Gonzalez resented Trabert, who, Henrietta says, corrected Pancho's English and dismissed his interest in cars. The challenger was making a minimum of $80,000, while Gonzalez, the best pro in the world, was guaranteed only $15,000. Gonzalez wanted to make him pay. Over six months of singles matches he crushed Trabert 74-27
Trabert, for his part, grew to loathe Gonzalez. To him the selfish, irascible, bullying Gonzalez broke all the rules of tennis. He made it personal. He turned a genteel sport into a street fight. In 1956, after a doubles match in which a dispute over a point led to an exchange of smashes aimed at the body, Gonzalez marched off the court without shaking hands with Trabert or his partner. Then, as Gonzalez stood by, Trabert told a reporter, "You just saw one of the most chickens—things in sports." Another time Trabert told Gonzalez, "Somebody's going to flush you down the toilet before your life's over—and I just might be the one to pull the handle."
When the Gonzalez-Trabert tour ended in '56, Gonzalez dismantled Frank Parker and Dinny Pails in a round-robin 45-7. Then came Rose-wall. Then Hoad. Gonzalez beat them all. He also beheaded the microphone of a chair ump who refused to overrule a call during one match, and shattered a wall clock when he smacked a ball away in frustration during another match. He blew off promoters. He shredded opponents' concentration by stopping play to pose for pictures. Hoad's Aussie contemporaries say he braced Gonzalez against a locker one night and threatened to beat him senseless. But Gonzalez drew crowds like no one else in the game.
That's why he resented Kramer more than any opponent. Kramer stuck to his policy of offering far more money to the amateur challenger, insisting that the tour's appeal lay in seeing if the amateur could dethrone the king. Gonzalez, the established No. 1, wanted to be paid like it. He sued Kramer to get out of the contract and lost. Pancho told Ralph, who often accompanied him on tour, "I'm just a piece of meat. They cut off a piece, and they sell it. I'm hanging on the goddam hook."
"He took it too personally," Ralph says. Told that Trabert once said Pancho had "a persecution complex," Ralph nods in agreement. "Born a———," he says of Trabert, "but he's right."
If Gonzalez had no time for his fellow players, he had little for Henrietta or their three young sons: Richard Jr., Michael and Daniel. Pancho and Henrietta separated again and headed for divorce. One evening in 1958 Lew and Jennie Hoad and their little daughter went to visit Henrietta at her house and found her passed out from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. They called Pancho, who came over and brought Henrietta out of her stupor by tossing her into the shower. He was furious. He roared and threw furniture around. Jennie locked herself and her daughter in the study. "She no doubt was looking for sympathy from Pancho," Jennie says of Henrietta. "She didn't get it. He left the house in a mess and charged out."
The end of that marriage also marked a beginning for Pancho. In Madelyn Darrow, a recently minted Miss Rheingold, he collided head-on with the one person who could make him as miserable as he made everyone else. For an outsider like Pancho she was inside incarnate: haughty and accustomed to getting her way. They fell instantly for each other, but Madelyn didn't want anything to do with hot rods. She wanted cocktail parties, famous faces and a house in the hills. She and Pancho married and moved to Malibu, then Brentwood and finally Holmby Hills.
"She destroyed him," says Segura. "I told him, 'You made a mistake divorcing Henrietta. You could eat standing up and nobody cared. You didn't have to worry about using a knife or fork.' Madelyn tried to improve him. This is a man who hated ties. She told him he had to put on a jacket and tie. It always happens to athletes. Your tennis brings you up around these people—a lot of horses—-! It kills your soul."
Pancho adored drag racing, but most of all he loved tinkering with engines, stripping them down and making them sing. "I hated those cars," Madelyn says. "He poured the little bit of money we had into those stupid cars, or the crap tables." He moved his tools and auto parts to Ralph's house and spent hours there. Often he met his sons at the races. On the way home he would stop to scrub his fingernails clean. "It was sad," says Richard Jr.
Pancho and Madelyn had three daughters together: twins Mariessa and Christina, born in 1961, and Andrea, born in '63. Ralph never felt comfortable in Madelyn and Pancho's home. Pancho's sons later worked with their dad at the tennis ranch he opened in Malibu in '66, but only Richard Jr. went to his house much. "Once I was in the kitchen, and I heard [Madelyn] say my father's friends were a bunch of rubes," says Richard Jr. "I didn't know what a rube was. I thought it might be good."