Sunday, March 30, 2014

TV: American Forgers and Billie Jean Fraud

A director asked us Monday, "Why do you think so many lesbians in show business lie now?  Are they jealous of Ellen?  Do they hate her?"  We had no easy answer but it is true that Ellen DeGeneres did a very brave thing  by coming out while she was starring in her self-titled sitcom.  And it is true that a number of famous lesbians have since attempted to act as though they came out before Ellen when, in fact, they did not.  

We offered, "Maybe they're just full of s**t?" 

If they are, they're far from alone.


Putting the BS into the Public Broadcasting System these days?

A little show called American Masters.  PBS describes it as follows:

Created and launched in 1986 by Susan Lacy, the series set the standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim. Awards include 67 Emmy nominations and 26 awards — nine for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabody Awards; three Grammys; an Oscar; two Producers Guild Awards for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television; and the 2012 IDA Award for Best Continuing Series.

It's time to melt all those down to scrap metal.  This is the season when American Masters made The Lifetime Intimate Portrait look hard hitting.

Though many have complained about the Alice Walker episode this season, we're not talking about that.  We haven't seen it.

We're talking about one that aired earlier this season and then started showing up again this month for Women's History Month.  History, not hagiography.

PBS breathlessly noted of this one, "For the first time, American Masters profiles a sports figure!"  Be still our hearts.  It was Billie Jean King.

And had the documentary stuck to just sports, it would have been excessively fawning but not as offensive.

Billie Jean King did do her part -- as did other women -- to create the women's tennis circuit.

We'll give her that.

We're hard pressed to give her much more.

The special offered no critical analysis unless you think Valerie Jarrett and Hillary Clinton breathlessly panting that Billie Jean changed the world is critical analysis.

Neither woman should have been speaking.  They both had a flashcard understanding of King -- if they had even that.

But the strangest thing about this 'documentary' was discovering that Billie Jean King came out as gay in 1981.

The second strangest thing was hearing of how she was "outed."

Billie Jean King has re-sculpted the facts, to the point that they no longer resemble reality.  She's a one-woman informational cascade.

And somehow PBS thinks this makes for a documentary.

For those who don't know, Billie Jean King, a tennis player of note, got married in 1965 to a man -- Larry King.  She likes to say she didn't know she was interested in women until 1968 and that, in 1971, she had some form of a sexual relationship with Marilyn Barnett which lasted some brief length of time.

It's hard story to tell because there are so many lies.

Marilyn Barnett was not Billie Jean's first female lover.  Nor was she the only female lover Billie Jean had when she and Barnett were together.

Billie Jean King created a lie in 1981 and she's never stopped lying.

Like American Masters, we're not doing an actual biography on Billie Jean King so we'll set aside all the women prior to 1981 except for Barnett.  Unlike American Masters, we'll tell the damn truth.

The 'documentary' told you that Marilyn Barnett "outed" Billie Jean King and so Billie was out in 1981.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

She remained in the closet.  She not only continued her 'marriage' to Larry King for six more years, she
repeatedly stated that her relationship with Barnett was a one time thing.

And let's not forget her classic -- and, yes, manly politician in a scandal -- pose when she went public after being sued.  The news of her former lover filing a law suit broke May 1st and AP reported, "Mrs. King, 37, on a tennis tour in Florida, said the allegations were untrue and unfounded."  After she told that lie, she learned Barnett had kept at least 100 love letters. Exposed as a liar, Billie Jean King had to face the press.  May 3, 1981, the Associated Press reported on Billie Jean King's press conference:

Sitting next to her husband, Larry King, and her tearful parents, Mrs. King said she called the news conference [. . .]
She described Miss Barnett, a former hairdresser, as "unstable," and said of their love affair: "I made a mistake.  I will assume that responsibility."
Then, turning to her husband who sat beside her, she said, "It's very important to me to thank Larry.  I love him.  He's my husband, my lover and my best friend.  He's been that for 19 years."

That's Billie Jean King coming out?


But the 'documentary' told us that she was outed and came out as gay.  In fact, they didn't include her line about it being a "mistake" in the clip of the press conference they did show.

No, Billie Jean didn't come out.  She pretended that she had only been with one woman -- what a liar -- and she's continued to pretend that to this day.

Let's move over to the interview she did with a friend for People magazine in May 1981 ("The Trailblazing Kings," Cheryl McCall, May 25, 1981) , "I hate being called a homosexual because I don't feel that way.  It really upsets me. [. . .] If you have one gay experience, does that mean you're gay?  If you have one heterosexual experience, does that mean you're straight?"

It gets better -- as she gets worse.  "You can say or do something in a moment that you don't mean at any other moment in your life -- like in a fit of anger or depression or if you're trying to make somebody feel better about themselves."

Pay attention, Billie Jean just made history at that moment becoming the first celebrity to publicly address the pity f**k.

King wasn't gay, you understand, it was just one woman and King was just "trying to make somebody feel better about themselves."  Wow.  The Girl Scouts just sell cookies.

It was a joint-interview of Billy Jean and Larry and they couldn't stop talking about how wonderful their marriage was now and, as Larry explained, "Billie Jean doesn't feel that she's gay, and she'd like to have a child if she can work it out for time."

A year later, in November of 1982, the Associated Press' Linda Deutsch would file "Billie Jean King wins 'palimony' suit" and note, "Her husband was at her side throughout the trial, and both said the ordeal brought them closer."

No, boys and girls, that's not coming out.

Ann Barach (Miami News) noted in November of 1981, Barnett stated the affair "lasted from 1972 to 1979."  Barnett told the truth.

She told the truth in the face of a smear campaign that Billie Jean King engaged in which included putting Marilyn's barely known aunt out to the public to smear her (going so far as accusing Marilyn of murdering her own mother) in an attempt to deny her money.

The court?

The court wasn't gay friendly to put it mildly.

The letters, which Billie Jean had the court agree to keep from the press, were very clear about the relationship including responsibilities.

As a female musician who is an out lesbian and was friends with Billie Jean back in the day put it, "Billie Jean wanted to be the big swinging dick, wanted to care for Marilyn, wanted to take care of her and then when Billie's got a new lover, she wants to walk away from Marilyn and play it like she never made promises.  If she'd been a man, she'd been have crucified."


Like Melissa Ehteridge, Billie Jean wants to be the 'provider' up until she loses interest.  Then she wants to be able to discard her ex-lover and not have any responsibilities.

When men do that, women are outraged.  They should be outraged by the actions of Billie Jean King.

When men do that, we have a word for them: Pig.  That word applies to Billie Jean King as well.

Along with using an aunt to call Marilyn a murderer, Billie Jean also felt the need to share what Marilyn's psychiatrist allegedly told her.  But no functional psychiatrist would have made those statements about their patient to anyone.

Billie Jean lied and lied and then lied some more.

And she got away with it because gay was 'bad' and gay was 'evil.'

B-b-but, she was gay!

Not publicly.

Yes, in the documentary, after the press conference you get statements.  Valerie Jarrett insists, "For Billie Jean King to come out and be open about being gay really sent a message to young people that it was okay.  And I think because she was an athlete it added to the importance of it."

Let's hope so.  Because other than an athlete what was she doing.

Ellen had already come out.

In 1981?

Billie Jean King was 'outed' in 1981 but did not admit she was gay to the public until 1998.  That's when Billie Jean came out.

Ellen DeGeneres came out the year before that.

In the special, Hillary Clinton declares, "So now, she's not only viewed as an icon of women's rights but of gay rights."

Politicians -- they never stop lying.

There is nothing feminist about the way King treated Barnett.  There is nothing pro-LGBT about the way King portrayed and used Barnett.

King sometimes notes that she and Martina Navratilova had a falling out (for five years) due to the 'outing.'  King tells the story in such a way to make it seem as if Martina was in a panic, afraid she might be outed as well.  Nope.  Martina was already out by then.

Martina, like many other lesbians, was grossly offended by what Billie Jean King did.

Bad enough that she wouldn't pay the alimony she owed Marilyn, worse was how Billie Jean won by playing the straight card.

She'd made a "mistake," a brief one she insisted, and look her parents and her husband forgave her and Larry was her rock and she loved him.

And Marilyn, well she was unbalanced, and she did drugs, and she tried to kill herself and . . .

But Billie Jean King, Billie explained, (childless Billie) wanted to work with children and hoped her mistake wouldn't prevent that.

Cheap ass Billie Jean King could have solved everything by honoring her promise.  She chose not to.

Marilyn did not 'out' Billie Jean.  Marilyn sued her lover who promised to support her after her lover refused to do so and tried to kick Marilyn out of the home which was bought for her.

This was not 'outing.'

It's an issue that came up as 2013 came to a close.  Supposedly, NFL quarterback Aaron Brown was gay and his friend, roommate and assistant Kevin Lanflisi was his lover.

Lanflisi never said a word publicly so it may or may not have been true.

But if they were lovers and Lanflisi took it public?

That's not outing.

When you put your tongue on someone's penis or pudenda and/or vice versa, they aren't you outer, they're your lover and they have every right to share whatever they want to share.  Because you choose to live in silence and in shame does not mean they have to.

For the first years of their marriage, Randi Oakes and Gregory Harrison kept it on the down low.  That was due to the money Harrison was pulling in (which was increasing) and the belief of his manager that it would suffer if it was known Harrison was married.

If at any time during the first years of their marriage, Randi had let it slip or had wanted to share it, no one in their right mind would have slammed her for doing so.

If their marriage had not turned out to be a happy and lasting one and Greg had chosen to leave her two years after he married her and Randi had held a press conference to say, "America, we are married!"?

People would not have faulted her.

Of course she could expose her personal life.  It was her personal life.  Even if her partner didn't want it exposed, it was her personal life too.

It's no different with Marilyn.

She was promised that house.  Today, she'd be given the house and alimony.

But in 1981, Billie Jean King used homophobia to avoid alimony.

She actively painted Marilyn and gay people as 'the other.'  She actively stood apart, presented herself as a poor defenseless straight person preyed on by a deviant, tricked into a 'mistake.'

There's nothing iconic about that.

And that's what Martina's problem with Billie Jean was.

King was outed and instead of owning up to it, she played it as a mistake and repeated some of the most harmful stereotypes to avoid paying her ex-lover what she promised.

Billie Jean was whining about how it cost her in the special.  Sponsors dropped her in letters and called her nasty names.

That damn Marilyn!

Well, no.

That damn Billie Jean.

First off, she would have been dropped by those who dropped regardless of who she had an affair with -- man or woman.

She was supposed to be a sports hero and role model and she slept around outside her marriage.

In 1981, that was a huge deal but we'd argue -- and point to Tiger Woods -- that doing so today would still lead to loss of sponsorship contracts.

If she lost "millions," there are two lessons here: (1) don't cheat and (2) don't be so damn cheap.

By the way, millions?  It's amazing how the figure grows each year she tells it -- it was a few hundred thousand when she first started telling the story in 1982.  Farrah Fawcett, beautiful and famous, didn't get "millions" for her Wella Balsam commercials and Farrah was a hell of a lot more popular than Billie Jean King ever was.  No one went to the stylist and said, "Give me the Billie Jean!"

Her biggest contract, we're told, was with a vitamin product (Theragram-M) and would have netted her less than $25,000 that year.  She doesn't reach that "I lost millions!" claim even if you include her husband's business which, for the record, in the fall of 1981 she publicly was.  His tennis tours lost some sponsors -- and this was being counted, by her, as part of her millions she lost.

She's no hero for the LGBTQ community.

In the documentary, there's a clip of a British woman interviewing King and King deflects from LFBTQ to note she supports "individuals rights."  There's another clip of a modern day Billie Jean King saying she's always happy anytime she can help the LGBT community.

Both clips speak to how she was and is apart from that community because she chooses not to embrace it. The filmmakers seem unaware of that.  They also seem to fail to notice that Billie's more than eager to brag about this 'hot' guy she danced with or how she married Larry because, "that's true, we wanted to have sex."  But Billie Jean King today, in a long term relationship, apparently lives on a higher plane than the other members of the animal kingdom, one where sex is never thought or mentioned.

It took the woman 17 years after she admitted to sex with another woman to stop pretending it was a one-time thing and admit she was gay.

You sort of get the feeling if she were required to stand in a semi-crowded room and declare, "I'm Billie Jean and I eat p**sy," her head would explode.

She did real damage and the documentary hides that and paints her as a hero.

We wouldn't have to be talking about this if PBS had stuck to the facts or, barring that, just stuck to sports.

To claim that Billie Jean King left the closet in 1981 is to falsify, to lie.  She came out, finally, in 1998.  Prior to her coming out, she publicly repeated every disgusting stereotype and smear about and against gay people possible in order to attack the credibility of Marilyn -- a woman she once claimed to have loved.  But any feelings for Marilyn took a second seat to her convincing the world that she made a 'mistake' and would never again stain her purity by engaging in sexual congress with a woman.

Each season, the PBS staple gets further and further from the truth.  We think it's high time they changed the show names to American Forgers.

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