He threw me out of the bedroom last week," Gladys Heldman said. "Ask him about that."
"He" is her husband, Julius, who is product-development manager for Shell Oil in New York, and it was not really Gladys but only her magazine that he threw out of the bedroom. Eleven years earlier her mother had to throw her out of the house for the same reason—the magazine was taking up too much room. Mrs. Heldman is the publisher of World Tennis. She is also editor—in toto, not just in chief—and the art department, layout department, advertising department, copy department and circulation department. She no longer, however, has to stick on the labels.
The tennis world is one in which enthusiasm too often boils down to a mess of spites, cliques, feuds, factionalism and internecine warfare, and probably no voice cuts across all the nonsense like Gladys Heldman's. This alone would be useful to tennis, but the list of her additional services is long. It includes, in 1959, guaranteeing the promoters against loss to save the 56th installment of the indoor nationals when the USLTA had voted not to hold it. The event, which has never been a moneymaker, netted $8,000 under Gladys' handling. She has airlifted amateurs from all over the world to U.S. tournaments, finding them sponsors and accommodations, transporting them, feeding them and keeping them amused. She established the now annual Tennis Ball, "because there wasn't any party for the players," and "no party" is, to Gladys Heldman, a most unfortunate state of affairs. (Her latest effort to guard against any dangerous lack of parties is the sponsoring of a regular series of dinners honoring famous tennis players.) It was Gladys who engineered the massive benefit for Art Larsen, critically injured in a motorscooter accident in 1956. Crowds were turned away from New York's Seventh Regiment Armory, and the money raised has been the principal line of defense for Larsen's medical expenses. "She's the friend in need of every tennis player in the world," Julius says of her.
Her magazine, World Tennis, is a valuable forum for airing tennis problems and squabbles, to say nothing of Mrs. Heldman's own views, and it is accurate and comprehensive, international in scope but intimate in tone. The circulation is up to 43,000, which is more than any other tennis magazine has ever commanded. It got there because Gladys worked 22-hour days and seven-day weeks and sank into it, she estimates, some $100,000 over the past decade. "I'm going to pay me back," she says, "but right now there are too many things I want to do."
June 21, 1964
If Julius Heldman threw World Tennis out of the bedroom, it was not because he himself doesn't care for the game. Julius is a perfectly remarkable tennis player. He did well on the circuit before he left it at the age of 19, and perhaps he did even better afterward when, as much less than a weekend player, he defeated such competitors as Jack Kramer, Ted Schroeder and Herbie Flam. He is still not even a weekend player, but in Salisbury, Md. last February he won the national indoor senior championship.
Naturally, the Heldmans' two girls play tennis, and they play it very well. In 1958, when the girls were 12 and 13, The New York Times quoted Gladys as saying that she and Julius played to beat them by big fat scores. "That keeps them in line," she said. "Anyway, we couldn't stand losing to such little girls." Carrie and Julie went to tennis camp at Hamtramck, Mich. until, in their mid-teens, they decided they were too old for camp, "so they went off on the circuit with some other kids," Gladys says. "Carrie's strokes were pretty unorthodox—not that we make too much of orthodoxy—but she suddenly got the idea that she wanted classical strokes, and she asked if she could go to California to study with my old coach, Tom Stow. What he did with her in a month was unbelievable. She probably has the best-looking strokes in the family." Carrie, now 19, was twice Canadian girls' champion and has some 40 trophies in the cellar from the years when she was feeling so earnest about her tennis. She is feeling less earnest now and has virtually left the competitive play to her sister, 18-year-old Julie M ("M" to distinguish her from her father, who says, reasonably, "I call her Julie. There's no doubt in my mind who I mean").
Springy, wiry little Julie M is the national junior champion and the 10th-ranked American woman. Her game is solid again, after a wavery spell two years ago. "I hit a peak," she says. "I won the TVI [Tennessee Valley Invitation], the Southern, the Tri-State, and I got to the finals of the Western and the semis of the Clay Courts, and then I had a huge slump. I hate playing badly, I just hate it. I've gotten to the point now where if I play well I don't even mind losing so much. But if you play badly all the time, how are you going to stand it!"
She's not the only Heldman to have grappled with that problem. In 1954 her mother played at Wimbledon. Not center court—in fact, a very remote court—and she went down 6-0, 6-0 before a gallery of three. One of them was Julius. Gladys wept, and Julius shouted to her, "It's all right, Gladys, I still love you. Only not as much."
This moment survives in Gladys' answer now to Julie M, who says, "I call up crying and say, 'Mommy, I lost,' and she says, Tough luck, kid. What's the matter? Do you think we don't still love you?' "
Perhaps, in a way, Gladys' game is the most remarkable in the family. Granted, her once ranking first in Texas probably was the high point of her competitive career, but she never held a racket until after her marriage, and she was never taught to use it until after the birth of both girls. This did not prevent Gladys from coaching tennis, however, before learning how to play the game.
Gladys, the daughter of a New York lawyer and jurist, George Z. Medalie, graduated from Stanford, with straight A's, on June 14, 1942. On June 15, 1942 she married Julius Heldman. Julius was an instructor in chemistry at the University of California in Berkeley, and Gladys took her master's therein medieval history, intending to go on for her doctorate. "But I saw an ad," she explains, "saying 'Wanted: Full Professors.' It was a little college, the Williams Institute in Berkeley. Well, Juli was an instructor, so of course I wanted to be a full professor. I became a full professor of mathematics, and I taught a course in the history of Western civilization and second-year math—calculus and differential equations—and I hadn't had first-year math. I would assign problems blithely that I couldn't do, and my husband had his Ph.D. in physical chemistry and he wouldn't help me. That's how I learned mathematics. ["I did too help her," Julius says.] And I coached tennis, and I was five months pregnant, all for $1.25 an hour." It was a year later that she got around to being instructed by Tom Stow. "A great, great coach," she says fervently. "He taught Don Budge."
The Heldmans were doing a lot of moving around in those early years of their marriage. During the war Julius was tapped for the Manhattan Project, and they left Berkeley for Oak Ridge, Tenn. There were men there he had known at Cal, but "everything was so secret the scientists couldn't even talk to each other about it," he says of operations. It was in this atmosphere that a limousine drove up to the lab one day and a chauffeur told Heldman ominously, "Dr. Lawrence wants to see you." Dr. Ernest O. Lawrence was the top civilian in the electromagnetic separation project at Oak Ridge. He had invented the cyclotron and won a Nobel Prize, and Julius was paralyzed. "I trotted out thinking, 'What have I done? My God, I'm a spy!' But it turned out that Dr. Lawrence was a tennis nut. They drove me home to pick up some tennis clothes, and I played with him about every two weeks at the high school."
After the war the Heldmans returned to Berkeley and resumed life at the usual pace. Gladys was turning into a monomaniac. "Those were the days," she recalls, "when I just couldn't wait to go to bed so it would be time to get up again and play tennis. I played eight or nine sets a day. I would often play two tournaments at the same time. I remember once in Long Beach I played on a Sunday morning in the finals of the singles, doubles and the mixed, and then I drove to Santa Monica and in the afternoon I played the first round of the singles, doubles and mixed. And then, if there had been a vacant court, I assure you I would have practiced."
It was after the war that Julius decided to leave teaching to go with Shell Oil and to write a definitive text on glassblowing. His early research—on the photolysis of acetaldehyde—had required him to blow his own scientific glass. "Acetaldehyde," Julius says, "is a very fussy, touchy material. If you don't treat it very carefully, things happen to it." When he got to Oak Ridge there had been more fussy, touchy materials, and only one other glassblower. "Glassblowing made terrible demands on our time," he said. "I considered teaching a class in it, but there was no text. Now, this is like Gladys and me: I took off two months and wrote the book, and I ran into the dean of chemistry at Cal and told him I'd written a book on glassblowing. He said Prentice-Hall wanted it and they gave me $1,000 in advance, and Gladys spent it the next day on a grand piano." Who played the piano in the Heldman family? "Absolutely nobody. But Gladys thought our living room in Berkeley needed a grand piano," Julius said. "We sold it when we moved to Texas."
Shell sent Julius to Texas in 1949. The Heldmans took a small farm in Genoa, outside of Houston and a long drive from the tennis courts—which did not prevent Gladys from negotiating the distance once or twice a day. The girls learned to ride there. "Bareback," Gladys says, "because we never had time to saddle the horses." They boarded some racing mares, tried to raise turkeys, kept two cats, Iphigenia and Agamemnon, and bought a pig. "The kids named him Uncle Willie. They had an Uncle Willie—he was a real uncle," Gladys says, "and when the family found out all hell broke loose."
"A pig is bought for a purpose," Julius went on, as if to avoid the more painful aspects of this, "to get rid of garbage on a place where you don't have garbage disposal. At first it couldn't eat all of it, but within weeks we had to buy food for it."
Most of the turkeys died of pneumonia and, what with having to buy food for the garbage disposal, the Heldmans were not the compleat farmers. But they were busy. Gladys was organizing the Texas Davis Cup team, which included Julius, Felix Kelley, Bobby Kamrath and Howard Startzman. They played a team of U.S. Davis Cuppers: Gardnar Mulloy, Billy Talbert, Frank Shields and Sidney Wood. Gladys says, "The U.S. just edged us out. But it was close. If five points had gone the other way, Texas would have won."
Another thing Gladys was busy with was a single mimeographed sheet called The Houston Tennis News, which she scribbled herself and which a Mr. Turner in Houston mimeographed for nothing. Gladys would force it upon everyone. The Houston Tennis News grew into a four-page printed affair, and in 1951, moving relentlessly forward, it became something she called the round-up. The eight-page round-up went to 16 pages. The players wrote for it. "In Gar's column," Gladys recalled of Mulloy, "he used to blast the USLTA." Billy Talbert used to defend it. Gladys added gossip columns and some short stories—"pretty silly," she says of those, thoughtfully—and made up crossword puzzles and Double-Crostics. The latter were not so much silly as illegal, being copyrighted, but she did not find that out until later.
Characteristically, Gladys' idea of fun was becoming a great deal of work. She wrote the round-up, got it printed, handed it out and found herself mailing copies as well. She sat up at night to cut address plates on a typewriter and, with her trusty Elliott hand addresser, hand-addressed round-ups. "I hand-stamped them," she says. "Two hundred of them—the people in the apartment below used to complain. I could hear them with the broom, going "clonk!' " To-ward the end Gladys was selling her publication, not giving it away. The round-up ended in 1953, and World Tennis began when Gar Mulloy said to Gladys, "Why don't we do a magazine?"
"Gar said he would take care of getting the ads, and I could do the writing," Gladys explains. "So we did, and the first few years we lost thousands of dollars. One month it would lose $4,000, the next month it would lose $6,000. Gar and I were putting out so much money! The third year we were turned down again by all the big advertisers, and we knew it would cost us another $40,000 or $50,000, and he said, 'Let's quit. I just can't afford this.' But I couldn't quit."
The first issue of World Tennis had come out in Houston, but Shell transferred Julius again, this time to New York. "The next issues came out in Mother's apartment," says Gladys. "She was in Europe. When she came home and saw her apartment—players running in and out, and printers delivering things, she said, 'I love you very much, dear, but why don't you get an office?' So we found an office that had been a candy store; we never did take down the sign." The candy store was small. "I remember," daughter Carrie says, "that when there were five of us in there stuffing envelopes we couldn't move our elbows."
"I used to go there at 6 in the morning," Gladys says, "and get home at 4 the next morning. For the first year I never went out at night, and I worked weekends." The idea of Gladys working nights and weekends will bring tears to the eyes of her friends. "This is the only family in the world," Carrie says, "where I wait up for my mother to get in."
"That was the only time my husband ever really complained," Gladys went on pensively. "The candy store was upstairs over a little old man who sold ice in the summer and kerosene in the winter, and the kerosene came up through the floor. You were afraid to light a match, and I reeked of it. I'd come home and ask my husband, 'But why don't you want to kiss me?' "
Even with a good secretarial assistant and the labor of everybody she could dragoon into stuffing envelopes, Gladys was working long days and weekends and not going to parties. She was coming home from the Skonk Works to an olfactorily unappreciative husband, and she was still losing money.
In 1954 things looked up a bit. Sidney Wood came up to the candy store and looked (and smelled) around. "Your office isn't very charming," he observed mildly, and invited Gladys and her magazine to move over to his laundry. "It was really spacious!" Gladys recalls. "The laundry trucks came and moved us, and we were there for two years. Until they tore it down. We got into the office by the freight elevator, and we shared the space with a glove dyer, Mr. Imburgia. Mr. Imburgia and I still exchange Christmas cards. There was a partition, but it didn't go all the way up, and when he was dyeing gloves this great cloud would rise."
But a cloud of steam was an improvement over a total suffusion of kerosene; Gladys was, as usual, moving forward. Three years ago an accountant was doing her books and moaned, "What are you doing this for? It's impossible. You'll never make any money." "The next time he came the books balanced, and he dropped dead," Gladys said, with mixed emotions. (Actually it was a week or so later, not at that moment on the spot.)
"This last year has been the very, very greatest," Gladys says happily. "Forty-three thousand is the most any tennis magazine ever was. We have Mattie Clark—she takes all my dictation over the phone, and she answers the telephone and says 'World Tennis' and if they want the advertising department she says, 'Just a minute,' and she becomes Mrs. Harrison and says, 'Advertising.' Otherwise she's circulation. And we have a girl to help her, and a great young boy named Jim, and I don't ever have to type an invoice anymore.
"You know. I used to be able to recite all the states in alphabetical order and all the major cities and the first-, second-and third-class postal rates to them all. I bet Mattie still can."
Mattie cannot, largely because, as she points out, she does not have to. The systems Gladys devised at the beginning function so effectively that the new scope of the magazine puts no strain on them at all. Gladys has even sliced through the mystique in which printers are wont to envelop themselves. "Oh, that can't be done, Mrs. Heldman," printers have said about something, shortly before they have found themselves doing it.
Gladys Heldman happens to have been interested in putting out a tennis magazine. Had her interest been sheet metal or cookies, U.S. Steel or Nabisco would probably be trembling like leaves.
"You're dealing with a mind, remember," Julius Heldman says. "I never expected her to sit around like a lump. I remember when she was working on her master's in history a lot of the source material was in medieval Latin, and medieval Latin is a very different language from regular Latin. Gladys found a book that was particularly helpful, because the text was printed in the medieval Latin on the left-hand page and medieval French on the right. One of my favorite memories is of Gladys' mother visiting us and the two of them sitting side by side on the couch, her mother translating the Latin and Gladys the French. 'Very good, C.K.,' Gladys said when they finished. 'You only made two mistakes.' " Gladys' mother is 80 years old, though she will sometimes lie about her age. When Mrs. Medalie lies about her age she claims to be 92.
"She went to the University of Heidelberg last summer," Gladys says, "and she wrote me, 'Darling, I'm in the top quarter of my class,' but I can't remember now what she was studying. The year before, she studied politics at Oxford. The year before that she went on safari. She had a Zulu guide, and she stayed in a mud hut. Just a looking safari. She became a vegetarian when I was about 10, but I think she's started to cheat.
"She's been to Russia twice and to France about 25 times—she's never stayed in the same hotel there twice. She went to India, just to see the little towns; she had her Kleenex and her bottled water and her soap. Tuesday nights she goes to French class. Her French is superb, but her accent is atrocious. She knows Latin, Greek, German, Italian—aside from that, she's no damn good."
Obviously, on June 15, 1942 Julius Heldman acquired a formidable wife and mother-in-law. Fortunately, he was quite formidable himself.
Something of a prodigy, he entered UCLA at 15, where he did brilliantly in chemistry and, as a 17-year-old sophomore, won the national junior tennis championship. He took his doctorate in physical chemistry, and in 1942-43 he was a National Research Fellow. That brought him up to Gladys and that spell as instructor to her full professorship, but it was quite a short spell.
"My husband is the best rider in the family," Gladys says, looking at a picture of Julius on a horse. "In fact, he's the best one in the family at everything, and he's the only scientist who looks like he ought to be a movie star."
"You should see her in a bikini," says Juli, forgetting his wife's mind.