Tennis Girl

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Tennis Girl

The Tennis Girl is a British poster that has become a pop icon.[1] It shows a young woman from behind walking towards the net of a tennis court with a tennis racquet in her right hand and her left hand reaching behind lifting her short tennis dress, showing she is not wearing any underwear.

Creation[edit]

The photograph was taken by Martin Elliott in September 1976 and features 18-year-old Fiona Butler[2][3] (now Walker),[4][5] his girlfriend at the time.[6] The photo was taken at Birmingham University tennis courts in Edgbaston, England.[6][7][8][9] The dress was hand-made by Butler's friend Carol Knotts, from a Simplicity Pattern with added lace trim.[10] Knotts also supplied the tennis racquet, with all of the borrowed items later returned by Butler to Knotts after the shoot with a box of chocolates.[10] Butler borrowed the plimsolls from her father, whilst the tennis balls were those used as playthings by her family's pet dog.[3]

History[edit]

The image was first published as part of a calendar by Athena for the 1977 Silver Jubilee, the same year Virginia Wade achieved the Wimbledon ladies' singles title.[11] Athena then negotiated a licence to distribute the image as a poster,[11] where from 1978 it achieved widespread distribution, selling over 2 million copies at £2 per poster.[1][8] Although Athena went into administration in 1995, the picture remains a popular print to buy and can be found at other retailers like Amazon, AllPosters & King and McGaw.[12]

Butler, who broke up with Elliot three years later, said in retrospect that she was not embarrassed about posing, nor bitter that she did not receive any royalties from the photo.[1][9] Butler (now Walker) is a mother of three, who works as a freelance illustrator in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire.[3][10] Elliott died on 24 March 2010.[13] Knotts, now a barrister living in Gloucestershire, put the dress and racquet up for sale at an auction on 5 July 2014, the day of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships – Women's Singles final.[10] The dress was sold for £15,000,[14][15][16][17] while the racquet went for between £1000-£2000. Athena Tennis Girl poster dress is now part of the Wimbledon Museum collection.[18]

Subject doubts[edit]

In February 2015, Peter Atkinson from Marsh Gate, Cornwall, came forward to insist the photo was actually of his ex-wife, producing in evidence two items, one showing the same image and the other a close variant (seemingly taken on the same occasion), both of which were dated 1974, two years before Fiona Butler's photo shoot.[19][20]

Parody[edit]

Over the years the picture has been parodied by various people as diverse as former tennis star Pat Cash, comedian Alan Carr and singer Kylie Minogue,[21] with actor Keith Lemon featuring his parody in his 2012 calendar.[9]

It was also imitated in an advertisement for a tennis video game called Davis Cup World Tour for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive.[22]

As an election promise for the 2012 Belgian elections, a 22-year-old Belgian woman from Sint-Truiden promised to publish a nude photo shoot when receiving 1,000 votes. She released a picture of her in the Tennis Girl pose prior to the elections.[23]

In 2009 it was also parodied in the exit scene from episode 12 from the sixth series of Shameless when Lillian Tyler, a character played by Alice Barry, gets up and walks towards the door after winning a game console version of tennis.[citation needed]

On 9 May 2016 it was displayed by Mark Hamill on Twitter from his @HamillHimself account as Princess Leia walking toward Tatooine buildings with a blaster in her hand instead of a tennis racquet.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Sheppard, Fergus (6 July 2007). "70s poster icon is back, so anyone for Tennis Girl?". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Tennis poster girl and her classic pose". Birmingham Post. 13 July 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Tennis Girl Model Revealed". BBC News Online. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "Picture perfect". South Wales Evening Post. 23 March 2011: 2. 
  5. ^ Mcdermott, Nick (23 March 2011). "I was that cheeky tennis girl says 52-year-old mother of three". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "That poster is back - at £300 a print!". Metro.co.uk. 5 July 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Oliphant, Will (12 July 2007). "We've got to the bottom of a poster mystery!". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Hough, Andrew (2 April 2010). "'Tennis girl' poster photographer Martin Elliott dies of cancer". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c aalholmes (2 April 2010). "The Tennis Girl". Iconic Photos. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Athena Tennis Girl poster dress up for auction". BBC News. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Aspinall, Adam (11 June 2006). "Serial killer's deucey poster". Sunday Mercury. Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  12. ^ the-saleroom.com. "1987 Athena Tennis girl poster signed Martin Elliot". www.the-saleroom.com. 
  13. ^ "Tennis Girl poster photographer dies". BBC News. 2 April 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  14. ^ "So you can now buy THAT Athena tennis poster dress". 25 June 2014. 
  15. ^ "Tennis Girl dress to go up for sale in Stourbridge". Stourbridge News. 
  16. ^ Mathews, Jane (5 July 2014). "Iconic cheeky 'tennis girl' dress sells for £15,000". 
  17. ^ "Dress from 'cheeky' Tennis Girl poster to be auctioned". 25 June 2014. 
  18. ^ "Museum to display Tennis Girl dress". 26 March 2015 – via www.bbc.com. 
  19. ^ Gayle, Damien (24 February 2015). "Is this the real Athena poster girl? Pensioner claims cheeky 'Tennis Girl' model is in fact his ex-wife and that he has finally found evidence to prove it". Mail Online. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  20. ^ Evoke Staff (25 February 2015). "My wife was the REAL Tennis Girl … and this picture proves it". evoke.ie. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  21. ^ "Wimbledon Goes East - Hoxton Radio". 3 July 2017. 
  22. ^ "Take advantage with Sony!". Game Dummy. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  23. ^ bbd (20 September 2012). "Truiense gaat toch niet naakt voor 1.000 stemmen" [Sint-Truiden're not naked for 1,000 votes] (in Dutch). De Standaard. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  24. ^ @HamillHimself (9 May 2016). "I always knew-Here's PROOFof George's claimTHERE IS NO UNDERWEAR IN SPACE! #CheekyPrincess #TwiceTheBuns #OoLaLaLeia" (Tweet) – via Twitter.