I know what you’re thinking. “You only picked this Marbles lady because you knew you could word play the shit out of that obvious (and hilarious) surname.” You’re not not right. But I’m also attempting to diversify our artisitic-politico-literary tendencies with a madame who knew how to play “sports.” So, a lady named Marble who knew how to hit a Ball: a perfect for shame! subject. You’re welcome.
Marble moved to San Francisco when she was five, in 1918. She was really good at “athletic” things like softball, and she wasn’t even a lesbian. Her brother thought she should play a more lady like sport, like tennis. And now I’m thinking of McEnroe dressed like a Victorian lady and playing tennis. Once you get that picture in and out of your head and manage to stop giggling, join me in the next paragraph.
Alice picked up a racquet, and then like a couple months later she was one of the best tennis players in the world. Her training was complicated by the fact that when she was 15, she was raped while walking home from practice. To add to an already traumatic adolescence, she also managed to witness her BFF getting run over by a San Francisco street car. Ouch. She overcame that nightmare of a childhood to become one of the top lady tennis players in all of “sports” history.
In her career, she won 18 Grand Slam championships —
(I know you’re confused right now because you’re all “Grand Slam? I thought that was what happens in the game with the stick and the ball that Madonna played in that one movie.” I get it, shhh, allow me to explain: Grand Slam also refers to the top tennis tournaments that happen every year all over the world. They are: the Australian, French, and US Opens, and Wimbledon. They are also sometimes called “the Majors” — which is also reminiscent of America’s greatest sport, but whatever, we’re talking about that
feminine European sport now.)
But let’s talk about how Alice Marble handled balls OFF the court, shall we?
After a stellar amateur career — which in those days involved a lot champagne drinking with movie stars on boats, with, like, cravats and shit — she turned pro. Turning pro meant that you got paid a fudge-ton of cash to go play in “exhibition” tournaments all over the world. (Which I believe also involved a lot of making out with girls in front of Clarke Gable at parties with champagne fountains.) She settled down and married Joe Crowley in 1942. He shipped out to fight in the European Theater shortly after their marriage. But they had managed to do some baby-making and by 1944, she was avec fille, as they say.
Then, a series of unfortunate (and, sure, kind of scandalous) events began to unfold. First, Marble was in a car accident and had a miscarriage. THEN, a little bit later, found out that her husband’s plane had been shot down over Germany and he’d be killed in action.
This was a little much for Alice, and really, who can blame her? She attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, but her old tennis coach Eleanor “Teach” Tennant found her and took her to the hospital. She survived, overcame her depression, and went on to, GET THIS:
That’s right. In 1945, the Allies were all, “Come be a spy for us, sexy tennis star.” And she was all, “Those Nazi bastards killed my husband, you bet your balls I’ll spy for you!” She actually said that she felt like she “had nothing left to lose but my life, and at the time I didn’t care about living.” Which, jeez, ok, a little heavy for this blog. Moving on.
The mission: Seduce a former lover, a Swiss Banker suspected of providing services (of the financial, not the sexual, variety) to high-ranking Nazi Officials, get him in the boudoir and get the deets on his elicit behavior.
Mission accomplished. Especially the boudoir part. She showcased her
boobies talents by playing in high-profile tennis tournaments in Europe, and the Banker sought her out in order to entangle her romantically. This was, of course, exactly what she wanted. She got all sorts of intel on him that she was able to report back to the CIA before the Nazis found out and she got — GET THIS — shot in the back! Like, with a bullet!
Miraculously, she survived and then led a pretty normal life after that. She retired to Palm Springs and probably, like, watched Wheel of Fortune and stuff.
I should also add that during her retirement, she worked for DC comics and, according to Wiki, is credited as an associated editor on Wonder Woman, because she wrote the comic’s feature section called “Wonder Women of History” where she told stories of history’s most wonderful women. I really like the idea of Susan B. Anthony drawn as a super hero and I like to think something like that made it into an issue.
And as if fighting Nazis wasn’t enough, she also decided to take on the whole problem of racial segregation in 1950 (she was kind of ahead of her time, even for a white lady) when her African-American colleague Althea Gibson was banned from playing in the US Championship. Marble wrote an open letter published in World Tennis Magazine (not sure what its readership was, so, you know, take this however you want) saying,
If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it’s also time we acted a little more like gentlepeople and less like sanctimonious hypocrites. … If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it’s only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts.
And in 1950, Althea Gibson became the first African-America to play in a Grand Slam tournament. In 1956, she became the first African-American player to win a Grand Slam title.
So maybe you’re like, what’s scandalous about this bitch?? How about the fact that her spy job involved DOING IT with a NAZI COLLABORATOR?!
Maybe it’s a stretch, but she’s still a really cool lady and I bet you’re not not super happy you know about her now.
Balls to the walls. Or wall. What is it?