Gussie Moran: Tennis player who shocked Wimbledon with her controversial clothing - Obituaries - News - The Independent

Gussie Moran: Tennis player who shocked Wimbledon with her controversial clothing

 

Gertrude "Gussie" Moran was a fine tennis player who reached No 4 in the United States rankings and played in a Wimbledon doubles final, but she will be forever remembered for a much more trivial reason. Moran's appearance at Wimbledon in 1949 wearing a short skirt that revealed a pair of frilly lace knickers shocked the staid world of tennis but delighted photographers and gossip columnists. For the rest of her life the Californian (who preferred to spell her name as "Gussy") was usually referred to as "Gorgeous Gussie", which was the moniker that the British press gave her.

Moran was arguably the first woman to bring glamour, sex and fashion into tennis. She appeared on magazine covers, had a racehorse and an aircraft named after her, was dated by millionaires and went into cinema and broadcasting.In later years, however, she led a less glamorous life. Moran, who died at 89 after a lengthy spell in hospital with colon cancer, had three failed marriages and spent her last years in poverty, refusing nearly all offers of help from friends.

An attractive woman with a fine figure, Moran had initially asked for permission to wear a coloured outfit ahead of her Wimbledon debut in 1949, but the All England Club refused to bend its all-white rules. Teddy Tinling, a flamboyant character who had become a tennis dress designer after retiring as a player, came up with a creation that would cause a far greater furore.

The convention at the time was for women to wear knee-length skirts. Tinling's design featured a shorter skirt which still looked prim and proper when Moran walked on court. As soon as she started playing, however, her lace-trimmed knickers became visible. Photographers quickly fought to secure the best position – preferably at ground level – to get their pictures, which were published around the world.

Moran lost in the first round but her fame – or notoriety in some quarters – was only just starting. The All England Club's committee was horrified by her clothing and criticised her for bringing "vulgarity and sin into tennis". The subject was even raised in Parliament.

She wore a marginally less revealing pair of shorts in her later matches in the doubles, but for the traditionalists the damage had been done. Later in life Moran said she regretted wearing the controversial outfit, saying that the fuss it caused had affected her concentration, but the episode sealed her celebrity status.

The daughter of a sound technician at Universal Studios, Moran was born and raised in Santa Monica. She started playing tennis at 11 and her ability quickly became evident in the postwar years. In 1949 she won the singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles titles at the US indoor championships and went on to make her first and uniquely memorable appearance at Wimbledon that summer.

Despite her early exit from the singles, Moran went on to reach the final of the doubles in partnership with her fellow American, Patricia Todd, before losing to Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne DuPont. It was Moran's only appearance in a Grand Slam final, though she reached the singles semi-finals at the US Open a year later, when she also made her second and last appearance at Wimbledon. This time she wore a see-through outfit that was arguably even more revealing. It was not long before Wimbledon brought in stricter rules on clothing.

In 1951 Moran turned professional, but the decision backfired. After a series of defeats she quit a tour of the US and retired from the sport the following year. For years thereafter, nevertheless, Moran remained a celebrity figure. She appeared as herself in Pat and Mike, a film starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, played tennis with Charlie Chaplin and worked in television and as a radio host. She was a popular visitor to military bases and was once on a helicopter that crashed in Vietnam.

Before long, however, life turned less glamorous. Moran launched a line of tennis clothing in the 1960s that flopped and she started to struggle financially. She had three short-lived and childless marriages – in later life she hinted that she had had abortions – and after returning to live in the family home in Santa Monica had to leave in 1986 when the property was repossessed.

Moran went to live in a small, run-down apartment in Hollywood, not far from the Los Angeles Tennis Club where she had once been the centre of attention. She had a number of humble jobs, including working in a gift shop in Los Angeles Zoo. In her latter years Moran survived on social security hand-outs and travelled around Los Angeles by bus. She became a recluse, refused to be photographed and in order to raise funds agreed to sign autographs on frilly panties which were then sold on eBay.

Moran never enjoyed being better known for her clothes and for her looks than for her tennis, but that is how she will forever be remembered. "Gussie was the Anna Kournikova of her time," the former player and tennis innovator Jack Kramer told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. "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, tennis player: born Santa Monica 8 September 1923; married 1956 Thomas James Corbally, 1956 (marriage annulled 1956), 1957 Edward James Hand (marriage dissolved), 1962 Frank "Bing" Simpson (marriage dissolved); died Los Angeles 16 January 2013.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week