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Finally, an Award for True Sports Royalty

Times Staff Writer

There’s the Oscar, the Emmy, the Tony and now the “Billie.”

The first four Billies were presented last week at a star-studded dinner at the Beverly Hilton, put on by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

The winners were documentarian Bud Greenspan, reporter Christine Brennan, HBO Sports and the husband-and-wife team of Geoffrey Biddle and Jane Gottesman, who own Game Face Productions.

The award is named after Billie Jean King, who created the foundation in 1974.

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“The name of the award certainly wasn’t my idea,” King said.

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Trivia time: Before King, now 62, defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battles of the Sexes” in 1973, what women’s player lost to Riggs earlier that year?

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A bit too much cheering: Elton John, who entertained at the first “Billies” dinner last week, said he watched King beat Riggs while at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he was staying before an L.A. performance.

“I screamed so loud, we had to cancel the show,” he said.

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Far-reaching impact: Brennan said she was in seventh grade in suburban Toledo, Ohio, when she watched King beat Riggs.

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Brennan said the match had an impact on the rest of her life.

“I remember calling my friend Mike Kelly and screaming, ‘We won! A woman beat a man.’ ”

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A debt of gratitude: Brennan is probably best known for her coverage of figure skating and some of its controversies. She has written two revealing books about the sport.

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“I owe it all to Tonya Harding,” Brennan said in accepting her Billie award.

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Spacing counts: Tracy Austin, who was among the award presenters, said she wrote a paper about King when she was in the fourth grade. “I got an A-minus because I didn’t have paragraph indentions,” she said.

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Geography counts: Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, said she now lives in Los Angeles.

“Since Billie Jean grew up here [in Long Beach],” she said, “I’m hoping some of what she has rubs off. She won 20 Wimbledon titles [six singles, 10 doubles and four mixed doubles between 1961 and 1979]. I’ve only won one.”

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Looking back: On this day in 1963, Bob Cousy ended his 13-year NBA career by scoring 18 points and the Boston Celtics won their fifth consecutive championship by defeating the Lakers, 112-109, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

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Trivia answer: Margaret Court.

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And finally: Only one item was auctioned at last week’s “Billies” dinner -- a elaborate trip to Wimbledon that includes Elton John’s private party benefiting his AIDS foundation.

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When the bidding reached $140,000 by two men, the prize was awarded to each.

The fact that the auctioneer was Sharon Stone may have encouraged the high bidding. Playing to the bidders’ basic instincts, Stone went into the audience and sat on each man’s lap.

Larry Stewart can be reached at larry.stewart@latimes.com.


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