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The kicker to all this is that besides bothering me all these years it also threatened to cost me Gonzales. Shortly afterwards, when he was trying to get out of his contract, his lawyer went to court and argued that Pancho's contract was not valid anymore because I was not adhering to the terms of the contract. I was paying 25% instead of the 20% promised. The judge said he was sorry, but he had never heard of anybody claiming an injustice because someone wanted to pay them more. He upheld the contract.
Actually, professional tennis was a very honorable business then. Many of my deals with promoters around the world were made with a handshake. And Riggs, for all his hustling, was one of the most honorable men I ever met in my life. You could absolutely trust his word. He promoted the Gonzales tour and the Gussie tour, and I never signed a piece of paper with him.
At the same time, Bobby is always looking for an edge. If you played cards, he would try to get by without anteing, or he'd try to sneak a peek at your hand. To him, that's just part of the game. I remember one time in Sydney when Segoo, Riggs, Dinny Pails and myself were going out to dinner. In the hotel corridor Riggs suggested (as if it had just occurred to him) that we lag coins to see who paid for dinner. Segoo, Pails and I carefully tossed these big two-bob coins down the carpeted hallway. When Riggs was ready to shoot he moved to the side of the corridor. The carpet was not wall-to-wall; it fell about half an inch short on either side. So Riggs just rolled his coin down this little track. It ran up to the wall, hit it and lay down flush against it. Nobody said you couldn't roll your coin.
Bobby was like that in every activity, always looking for the edge. With women he was never content just to hand out a good line when he could "get engaged." Bobby got engaged in lots of towns. If the girl he was after looked like she was interested in another player, Riggs would tell her (in the strictest confidence) that the poor fellow was gay. He'd talk to any woman. He was especially partial to rich ones. For a long time he had a girl named Judy who was a $20 tipper. Buy a Coke, she'd tip a twenty. Bobby was priming her to bankroll a South American tour, but one day Judy and all her twenties just disappeared.
Riggs' passion, beyond tennis, was gambling. He'd bet on anything, but in tennis he pretty much restricted himself to doubles because he found it hard to get a good price on himself. Never mind the rankings and the experts and the Davis Cup selection committee: I knew I had arrived as a doubles player when Bobby offered me $1,000 to play with him in the national doubles (I stayed with Schroeder). For all the broads and the betting, Bobby wasn't much on booze, and he was always in much better shape than most people imagined. He didn't like the taste of whiskey, and the only times I ever saw him drink were when he was with women. I think he thought drinking helped his romantic image. But since he couldn't stand the taste, he'd line up three glasses in a row: one Scotch, one Coke, one iced tea. After he sipped the Scotch, he'd chase it with the Coke and tea to kill the taste.
It was the natural parlay of Gonzales' bad disposition and Riggs' love life that got me into promoting. My worst breaks always seemed to end up working in my favor. It came about this way. Riggs met with Sedgman and Ken McGregor at Forest Hills in '51 and convinced them to go on tour with Gonzales, Segura and himself. He squeezed me out simply by telling Sedgman, " Kramer's retired." It was as easy as getting engaged. He gave Sedgman and McGregor 55% to split any way they wanted. He, Segoo and Gorgo were going to split the remaining 45% three ways even.
This was Gonzales' chance to get back in the spotlight. He'd been nowhere since I whipped him in '49. Just as the tour dates were being shaped up, Gorgo came to Riggs and wanted to change the deal. He wanted 21�% of Segura's cut. "There's no way that Segura is worth as much as me," he told Riggs.
Riggs was divorced from Kay, his first wife, and he had just met Patricia Whelan, who was very attractive and very wealthy, and he figured, to heck with it, he didn't need Pancho Gonzales fouling up his happy life. He wired Sedgman in Australia that the whole thing was off and left to get married and hustle golf games for the next few years. I happened to be in Sydney at the time and I had been in touch with Sedgman regularly, trying to convince him that since Riggs had misrepresented my position, Sedg had signed on under false pretenses. Sedg refused to leave Bobby until Bobby left him, but then he called me up. It was much too late to get a tour off the ground that year, but we agreed to strike a deal at Wimbledon. For a lousy 2�%, I got into promoting.
Sedgman was the easiest deal I ever made. I had seen how he had stuck with Riggs even when he knew the man had conned him. This kid kept his word, a very solid guy. We met in London and our extended negotiations went exactly like this:
Kramer: "How much do you want?"