AUGUST 9, 1976
After he won the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Bruce Jenner wanted to buy a home in Malibu but knew he was short of funds. As an amateur athlete who made $9,000 a year from selling insurance, Jenner had few assets to list on the loan application. "All I have to put down is this gold medal," he told the bank officer, jokingly. Jenner got the loan and the house. For 26 years his gold medal performance has been all the collateral he's needed. "Nobody's worked one performance better than I have," says Jenner, who, at 53, has become as ubiquitous as a 3 a.m. infomercial. "I was in that stadium for 48 hours, and now you can't get rid of me."
He pitches everything from vitamins to cameras to Bruce Jenner's World Class Decathlon video game, and makes 75 corporate appearances a year for the likes of Visa, Coca-Cola and IBM. His assets now are considerable, including Bruce Jenner Aviation, which purchases and resells Cessnas and Learjets, and Jenner Communications, an infomercial production company. "I never went after fame," he insists. "It fell into my lap."
Jenner retired from track immediately after the Summer Games, so what made his Olympic fame everlasting? "The Montreal Olympics were in July 1976, the bicentennial, at the height of patriotism," he says. "I beat a Soviet [Nikolai Avilov], it was the last Olympics before cable took off, and it was close by." It also didn't hurt that he had Hollywood good looks.
Jenner fed his competitive urge by racing Trans-Ams and Porsches, powerboats and mountain bikes. He also worked as a correspondent for Good Morning America, overcoming his dyslexia by memorizing his reports and ad-libbing as much as possible.
Married to the former Chrystie Scott when he won his gold medal, Jenner was divorced in 1979 and two years later wed Hee Haw actress Linda Thompson. After that marriage ended in '83, Jenner was introduced to Kris Kardashian, who had recently divorced O.J. Simpson's friend and lawyer Robert Kardashian. Simpson was an usher at the Jenners' wedding five months later. Bruce and Kris, who each brought four children from previous marriages, have two kids; Kendall, 7, and Kylie, 4.
These days Jenner is hooked on golf and has a four handicap. He had a synthetic putting green and three sand traps built into his former backyard in Hidden Hills, Calif. After Kris bought him a $300,000 membership at the nearby Sherwood Country Club, Jenner bought a house on the course, 200 yards from the driving range.
Obviously, his name is still as good as gold.