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WAS IT SMASHING OR WAS IT STUPID? : Anne White Says Wearing a Body Suit at Wimbledon Was Fun While It Lasted

June 29, 1985|MIKE LITTWIN | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — No Sex Please, We're British . --A hit London play Anne White, a sometimes model, followed a time-honored tradition in gamesmanship Thursday night. She led with her best suit.

This suit was white, as the Wimbledon rules demand. It was also body-length and clinging, a body stocking into which she poured her 5-11 frame rather nicely and which the staid All England Club found to be improper attire for tennis.

The All England Club's reaction was predictable. So was all of England's.

The truth is, they like a bit of nasty here. And the newspapers played Anne White's body suit like none since Lady Godiva's. In a nation where the economy is faltering and bombs are exploding, five of eight national newspapers played pictures of White on the front page.

The Sun, which prints pictures of unclad women daily on Page 3, showed Anne and her suit in full length, accompanied by the headline: "Anne is a bit of all white!"

White's match with Pam Shriver was suspended Thursday night as darkness fell, each player having won a set. When play resumed Friday afternoon, White was sporting regulation wear, and Shriver beat her easily to win the conclusion of their first-round match, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

The match had ended, but the fun was just beginning.

White explained after the match that, first of all, it was great fun wearing the suit, and that, secondly, the suit is both functional and aerodynamically beneficial. She also said she liked the pictures in the papers.

And why, she wondered, should anyone be shocked? After all, she was wearing two body suits, one over the other. A British reporter asked what else she was wearing, but White told him it was none of his business.

"I'm a bit aggravated," she said of the ban. "But it's their tournament and their right. I certainly don't want to make these people spill their strawberries and cream or something."

Also aggravated was Shriver, who was a bit distracted by all the attention.

"You've waited four days to play a match," Shriver explained. "You finally get on about 7:20 at night. You're nervous anyway because it's your first match. All of a sudden, you go back, you're about ready to serve, and you hear everyone start hooting and hollering. And I turned around and saw this thing . So I started to take off my vest. I just said, whatever she wants to do she's going to do."

Shriver was willing to joke about it, but she was also disturbed. "I just don't think you need a knock in the face when you are about to start your first match at Wimbledon."

In Shriver's view, the explanation for wearing what she called the "most bizarre, stupid-looking thing I've ever seen on a tennis court," was simple enough.

"She's a California girl. What can you say?"

White grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla., but went to school at USC and lives in Newport Beach. She's a middling tennis player who had attracted sparse notice before walking out on Court 2 Thursday night.

"If you can't do it with a racket, you do it with something else, I suppose," said Martina Navratilova, Shriver's doubles partner.

Gabriela Sabatini, the 15-year-old sensation, called the suit ridiculous. Few of the women wanted to endorse the new style, which White said could be the future of women's tennis wear.

It did have its supporters. Teddy Tinling, who designed Gussie Moran's scandalous outfit of the 1940s--lace panties, now really--found the body suit a, uh, smashing idea.

"It's totally logical," said Tinling, who was banned from Wimbledon for more than 30 years following Moran's appearance. "I hope it sets the tone for the future."

White said she decided several months before Wimbledon that she would wear the body suit. She never expected to make it onto the court, however, figuring the umpire would send her back.

Shriver didn't really object to the suit as much as to the fact that she wasn't told beforehand.

"It wasn't my intention to screw Pam up," White said. "We're good friends. I've known her since I was 10. After the match, I told her I couldn't tell everyone."

They are friends. "One of my weirder friends," Shriver said.

White is just weird enough to have gotten herself a Wimbledon victory's worth of publicity. Don't be surprised if you see a line of these suits in your neighborhood body-stocking store.

"The whole purpose is to keep your legs warm," White said. "It's what people are wearing now, especially in America. Look at Carl Lewis. Look at the bicyclists.

"It was colder this morning, and it took me a while to get warm. I'm not saying I would have won if I had worn the suit, but I might have been more ready."

Two weeks ago in Birmingham, England, White had worn a similar suit. It was cold that night, but Shriver doesn't believe the warmth argument carries over to Wimbledon.

"Last night wasn't that cold, and she had to towel off between every point toward the end," Shriver said. "I wanted to keep playing so I could sweat her out. All of a sudden, I would look and there would be this white outfit, and she'd be gone. I also figured I would always know where she is on the court, even as dark as it was getting."

Shriver will move forward in this tournament. White, however, is the one who will be remembered, joining Gussie Moran and Lady Godiva in legend.

Now, the tournament can get back to tennis. Shriver, a thinking person's tennis player, summed it up this way:

"It was her attitude, 'Wow, I'm playing Pam, Pam's been playing great and I might as well just do something bizarre on the court. Get some press and attention.' It worked. She lost. Good. It's over."

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