Bjorn Borg sat girded by store officials, cordoned by ropes, blocked by a table covered with bottles of mineral water.
But that didn't spare the five-time Wimbledon winner from sometimes eccentric fans who came to see him launch his men's sportswear line at Robinson's in Beverly Hills.
One man asked Borg to sign white tennis shorts. A woman, who waited two hours, insisted he autograph a photo of her show dog named Borg. She also lugged a plaster cast the athlete had signed on her broken leg two years ago.
Though the retired tennis pro has pushed tennis equipment and athletic togs for a decade, this is his first outing in the fashion realm.
"With these clothes, you can wear a jacket with a nice casual tie," he said in a clipped Swedish accent. "It doesn't have to be stiff. It looks elegant but still casual." Key word: casual. Borg referred to it often when describing himself: "That's why this collection really fits to my personality," he said.
The clothes, by Stockholm designer Rohdi Heintz, are bright and roomy, punctuated by dashing cotton sweaters bearing Scandinavian flags. Borg models them in photos with the same impassive stare you would expect to see across a tennis court.
Though less than animated in his store appearance, Borg said he enjoys the new fashion career and stood cooperatively while his shirt and sweater were adjusted by a stylist. He looked all the tidier with a shorter mane than in the past--"a concession," he said, to maturity.
"I can't wear long hair when I'm 50 or 60 years old," he said. "Yes, you know, I'm going to have to find a nice hair style."
Borg, 29, retired from tennis in January, 1983, claiming that after five straight Wimbledon wins he no longer had the same competitive zeal. He has since returned to tennis for occasional tournaments and made a six-city exhibition tour this fall with John McEnroe.
"I think I always had that killer instinct in tennis. I was very ambitious. I always set my goals," Borg said, more fluent than when the subject was clothes. "And that's what I like to do in other areas too. I hope we will do very well here. That's our goal, to do well in the States."
Bjorn Borg Menswear opened in Europe, Scandinavia and Asia three years ago, where gross sales in 1984 were $40 million, according to Sam Barkin, president of the United States division.
Borg gives artistic approval, Barkin said. Borg added: "Heintz makes the sketches, and I like to be there to see what he's doing."
Borg said he will make no more than two or three months of public appearances each year because "I want to stay home with my family." He has a 2-month-old son, Robin, by his Swedish girlfriend Jannike Bjorling.
"It changes your life completely," he said, smiling. "I mean, you stop thinking about yourself. Now the first thing and the most important thing is the baby. That's the biggest part of my life."
Borg will move to Stockholm in January, leaving Monte Carlo after 11 years' residence.
"I think Sweden was always in my heart," he said. "When you always travel, you never feel like you're home, anywhere.
"Finally my life is very balanced."