Fashion-forward tennis star 'Gorgeous Gussie' Moran dies at 89
BY Wire reports
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
1/22/13 at 6:06 AM
Gertrude "Gussie" Moran, who shocked the modest midcentury tennis world when she took the court at Wimbledon wearing a short skirt and ruffled underwear, has died at age 89 of colon cancer in Los Angeles.
As a 25-year-old seventh seed at Wimbledon in 1949, Moran made jaws drop and flashbulbs pop at the usually staid All-England Club in London when she showed up for her first match minus the knee-length skirt considered proper for women at the time.
She lost the match, but her striking fashion statement appeared on magazine covers around the world, the British press dubbing her "Gorgeous Gussie."
"She had no idea what she was getting into," said Jack Neworth, a tennis writer who befriended Moran in her final year. "She definitely liked fashion and was very attractive, but she was very naive and hadn't traveled much."
Moran was ranked as high as fourth in the United States. She was a doubles finalist at Wimbledon and reach the singles semifinals at the U.S. Open, but she always struggled to be known for more than the skirt and the "Gorgeous Gussie" moniker.
"Gussie was the Anna Kournikova of her time," tennis great Jack Kramer said in 2002 in the Los Angeles Times, which first reported her death. "Gussie was a beautiful woman with a beautiful body. If Gussie had played in the era of television, no telling what would have happened. Because, besides everything else, Gussie could play."
Gertrude Agusta Moran was born in 1923 in Santa Monica, Calif. She began taking tennis lessons at 11 and later played at Santa Monica High School and on traveling junior teams with future luminaries such as Kramer and Louise Brough.
After retiring from tennis, she toured with the USO and was once aboard a helicopter that crashed in Vietnam. She did various stints on radio and television, including a sports talk show for six years.
She returned to live in her childhood home in Santa Monica, but she could not afford to keep it and lost it in 1986. She spent her last years in a tiny, run-down apartment in Hollywood.
Moran could have called on any number of well-off friends in the tennis world for help, but she refused.
"She was quite proud," Neworth said. "But she wasn't bitter."
Moran always said she wanted red carpet in her house. Before she returned from the hospital for the last time, Neworth said, friends pitched in and had it installed. She died a week later.
Moran said she was happy that modern-day players such as Kournikova, Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters were flashy and unashamed in their court fashion.
"What's wrong with having a good time with your clothes and your body?" she said in 2002. "I was not very comfortable doing so. Maybe it would be different now."