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American Masters (2013 Season) – Billie Jean King
Air date: 09/10/2013

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Series Profiles a Sports Figure for the First Time in Its 27-Year History

Billie Jean King Premieres Nationally Tuesday, September 10 on PBS to commemorate 40th anniversaries of King v. Riggs “The Battle of the Sexes” match, founding of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and equal prize money

Documentary features new interviews with King, Serena & Venus Williams, Hillary Clinton, Sir Elton John, Maria Sharapova, Rosie Casals, Chris Evert, Gloria Steinem, Margaret Court, and others

Preview video and connect with other cultural icons at pbs.org/americanmasters

 

For the first time, THIRTEEN’s American Masters series profiles a sports figure: Billie Jean King (born Nov. 22, 1943), a determined woman who has been a major force in changing and democratizing the cultural landscape. American Masters Billie Jean King premieres nationally Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 8-9:30 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) to commemorate three 40th anniversaries: the Billie Jean King v. Bobby Riggs “The Battle of the Sexes” match on Sept. 20, 1973, the founding of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) by King on June 20, and the U.S. Open becoming the first Grand Slam tournament to award equal prize money to men and women. This new documentary traces the incredible life of one of the most important female athletes of the 20th century as her 70th birthday nears.

American Masters looks back to the 12-year-old Long Beach, California, girl who played tennis on public courts, observed disparity and, as she soared athletically, never stopped trying to remedy inequality. During her professional tennis career, King won 39 Grand Slam titles, helped form the Virginia Slims Series (pre-cursor to WTA Tour), founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and Women’s Sports magazine, and co-founded World TeamTennis (WTT). Her competitiveness on the circuit was matched by her efforts on behalf of women and the LGBT community, and her commitment to prove there is strength in diversity.

In American Masters Billie Jean King, King presents her own story with perspective from fellow tennis stars who played alongside her or were influenced by her, among them Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Ilana Kloss (King’s partner), Maria Sharapova, Serena and Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, and members of the Virginia Slims Circuit “Original 9,” including Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Nancy Richey, and Valerie Ziegenfuss. The film also features new interviews with a diverse cast of characters from King’s unparalleled life: former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, friend and fellow activist Sir Elton John, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Bobby Riggs’ son Larry and “Battle of the Sexes” trainer Lornie Kuhle, King’s brother Randy Moffitt and ex-husband Larry King, and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to President Obama, who chose King as the first female athlete to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. King is also a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Through these interviews and archival footage, the film illustrates the life of a woman whose journey became not just a battle for personal glory but a sociopolitical battle for equality for all.

“Billie Jean King embodies the art of sports, of humanism and of activism. For more than 50 years, her excellence and example have sparked the way for changes that enrich us all,” said Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of American Masters. “Billie Jean’s star on our cultural landscape shines brighter and brighter, with no end in sight.”

“I am thrilled American Masters is choosing to showcase my journey as we celebrate so many historic anniversaries in my ongoing commitment to social justice and equality,” said King. “It is an honor to be the first athlete profiled in the 27-year history of American Masters and I look forward to bringing our message of equality to audiences of all ages and all backgrounds.”

“Almost from the first time she picked up a racquet, Billie Jean King has understood the power of sport as a major cultural force to shape society; and it was her insight to use the emotional energy borne on the playing field to fight for equality and social justice. Through her life she has faced triumph and adversity with equal measure, battling both on and off the court for a better world. To be entrusted with telling her story is both an honor and responsibility,” said Emmy-nominated filmmaker James Erskine, co-founder of New Black Films (The Battle of the Sexes, One Night in Turin).

Since its 1986 premiere, American Masters has earned 24 Emmy Awards — including eight for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, and two Producers Guild Awards. Now in its 27th season on PBS, the series is a production of THIRTEEN. WNET is the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations, and operator of NJTV. For 50 years, THIRTEEN has been making the most of the rich resources and passionate people of New York and the world, reaching millions of people with on-air and online programming that celebrates arts and culture, offers insightful commentary on the news of the day, explores the worlds of science and nature, and invites students of all ages to have fun while learning.

To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website (http://pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes, and other resources. American Masters is also seen on the WORLD channel, a 24/7, full-service multicast channel featuring public television’s signature nonfiction documentary, science and news programming, broadcast in nearly two-thirds of the United States.

American Masters Billie Jean King is a production of New Black Films, Media Squared Films PLC, and THIRTEEN’s American Masters in association with Goldcrest Films International and WNET. James Erskine is director, producer, and writer. Victoria Gregory is producer. Susan Lacy is American Masters series creator and executive producer.

American Masters is a production of THIRTEEN. The series is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, Anne Ray Charitable Trust, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers. Corporate support for American Masters Billie Jean King is provided by The Weinstein Company.

 

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About New Black Films

New Black Films is an independent London-based film and TV production company set up in 2009 by filmmakers James Erskine and Victoria Gregory. New Black Films specializes in feature film and documentary productions. Focusing on projects that are distinctly authored, yet with broad appeal, New Black Films produces films that are challenging, provocative and relevant, putting a twist on existing genres to explore contemporary issues and reach the widest possible audience. In 2010 New Black Films produced One Night in Turin, a documentary feature film about the 1990 World Cup and its transformative effect on the England team that changed perceptions at home and abroad of English football for the better. In 2011, came From The Ashes the story of another momentous moment for English sport when in 1981, against betting odds of 500-1, cricketer Ian Botham turned the fortunes of England’s cricket team to bring home the Ashes. 2013-14 will see the international releases of major new productions including The Battle of the Sexes and Pantani – An Accidental Death of a Cyclist, the tragic story about the iconic Italian cyclist Marco Pantani.

 

About WNET

In 2013, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York’s flagship public media provider. As the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.

Photos
For editorial use in North America only in conjunction with the direct publicity or promotion of AMERICAN MASTERS. No other rights are granted. All rights reserved. Downloading this image constitutes agreement to these terms.
American Masters: Billie Jean King

It was a striking pose that Mrs. Billie Jean King struck during the first set of the her match against Betty Ann Gruob Stuart in San Francisco's Civic Auditorium Jan. 8, 1974. She easily outdistanced Mrs. Stuart, 6-3, 6-4. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images. Photo by SJV.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Six-time Wimbledon singles champion Billie Jean King of the United States stretches to return the ball to Dianne Fromholtz (not pictured) of Australia during their semi-final match in the $150,000 Toray Sillook Tennis Tournament in Tokyo on Saturday, Sept. 17, 1979. Sixth-seeded King defeated second-seeded Formholtz 6-2, 7-6. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King, Wimbledon, 1978. Photo credit: EMPICS Sport. Photo by Don Morley.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King. Photo credit: Andrew Coppa Photography.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King. Photo credit: Andrew Coppa Photography.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

SusanLacy_847_ LorellaZanetti_300dpi

Susan Lacy. Photo credit: Lorella Zanetti.

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King, Tennis, former Wimbledon winner downed Kerry Reid 6-3, 7-5 after a sudden death tiebreaker in the 2nd set during the Semi-finals singles match in the Family Circle Magazine Cup tournament at Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines resort on April 2, 1977. King is attempting a comeback after knee surgery. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images. Photo by Kathy Wilens.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

U.S. President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to tennis champion Billie Jean King during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House on August 12, 2009. Obama awarded 16 individuals the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Photo credit: ABACA USA/Empics Entertainment. Photo by Olivier Douliery.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Larry king, left, husband and manager of tennis star Billie Jean King, right, carries some equipment at Forest Hills, N.Y. during the U.S Open Tennis Championship Sept. 11. 1973. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Valerie Ziegenfuss. Photo by Michael Cole.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Rosie Casals & Billie Jean King. Photo by Michael Cole.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Nancy Richey. Photo by Michael Cole.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

The Original Nine, Houston, September 1973.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Bobby Riggs, former Wimbledon tennis star, talks with Margaret Court about heavy duty tennis ball she has selected for their $10,000 challenge match in Ramona, Calif., May 12, 1973. She won a coin toss on Thursday and selected the heavier ball. Riggs attempted to talk Margaret into using a livelier ball in their best-of-three set match. Margaret stuck with her original decision. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images. Photo by Wally Fong.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Margaret Court in action. Photo credit: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport. Photo by S&G.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Bobby Riggs wears a plaid skirt, frilly blouse and hat during a celebrity tennis tournament in New York in this Aug. 25, 1973 photo. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images. Photo by Dave Pickoff.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Wimbledon Champ Billie Jean King holds down the net as Bobby Riggs, the 55-year-old tennis player who bested Margaret Court in a grudge match, jumps over the net in New York on July 11, 1973. King and Riggs announced that they will meet in similar $100,000 tennis match at a time and place as yet unannounced. Mrs. King is 26 years his junior. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King bends down low to send the ball back over the net during the match with Bobby Riggs in the Astrodome in Houston, Texas on Sept. 20, 1973. Ms. King beat Riggs 6-4; 6-3; 6-3. Photo credit: AP/Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Tennis player Billie Jean King, left, makes a fist while she answers a question at a news conference in Houston, Tex., on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 1973. At right is Bobby Riggs smiling as King makes her answer. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Bobby Riggs walks off the court near the end of the third match in which Billie Jean King defeated the one-time champion of the courts to take the $100,000 winner-take-all tournament at the Houston Astrodome, Texas, on Sept. 20, 1973. King won 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Photo credit: AP/Press Association.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Ms. Billie Jean King waves to crowds at the Astrodome in Houston, Tex., Sep 20,1973 as she is borne onto the crowd on a multi-colored throne carried by four men for her match with Bobby Riggs. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King of Long Beach, Calif., puts her hand on her head as she wins a point in semifinals match against France’s Francoise Durr at the Women’s Singles competition at Wimbledon, England on Wednesday, July 1, 1970. Billie Jean went ahead to the finals by defeating Francoise 6-3, 7-5. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Mrs. Billie Jean King of Long Beach, Calif., and Rod Laver of Australia lead the dancing at the Lawn Tennis Association Ball at Grosvenor house in London on July 7, 1968. Mrs. King won the women'’s singles and Laver the men's single championship of the Wimbledon Open tennis championships. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King, center, and other participants in the International Women's Year torch relay, hold the torch high at the end of the 2,600 mile run in Houston, Texas. The relay began in Seneca Falls, New York on September 8th and over 2,000 runners took part, each averaging about a mile. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King returns the ball during the fourth round of the women's singles in the All England lawn tennis championships in Wimbledon, England on July 2, 1968. Her apponent is Fay Moore. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

American tennis player Billie Jean King is seen in play during the women's singles at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon in London on July 8, 1967. King defeated her opponent Anne Jones of Britain. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

U.S. tennis player Billie Jean King returns the ball to volley against Ann Haydon Jones during the Women singles match of the All England Lawn Championships at Wimbledon in London on July 4, 1968. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images.

Billie-Jean King v Evonne Goolagong

Billie Jean king v Evonne Goolagong. Photo credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King with family: (l to r) Bill Moffitt (father), Randy Moffitt (brother), Betty Moffitt (mother), and Billie Jean King (née Moffitt). Photo credit: courtesy of Billie Jean King Enterprises.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Sixteen-year-old Chris Evert of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, blasts a two handed backhand during women’s singles match of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in Forest Hills, New York on Sept. 2, 1971. She beat Edda Buding of West Germany, 6-1, 6-0. Photo credit: AP/Press Association Images. Photo by Ray Howard.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King. Photo credit: courtesy of Billie Jean King.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King. Photo credit: courtesy of Billie Jean King.

"American Masters Billie Jean King" filmmaker James Erskine

"American Masters Billie Jean King" filmmaker James Erskine

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Hilary Clinton. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Rosie Casals

Rosie Casals. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Randy Moffitt

Randy Moffitt. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Margaret Court

Margaret Court. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Lornie Kuhle

Lornie Kuhle. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Larry Riggs

Larry Riggs. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Larry King

Larry King. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Illana Kloss

Illana Kloss. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Elton John

Elton John. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Chris Evert

Chris Evert. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

Venus Williams

Venus Williams. Photo credit: copyright and courtesy of New Black Films Limited.

American Masters: Billie Jean King

Venus Williams serves