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Bobby Riggs – Aspen Hustle – Part Four

After the world found Aspen and its four major ski areas in the 70’s, the area of Aspen and the surrounding communities of Snowmass, Carbondale, Woody Creek and Basalt exploded with second homes for the rich and famous. By 2007, the permanent population of 3,000 in the 70’s has grown to 6,000, but the property values have skyrocketed. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia recently listed his Aspen property, a 56,000 square foot chalet for $135,000,000! Yes, $135 million! Aspen is probably one of the highest per square foot real estate markets in the world. Celebrities with homes in the Aspen area include Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, Michael Eisner, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John and so on. Our project, the Aspen Club, has been sold several times over and is now The Aspen Club and Spa, a very posh private facility catering to health- oriented clients from around the world.

In 1985, even at the ripe old age of 67 and still as an active promoter and personal hustler of tennis, Riggs took another go at the spotlight by challenging the top women’s doubles team of Pam Shriver and Martina Navratilova to still another “Battle of the Sexes”, playing with former champion Vitas Gerulitis. Once again the women triumphed, in score, but who really knows who won the big money. Even the legendary tennis great Don Budge, who with Riggs, Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales and Fred Perry formed the first professional circuit and traveled together in the 40’s, always suspected that with 8-5 odds to beat Billie Jean King, somehow Bobby had to have bet some big bucks on her to win. But no one will ever know.

Then in 1988, at the age of 70, and long out of the tennis spotlight, Bobby Riggs was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Realizing that the world knew little of this disease, Riggs chose to go public and share his diagnosis with the world and spoke wherever he could get an audience. In 1994 he set up the Bobby Riggs Museum Foundation to promote and fund prostate cancer awareness. He would spend the last year of his life educating men and women about the disease.

Washington Post, October 27, 1995 – “Bobby Riggs, 77, a former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis Champion who helped make women’s tennis a major spectator and money sport by losing a widely promoted 1973 match to Billie Jean King, died of prostate cancer at his home in Leucadia, California. He was married and divorced twice and is survived by five children.” Now, you might be able to understand how I’ve come to the conclusion that Bobby Riggs was the greatest tennis players of all time. Hopefully Federer will someday make that kind of difference! “And that’s my Bobby Riggs’ story.” Not to be left without the last word, Jay Smith informs me that one of his closest friends was one of the last people to speak with Riggs just before his passing. He asked him about the match with Billie Jean, whether he had thrown it or not. Bobby smiled and said, “I won!” and he was gone.

I’ve come to regard Bobby Riggs as even greater than great. I believe now that he never lost a match unless he wanted to. My hat goes off to him.

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