When not off sporting somewhere, Van Alen, his wife and their two sons lived mainly on Long Island, where he busied himself with the North American Review and a chain of weekly newspapers. Sensing war was coming, he joined the Navy in 1939 and was commissioned a lieutenant in the reserve. called to duty in 1941, he was first put in charge of the Navy's New York publicity office, where he was responsible for getting William H. White of
The Reader's Digest
to write the bestseller They Were Expendable. Later Van Alen served in England, where he came up with the idea of preloading ships for the Normandy invasion. After Normandy he ran a novel rest and rehabilitation camp in which he personally led the men on a mile run at six every morning. Throughout the war Van Alen carried on with his customary flair. When an enterprising fellow officer found himself suddenly billed �50,000 for the construction of a sailors' club in London, Van Alen used his Old Boy friendships with the British to see to it that the bill was charged off against Lend Lease.
Returning home, Van Alen found his marriage had gone sour, and he and his wife were divorced. In 1948 he married again, this time to the front page headline in The New York World-Telegram CANDY VANDERLIP TIPTOEING TO ALTAR WITH JIMMY VAN ALEN A LA HUSH HUSH. Unlike the first Mrs. Van Alen, Candy liked Newport and got along famously with her husband's mother, Mrs. Louis Brugui�re, who ran Wakehurst, the last "proper" house in Newport, staffed by 23 servants who piled up freshly cut flowers grown on the grounds in the ballroom lit by 146 candles.
Early on in his second life in Newport, Van Alen was asked to take the presidency of the lavish Newport Casino, a private club founded by James Gordon Bennett in 1880 and designed by Stanford White in Victorian Chinese style. The Casino had seen better days before World War I, when it annually held the U.S. national lawn tennis championships, later removed to Forest Hills. At great personal expense Van Alen set about refurbishing the Casino and in 1954 he was able to get the USLTA to authorize the establishment of the Hall of Fame there.
Under Van Alen's direction, the Newport invitational tournament took on added gloss. His mother would attend, seated either in a peacock wicker chair or in the back of her chauffeured Rolls parked within a few feet of the grass courts. It took several years for the germinal seeds of VASSS to sprout within Van Alen's brain. He first had a clue that all was not well when he realized that a number of people who had been buying boxes for years hadn't the foggiest idea of what was going on in a match because they did not understand the scoring and were too timid to ask. Then matches had a way of dragging on interminably. In 1957 the idea for changing the scoring hit Van Alen when there was a marathon singles final between Ham Richardson and Straight Clark. A dull match to begin with, it lasted 3� hours, and as a result no one ever got to sec the exciting doubles final between Lew Hoad- Ken Rosewall and Mervyn Rose-Rex Hartwig, who were forced to play on a side court.
VASSS offers various alternatives. Instead of playing games to make a set, one system allows players to compete in a 31-point set, something like table tennis, and as far as Van Alen is concerned, it makes handicapping simple and practicable and permits round-robin medal play that is ideal for club weekend tournaments. Above all, VASSS controls the number of points in a set and thus limits the length of a match, enabling players, spectators and TV programmers to plan an accurate time schedule. Van Alen is convinced that once big-time tennis fully adopts VASSS, the sport will become more popular than ever because matches will be able to start and finish at the time announced. Above all, Van Alen believes VASSS will allow fellow senior citizens to play a match to a conclusion without suffering undue fatigue.
Van Alen also feels strongly about the big serve. He is against it on the grounds that it makes matches dull with its weak return and smashing volley. To minimize the importance of the power serve, Van Alen advocates drawing a server's line three feet behind the baseline or eliminating the second serve. This idea has not gone down as well as his concept of sudden-death play in a set. Even there, he finds that the pros have altered sudden death from nine to 12 points. "The other players have gone along with Rod Laver and 12-point sudden death," says Van Alen. "A 12-point sudden death favors Laver in the percentages, but all the other players have jumped up and down like a lot of little monkeys shouting, 'Woo, woo!' "
This week the women on the Virginia Slims tour are using VASSS—the real VASSS—at their Newport tournament, and while Van Alen waits impatiently for the rest of the tennis world to fall in line he has embarked on an even more ambitious program—saving all the U.S., including tennis players. A newly dedicated member of the Committee to Unite for America, he has been instrumental in getting out buttons and bumper stickers that proclaim, "For America." Van Alen wants to organize the "sound-thinking majority to rebuild patriotism and armaments" because, in his opinion, "The chips are down, our backs are to the wall, the fight is for survival. Time is short. Dr. Edward Teller told a meeting of the committee that the Russians will be able to overwhelm us in just two years unless we build up our strength and, moreover, we are threatened by dissidents with unkempt locks and shoddy habits who foment strikes and campus disorders. We've got to get back to the good old days."
Several months ago Van Alen tried to do his best by his old service, the Navy, in his For America campaign. He went to Washington to call upon John Chafee, a Rhode Islander who was then Secretary of the Navy. As Chafee and a Navy captain and commander listened, Van Alen offered his program to get sailors into fighting trim. As part of the program, he recommended the installation of chinning bars aboard ships at sea so sailors could strengthen their grips. "Nobody cares about good strong hands," Van Alen told them. The captain and the commander pointed out, with deferential hems and haws, that Van Alen's program would cost considerable money and time to get it underway, and it really wouldn't be worthwhile. "But this will be for the officers, too," Van Alen replied. And no sooner had he said that than he realized he had lost his audience, such as it was.
No matter whether he is saving the U.S. or tennis, Van Alen refreshes his morale with purely personal projects. At present he is trying to find a publisher to bring out his odes to Scotland, Songs of Heather, Fur and leather, illustrated, at his commission, by Lionel Edwards, the late British sporting artist. It has, Van Alen says, some memorable poems, such as Little Hans, the Partridge Hound. Uncharacteristically, Van Alen refuses to recite it. "Whenever I read this, I burst into tears," Van Alen says. But then, smiling cheerfully, he leans close and asks, "But what's a tear or two?"