Living the good life, Shriver still grounded

Tennis: Her legacy secured with tomorrow's induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Baltimore's Pam Shriver settles down in California with her new husband.


July 12, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. - Pam Shriver can sit on her patio, look far off into the distance and count the flights in and out of the Los Angeles airport.

"My record is 11 at one time," she said, thankful for every one she isn't on.

Last spring, she put a moratorium on travel for herself and her soon-to-be husband, George Lazenby. Both enjoyed the time at home here with their view of the Pacific Ocean.

But this weekend, she is on the other side of the continent - in Newport, R.I., for tomorrow's induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is an unusual place for a female tennis player from Baltimore to wind up. None ever had until now.

"I don't think I knew about the Tennis Hall of Fame growing up in Baltimore," she said, sitting on that patio with the sun glinting off the swimming pool and hawks soaring by at eye level. I can remember in 1983, the first time I went there, I thought, `Oh, wow, we have a sports hall of fame!' "

But Shriver never imagined she would get in on the first ballot in her first year of eligibility.

"Really, until I got the letter from Tony Trabert saying I had been elected, got 80 percent of the vote, I thought it might take a couple go-rounds. I didn't take anything for granted.

"To go into the Hall of Fame, it means you've reached a certain level of excellence in your sport. It's like the final period - or an exclamation point!"

When that letter came, she called her mom back home in Baltimore and cried as she read it over the phone.

Everyday life

When Shriver welcomes you into her home, the first place you find yourself is in her kitchen, a room that could have been lifted out of the south of France, with its mountainous views and sunny yellow walls. She demonstrates her ability to throw together a salad of greens, mangos, avocado and leftover steak.

It's that everyday way of living that has never eluded her and that makes her seem so normal.

Dressed casually in shorts, shirt and tennis shoes, she laughed at a question about her life now, a life made possible by her tennis career.

"You mean, what do I do now that I've grown up and have my own rose garden?" she said, looking at the huge flowers blooming along the black iron fence that separates the patio from a cliff.

Her day starts with 45 minutes on the phone, returning calls. The work she does now revolves around her Baltimore office and the business needs of her annual charitable event, the Baltimore Challenge Tennis Tournament. She also continues to serve on the U.S. Tennis Association's board. And she is involved with an annual award at California State University-Los Angeles given in the name of her late husband, Joe Shapiro. And then, of course, there are interview requests and broadcast work.

She earned $5.4 million during her career and again as much in endorsements.

"Most of it went into savings," she said. "I've been reasonably smart with it and grown what I had. So, no, I don't have to work like most people do in terms of earning a paycheck. But I do have to work from the psychological standpoint.

"I like the broadcasting. I love doing the four majors [Australian, French and U.S. opens and Wimbledon]. I love the drama of it. And I like that I'm still improving my [broadcasting] skills. I'm respected. And I'm not ready to give it up."

But, as she settles into this tennis afterlife, she acknowledges it becomes harder to pack for the next trip.

"I can now see a point where I won't want to go at all," Shriver said. "George and I still hope to have kids - our own or adopt - and as I find myself caring for a home, work becomes less and less appealing."

Pam who?

After her phone calls, she eases into breakfast with Lazenby, who teases her: "When they introduce you for your Hall of Fame induction as Mrs. Lazenby, they'll say, `Pam Lazenby? Who the hell is that?' "

She flashes an evil grin at him. "I guess, in that case, I won't be using that name, will I?" she said.

Shriver and Lazenby, a personable Australian who played James Bond in the 1969 film On Her Majesty's Secret Service and is now more or less retired from the movie business, were married in a private ceremony on their patio June 12 attended by 12 of their closest friends and family.

"We're at a nice place as a couple," Shriver said. "We drink our coffee together and make our breakfasts. We have a wonderful stove and oven and though neither of us are gourmet cooks, we like to go to the farmer's market and buy lots of fresh produce and make our meals."

She still works out in a way that would be rigorous for most people. Lazenby tells her continually that she overdoes it. "But that comes from a man who doesn't work out at all," she said, exaggerating.

Challenging climb

There is gym equipment in an upstairs room that she uses almost daily. There are steep streets outside her front door that she also likes to entice visitors into attacking with her.

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