Friday, March 31, 2006

Billie Jean King Teams Up With Retirement Community

(Link) The tennis legend says the new biz deal almost makes up for what happened in 1981: she came out and lost all her endorsements in 24 hours.

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LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Laura Kiritsy
Bay Windows

Tennis legend and out lesbian Billie Jean King has signed an endorsement deal with RainbowVision Properties, developers of the first full-service LGBT resort/retirement communities in Santa Fe, N.M. and Palm Springs, Calif.

King, 62, is helping to design the tennis center and the fitness program for the Palm Springs location, which will break ground in 2007 for an expected 2009 opening. The heath and fitness facilities at the Santa Fe property, which opened 20 of its 146 residential units last October, have been christened �The Billie Jean King Fitness Center and Spa.� Speaking at a telephone press conference on March 23, King said after learning about RainbowVision from president Joy Silver, she decided that �what I didn�t want to be was a spokesperson. What I wanted to be was truly involved and committed to Joy�s vision of having this first full service resort/retirement community. It�s so important for our community, the LGBT community � to have a fun place to go, our friends can go � it doesn�t really matter. It�s very inclusive.�

With its mission to serve LGBT people in their �second fifty years,� RainbowVision aims to capture the LGBT corner of the baby boomer market, which is increasingly focused on preventative healthcare and staying physically fit and active well into the retirement years.

�RainbowVision Communities are really centered around activities and frequency of social interaction and making accessible social activities and also being able to stay on a lifestyle program that enhances both body mind and spirit,� Silver explained. In addition to offering full-service health and fitness facilities both the Santa Fe and Palm Springs locations will include among other LGBT-centric amenities like a cabaret nightclub and piano bar. The Santa Fe property will be fully functional on June 10 and will celebrate with an appearance by Sixties pop star Lesley Gore, who came out publicly last year, at the ��It�s My Party� Party.�

But both communities will also offer a range of assisted living services if it comes time for residents to slow down. As King pointed out of RainbowVision, �it�s there when you need it.�
�It�s really important to stay healthy and viable as long as we can but there does come a time sometime when we all need more help from the outside,� she said. �That�s what I love about [RainbowVision communities] you have both. It�s going to be a fun place to live and be active and be healthy. Additionally, �people don�t have to be alone as they get older, which I think is huge, and feel lonely. There�ll be somebody there to be with them to the end and I think that�s so reassuring.�

King�s RainbowVision endorsement deal marks the start of a higher profile for the tennis champ in the LGBT community. She also recently signed on to be an ambassador to this year�s Gay Games in Chicago. She expressed the desire to have an impact in the LGBT community, and on gay athletes in particular, by being more visible. �I think it�s important that gay athletes and other people that are gay and transgendered or bisexuals � all of us � we need to be visible,� she said. �And for all of us it�s a different journey and it�s not easy, it hasn�t been easy for me I must say but I certainly want to make a difference. The only way I�m going to make a difference is get out there and be visible.�

King�s legendary tennis career spanned the 1960s and 70s during which she won a record 20 Wimbledon titles. She is four-time U.S. Open winner and was ranked No. 1 in the world five times between 1966 and 1972. In 1973 King took on and beat Wimbledon champ Bobby Riggs in eight straight sets in the highly-touted �Battle of the Sexes,� a match that King took on after Riggs bragged of his superior male athleticism. But her post-career endorsement deals evaporated almost instantly when King was outed by the tabloid press after being sued for �palimony� by an ex-lover in 1981.

Needless to say, she�s thrilled to actually get the RainbowVision endorsement specifically because she is a gay person. �I must tell you from somebody who lost all of my endorsements within 24 hours in 1981 or whatever, actually getting to be involved in something and get paid for it because I am a lesbian is just mind boggling,� she said. �I still am off-balance when I think about it. It�s just so contrary to what I had to deal with for so many years and it�s just so wonderful.

�It�s really very dream-like,� added King. �I am very thankful, very blessed for this opportunity.�