The Soviets got $200,000 for joining WTT (the team doesn't share in gate receipts but doesn't pay its traveling expenses) and took part in the Plains competition as part of a scenario that was calculated to give the league more publicity. Indeed, WTT is showing signs of increased health: Bjorn Borg signed to play with Cleveland, attendance is up and franchises are not falling off like dead leaves. But, points out Walker. "What we need is exposure." If golf could have Gerald Ford, Walker thought, tennis could have the Carters. "I wanted to give Amy the lemonade stand," said Bob Horowitz, assistant to the president of the Golden Gators.
For an apt description of Plains, you might just drop the "s." It is, after all, just plain Georgia, a small, rural community that woke up one morning to discover it was the home of the country's Answer Man. Since then the marketing consultants have moved in and turned it into Rock City South and made Billy Carter a gas-station celebrity.
So it was last week that almost everyone in the town of 680 citizens was either planning to go to the match or planning to sell something to the tourists who were going. Only a few of the local residents, like Ed Hollis, who wore a straw hat, sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt, were not interested in seeing the Russians. "I'm not going," he said. "Not unless they're invading."
Still, a crowd of 4,200 paying up to $100 a ticket, a price that included a seat at Miz Lillian's barbecue as well as an autographed picture of Billy, was squeezed around the newly constructed court at the Lions Club by noon Saturday, a full 90 minutes before the match was scheduled to begin.
One of the media types on hand was 12-year-old Jeffrey Moss of the Plains Statesman, a local weekly. "I'm helping the New Yorkers, they're helping me," offered Jeffrey, who said he knew all the Carters. "Amy's nine," he said. Then he left to make arrangements for someone to take an exclusive picture of Evert inside a fenced area that was off limits to the press. Zdorovo.
Miz Lillian was sitting in the first row of the stands, outfitted in a white suit and a corsage and wearing a large photo-button of Chris Evert. "I like anybody who's perfect," she was saying when Chris walked up.
"I like Jimmy Connors, too," Miz Lillian told Evert. "He keeps me so excited. I never know what he's going to do."
"Me neither," said Chris.
Then Miz Lillian offered Evert some advice about Billy Carter, who was scheduled to play in a doubles match with Chris later in the day. "Make him run. He's too fat."
Billy showed up minutes later wearing a pair of jeans and some battered track shoes. Someone asked what brand they were.