With a close-fitting blouse and lace-trimmed underwear peeking out from her short skirt, Miss Moran brought a vibrant jolt of sex appeal to women’s sports. She became an instant sensation and was the most glamorous tennis player of her time, if not necessarily the most talented.
Miss Moran died Jan. 16 of colon cancer at her apartment in Los Angeles. She was 89 and spent her final years in poverty. The Los Angeles Times first reported her death.
She was gossip-column fodder for years, but the spotlight eventually faded, and Miss Moran was living in obscurity by the time younger tennis stars began earning millions while wearing far skimpier outfits than she ever dared.
“Gussie was the Anna Kournikova of her time,” tennis Hall of Famer Jack Kramer told the Los Angeles Times 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.”
In 1948, Miss Moran was the fourth-ranked women’s tennis player in the world and won the U.S. indoor championship. But she was overshadowed by other stars of the era, including Pauline Betz Addie, Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne duPont.
At Wimbledon in 1949, Miss Moran abandoned her customary loose-fitting shorts for a short skirt, under which she wore, according to an Associated Press report, “white silk jersey panties trimmed with two inches of open lace.”
Whenever she leaped or stretched for a shot, spectators caught a tantalizing glimpse. Photographers lay prone on Wimbledon’s fabled grass court for a better view.
“With her beauty and lace-trimmed panties, she brought a spice to Wimbledon that had been lacking in the postwar years,” AP reporter Bill Macklin wrote at the time.
“The world went mad,” Miss Moran’s clothing designer, Ted Tinling, told The Washington Post in 1989. “None of us expected it.”
On the court, Miss Moran — indelibly dubbed Gorgeous Gussie — lost in the first round of the women’s singles competition. But she did reach the finals in women’s doubles, along with Patricia Todd, only to lose to Brough and Osborne duPont.
When Miss Moran returned to Wimbledon in 1950, her wardrobe was even more revealing, showcasing “a pair of delicately scalloped filmy briefs.”
“There was no question about anyone seeing them,” an AP reporter wrote. “Gussie’s short tennis frock was so sheer that the scalloping underneath was visible from the topmost seats in the stands.”
She made the women’s semifinals, but it was the last time she saw Wimbledon. The tournament’s governing body said she had brought “vulgarity and sin” to tennis and passed rules requiring more sedate attire. Officials at what is now known as the U.S. Open in Forest Hills, N.Y., soon followed suit.