design women's tennis clothes. He created a stylish outfit for her to wear at Wimbledon in 1949, and either he or Moran—accounts differ as to who should be credited—made the outfit more feminine by trimming the panties with lace. Only decades earlier women had still been playing tennis in full-length dresses with long sleeves and tightlylaced corsets, and the mere possibility of seeing a bit of lace-trimmed panties (Moran's dress reached almost to her knees) drew huge crowds to the match. Her outfit received front-page coverage on newspapers throughout the world, much to the well-bred dismay of Wimbledon officials, who charged Tinling with "drawing attention to the sexual area." Moran did not win Wimbledon that year, but the public loved the uproar, and her notoriety brought women's tennis to the attention of far more people than were usually interested in it.
"Gorgeous Gussie" retired from amateur tennis in the summer of 1950 and signed a professional contract with promoter Bobby Riggs, earning what was then the excellent sum of $25,000. She often played exhibition matches and gave tennis lessons, and portrayed herself on screen in the 1952 Katharine Hepburn -Spencer Tracy film Pat and Mike. She also designed and manufactured a line of tennis apparel for a time. Married twice, Moran moved to Manhattan in the 1960s, working as an advertising consultant for World Tennis and arranging fashion shows. She also appeared in commercials, and in 1968 covered the Wimbledon games for Westinghouse Radio.
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Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont