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Ultimately a Love Match

The battle-turned-friendship between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King is re-created on ABC, starring Ron Silver and Holly Hunter.

April 16, 2001|WILLIAM KECK | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"I must tell you I love ABC, but I miss that scene," Hawn said. "I did my best to try to get it back in, but sometimes you're fighting city hall. It was very touching, very sad, and I think maybe they didn't want to end on a sad note. But the idea of those two coming back together showed that she was always by his side--even all those years later. It was really the coda to this movie: that love can prevail, that your opponents are also potential loved ones."

King thinks often of that conversation, because it was the first time Riggs came to understand exactly how much he contributed to society by losing the match. "He said, 'We really did make a difference, didn't we?,' " King remembered. "Bobby finally got it."

After Riggs' loss, Kuhle says, his friend went through a six-month depression, never recapturing the glory of that day. King, meanwhile, was about to experience a media blitz, for which she was unprepared, upon being very publicly outed as a lesbian.

During the years that followed, King rejected dozens of offers to dramatize that painful chapter of her life, but now King says she is ready to see that story told.

"At the time, all they wanted to do was sleaze," she said. "But now . . . maybe. I feel I have one important thing left to accomplish . . . although I'm not sure what that is yet. Holly and Jane have become such great friends that it would be wonderful to work with them again. So who knows?"

Hunter, for her part, would welcome a rematch. "Boy, I'd die to play Billie Jean again," she said. "That would be like this [movie] was a rehearsal."

*

"When Billie Beat Bobby" will air tonight at 9 on ABC. The network has rated it TV-14-L (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with an advisory for coarse language).

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