The tennis icon and activist shares all in her new memoir All In — and why she didn’t tell anyone she finally married her love of 42 years, Ivana Kloss.
Billie Jean King and her former doubles partner Ilana Kloss have been an item for four decades but they only recently married, and even then kept it quiet. Last week it was revealed that the couple will be inducted together into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame.
But that’s not the only way King, 77, wants their partnership to be acknowledged.
In her new book All In, which comes out this week, King sets the record straight on everything that matters to her.
The book, which she has called a journey to her “authentic self,” reveals that the couple “wore each other’s rings for years” and called themselves “life partners” before there was any way of formalizing their commitment to each other. And even when there was marriage equality, the couple did not rush to the altar. Not even when their good friend Elton John suggested they should tie the knot; not even when fellow tennis champ John McEnroe said, “C’mon, Billie Jean … Wrap it up and put a bow on it already!”
In an interview with People magazine, King reveals why they were “all in” for each other, but wanted to keep it to themselves.
The 20-time Wimbledon champ whose historic “battle of the sexes” match against Bobby Riggs changed women’s tennis forever and was made into a film of the same name reveals that she and Kloss secretly exchanged vows on October 18, 2018 before former NYC Mayor David Dinkins in his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
King reveals that until writing her memoir, only a few other people knew about the marriage: Dinkins, his wife, and an aide who acted as witness, and the City Hall worker who processed the marriage license. Why the secrecy when so many people would have been happy for the longterm couple?
“So much of our life has been public, keeping this private was something special we could hold on to, just for us,” King told People, quoting Kloss, 65.
King previously married her college sweetheart, property developer Larry King, and they were together for 22 years until they divorced in 1987. She was outed by the media in 1981 as having had an affair with Marilyn Barnett while married to her husband but Billie Jean was 51 years old before she officially came out as gay, and then she took to LGBTQ activism swiftly and unequivocally.
She views sexual orientation as a “a continuum. You’re finding your truth, and it doesn’t have to stay the same. I only liked guys when I was young. I didn’t think about girls. And then all of a sudden I’m like, ‘Oh my God, what’s happening?’ My truth was changing over time. It took me forever.”
In addition to love and sexuality, Associated Press reported the book will cover the highlights of her tennis career, including her 39 Grand Slam titles and her defeat of Bobby Riggs; her activism on behalf of women in tennis and beyond; and private struggles such as an eating disorder and why she didn’t feel entirely comfortable being gay until she was 51.
“Early on, what was most apparent to me was that the world I wanted didn’t exist yet,” King writes in her book. “It would be up to my generation to create it.”
All In: An Autobiography is out on Aug. 17. It is King’s third and definitive memoir.