For the most part
the hard core of Ritzenberg's tennis following is made up of those who came to
town or prominence during the Kennedy and early Johnson administrations and who
have continued to hang around either because they enjoyed the amenities or are
waiting for the political wheel to take another turn.
Though for the
moment it may lack some of the high-court glitter it had a decade ago,
Washington tennis has proved to be more than a passing fad. The game
established itself on a very high plateau of popularity, influence and, in a
business way, affluence. There are now some 100 indoor courts in the Washington
area and who knows how many public and private courts outdoors.
"We turned an
old warehouse into courts last year," Ritzenberg says. "This hardly
provides elegant ambience but the courts are well-surfaced with AstroTurf. Also
they have very low humidity; in fact, the building may even be a little drafty.
Moisture has been a problem on some other indoor courts—among other things,
hairdos fall apart. I called Maxine Cheshire at the Post and she ran a
paragraph or so that said these courts were so dry you could play without
wrapping a towel around your head. We sold $15,000 of court time in three
days—mostly to women."
At the 10-court
St. Albans Club, which remains Ritzenberg's headquarters, the waiting list for
one of the 300 or so memberships is so long that there may not be an opening
for 10 years. However, exceptions are made for exceptionally congenial people.
The exact membership requirements, in addition to a $250 a year contribution,
have always been flexible, but some indication of the St. Albans congeniality
test may be indicated by the following:
office and pro shop is in a kind of pillbox overlooking the courts.
says Ritzenberg, answering the phone, "how are things at Common Cause?
Good. Thursday? Let me look. Maybe we can work you in just before lunch. Kit's
canceled out. She's going to Montego."
An assistant is
opening the mail, specifically an envelope with a Senate Office Building return
address. "What kind of a Senator is so-and-so? He wants in."