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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
In the bar at the Lincoln Plaza Hotel in Oklahoma City it was getting on toward midnight, and the red-haired woman with the brown and green eyes was sipping a glass of orange juice while her fianc� packed away a few after-dinner Scotches and nodded to the music of a three-piece combo.
Half an hour earlier the drummer had stopped by their table for a drink and had laid on them a tale of what it was like to grow up black in the South, a story told in a kind of jive rhythm, thick with folkisms and hip enigmas. The red-haired woman, whose brown and green eyes also held flecks of red in the peculiar light of the bar, listened with the greatest sympathy, considering that she was French and could hardly understand a word the man was saying, and when he rose to go back to the bandstand she took off her necklace and gave it to him.
The black man looked at the pendant on the necklace and started grinning. "Right on," he said. He put on the necklace and returned to his drums and sat there grinning through the final set.
"He must have like it," said the red-haired woman.
The pendant was a cartoon figure of a flapper with rolled hose and a tennis racket. Whether the irony was comprehended fully is a matter of guesswork, but that cartoon figure is associated with an advertising slogan that says, "You've come a long way, baby."
The red-haired woman was Fran�oise Durr of Paris, France, the sixth-ranking woman tennis player in the world and at that moment the fourth leading money-winner on the Virginia Slims Women's Tennis Circuit. Virginia Slims is a brand of cigarettes that partly sponsors the women's professional tennis tour and places its slogan on banners around the courts as well as on buttons, sweat suits and on the T shirts that Fran�oise Durr fills out in such admirable fashion. The slogan neatly fits in with the female tour's nickname—Women's Lob—and with the journey of Fran�oise herself.
Fran�oise turned toward her fianc�, showing in profile a fine French nose that General de Gaulle would have been proud of, and said mildly, "I suppose Nancy is in bed asleep by now."
"Forget Nancy wherever she is. You'll beat Nancy. You're a fighter," said her fianc�, Bill Cutler, who works for the sponsoring tobacco company. Cutler looked at the other person at their table, a tall fellow whose eyes also held many flecks of red that had nothing to do with the lighting or the benefits of natural coloring.
"Nancy's a fighter, too," Cutler said. "She was brought up to live for beating you on the tennis court. Right now that's probably all she's thinking about, beating Frankie here. Well, you've got to admire that quality, the way things are in America these days—with the country full of co-ops."
"You mean communes?" said the other person.