Published January 13, 2015
Gertrude "Gussie" Moran, who shocked the tennis world in 1949 by taking the court at Wimbledon wearing a short skirt and ruffled underwear, is dead at the age of 89.
Moran had recently returned home following a lengthy hospital stay with colon cancer when she died Wednesday in her small apartment in Los Angeles.
As a seventh-seeded 25-year-old at Wimbledon in 1949, Moran stunned the usually starchy All England Club when she showed up for her first match minus the knee-length skirt considered proper attire for women at the time. Her skirt was short enough for her lace-trimmed knickers to be visible during the match, a first for any tournament.
She lost the match, but her eye-popping fashion statement appeared on magazine covers around the world, and the British press dubbed her "Gorgeous Gussie."
Photographers fought for positions where they could get low shots of Moran, with the hope of glimpsing the lace. The event scandalized Wimbledon officials, prompting a debate in Parliament. Moran, who was accused of bringing "vulgarity and sin into tennis" by the committee of the All England Club, later reverted to wearing shorts. Ted Tinling, who had acted as official Wimbledon host for 23 years, was shunned for the 33 years following the incident (he was invited back to Wimbledon in 1982).
Moran was ranked as high as fourth in the United States, reached a doubles final at Wimbledon and landed in the singles semifinals at the U.S. Open, but would always struggle to be known for more than the skirt and the "Gorgeous Gussie" nickname.
"Gussie was the Anna Kournikova of her time," tennis legend Jack Kramer said in 2002. "Gussie was a beautiful woman with a beautiful body. If Gussie had played in the era of television, no telling what would have happened. Because, besides everything else, Gussie could play."
Gertrude Agusta Moran was born in 1923 to Harry Moran, a sound technician and electrician at Universal Studios, and his wife Emma. They lived in a house near the ocean in Santa Monica.
After retiring from tennis, Moran toured with the USO, and was once on a helicopter that crashed in Vietnam. She did various stints on radio and television, including a sports talk show for six years in New York.
Moran was married three times, resulting in an annulment and two divorces, respectively, and never had any children.
She was living at the family's Santa Monica home, a Victorian structure with an ocean view, but with her mother's death she was unable to keep up the property taxes, and was evicted in 1986. Moran then moved to a series of small apartments in the Los Angeles area and spent her last years in a tiny, run- down apartment in Hollywood.