Carl Earn, a one-time Los Angeles-area tennis great who went on to teach the game to such Hollywood stars as Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas, Dinah Shore and Gene Hackman, died Wednesday at his Los Angeles home of what his family said were natural causes. He was 86.
An L.A. native, Earn graduated from Manual Arts High School in 1939. He played at Compton Junior College and won many local tournaments, including the prestigious Ojai Valley Tournament, before enlisting in the Navy after the start of World War II. A baker in the Navy, Earn was honorably discharged in 1945.
A left-handed tennis player known for his blistering topspin forehand, Earn entered the professional ranks in 1946. He joined a tour put together by Bill Tilden called the Professional Players Assn. and finished that year ranked No. 7 behind such other greats as Bobby Riggs, Don Budge and Fred Perry.
Earn served as the head pro at the Hillcrest Country Club in Beverly Hills for 25 years and at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club for five.
He founded the Tennis Place in 1976 during the height of the tennis boom. The 16-court facility on Third Street in the Miracle Mile area was a popular place for players of all races and backgrounds, according to Earn's nephew, Lee Ziff.
In addition to his nephew, Earn is survived by sister Lillian Ziff, brother Bill Earn, and nieces Lisa Sabah and Sheila Earn.
Funeral services were held Sunday at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Hollywood Hills. Donations may be made to the Carl Earn Men's Tennis Scholarship at UCLA. Details: (310) 825-8699, Ext. 63031.