The pile of dog-eared supermarket tabloids sits by my easy chair. Hours have turned into days, days into weeks, and I have not moved. This is a special time of the year. I want to be ready for Wimbledon. For the scribes of Fleet Street, London's newspaper row, the tournament is not so much the All England Lawn Tennis Club's championships as it is the site of the grass-court tabloid wars. I want to know a good story when I see one.
"Are you all right?" my children ask.
"Never better," I reply.
I have just finished reading about how Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered only a few short weeks ago. I have looked at the exclusive picture of Oswald's corpse in a morgue somewhere. This is all quite interesting. Did you know that John F Kennedy still is alive, confined to a wheelchair in a secret place? This seems to be a fact. Quite interesting, indeed.
June 23, 1991
"Why don't you take a break?" my children ask.
"No time," I reply. "Not now."
I have learned from one paper that Oprah has hit a deadly 205 and that doctors are alarmed as she refuses to diet to save her life. I have also learned that doctors are worried that silicone is leaking from Dolly's breasts into her body.
I have learned a lot of things about Julia Roberts's canceled wedding to Kiefer Sutherland. This seems to be a true American tragedy, this canceled wedding. I feel sorry for Julia. I feel sorry for Kiefer, too.
"Do you know that reading this much of this stuff in one sitting can make a person lose his sense of reality?" my children ask.
"Do you know that Woody Harrelson is worried about going bald?" I reply.
Already I can feel that this is going to be the Wimbledon of Wimbledons. The Martina Thing is going to be a headline a day, with charges and countercharges flying back and forth between her and her former companion Judy Nelson in their pending court battle over Martina's millions. What will Martina say? What will Judy do? Already I can see the friends and spokespersons and "informed sources" lining up next to the tape recorders. How will Martina even be able to function amid all the hoo-ha? How can she even think of hitting a tennis ball? Maybe she will envision Judy's face on each one. Take that, Judy. This is another American tragedy, since Martina is a naturalized citizen.
"Do you see the headline on that story in front of you?" my children ask. "It says HYPNOTIZED DOG'S TESTIMONY NAILS KILLER."
"The dog's name is Toko," I say. "He's a mongrel in Madrid."
The Agassi kid, I figure, is going to be more big news. This is his first trip to the tournament in four years, and he's a tabloid natural with his long, multihued hair and good looks. I see psychologists being interviewed about the fact that Agassi has to wear white instead of those ragged outfits he prefers.
I see love matches for Agassi being proposed everywhere, probably the best one with Gabriela Sabatini. This could be the headiest stuff since the tabloids wondered if Chrissie Evert wanted to have Jimmy Connors's love child. I see the Agassi kid cramming a camera into some paparazzo's face.
Another easy story, of course, will be the continuing tribulations of Steffi Graf's father, Peter, who has survived a paternity suit filed by a Playboy model. Only two weeks ago, in the stands at the French Open, Peter had a quick run-in with a rich guy from Florida who used to be a Steffi groupie and who now seems to follow Monica Seles's every move. By the time the first Wimbledon match is played, that little dustup will have become as big as the Tyson-Ruddock fight. Peter's love life also will be reexamined, as will Steffi's love life, and Monica's love life, for that matter.
John McEnroe's comments about the lack of Davis Cup patriotism among the younger American men will draw great interest, and somebody supposedly will offer to punch someone else in the nose if this talk continues. Bjorn Borg's comeback will be a topic, especially since his wife tried to commit suicide.
Ivan Lendl's dark, brooding quest to win this tournament just once will be considered (LENDL AFRAID OF GROWING BALD?). Boris Becker's failure to win will be attributed to everything from late nights to a high cholesterol count.
"Now you're reading TONY DANZA: WOMANIZING WRECKED MY MARRIAGE," my children say. "Are you for real? Do you honestly think this stuff will help you watch a tennis tournament?"
"This is not a tennis tournament," I say. "This is Wimbledon."
I check the latest machinations of Donald, Marla and Ivana. I am happy about Mary Tyler Moore's amazing secret life as a farm wife. I worry a bit about the scary report in one paper—on page 21, no less—that on Sept. 27 the entire population of China, 1.3 billion people, is going to jump in the air and land at the same time, sending the earth into a cockeyed orbit that will destroy our civilization. Can this be? I would worry more but Sept. 27 seems far away. The tournament is almost here. I have to pick a winner.
"Who do you like?" my children ask.
"I am rooting for Big Bill Tilden," I say. "I hear he's still alive."