Move over, John McEnroe: While this week’s U.S. Open fixed the world’s eyes on Roger Federer and the Williams sisters, broadcaster Mary Carillo is quietly making her way into the top ranks of analysts in their shared passion:

Ms. Carillo [is] herself a former player, albeit one who peaked and retired ranked 33rd
in the world at age 23 after a career of just four years (chronically
bum knees) and a single Grand Slam title (1977 French Open mixed
doubles, partnered by a not-yet-iconic John McEnroe).

A sports
commentator since 1980, and the winner of an Emmy (for her work on
“Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel”) and two Peabodys (for the HBO
documentaries “Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer” and “Dare to
Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports”), she aspires to a somewhat
loftier ranking in her second career. Her breakthrough goal: to provide
play-by-play analysis, not color commentary and folksy features.

“In
sports, it’s hard for a woman to get to sit in the big-boy chair,” she
said. “Television sports are still, in the minds of the networks, the
province of men, sort of the last bastion of machismo. And there is
definitely, looking at sports like football and baseball, an attitude
that a woman has no business in the booth doing play-by-play because
women do not traditionally grow up playing those sports. But tennis is
a little different; I’d like to think the day will come when I can sit
in that big-boy chair for my sport and show them a woman can perform in
that role.”

[Carillo and McEnroe] have known each other since growing up in
tennis-friendly Douglaston, where both camped out on the courts at the
Douglaston Club, playing 10 or more daily sets with the rest of the
neighborhood kids before graduating to the renowned Port Washington
Tennis Academy under the tutelage of Harry Hopman.


Take on a big challenge, learn fast, and land on
top
. Journalist Maureen Orth, 58, has done all three in her 30 years in the business, from the Peace Corps to Vogue, New York, and Vanity Fair. Most recently perhaps, she’s been known as the widow of NBC anchor Tim Russert, who also embodied those principles. Perhaps that’s why those words begin her latest cover story in Vanity Fair, on French first lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy:

There were 76 books written about Sarkozy, Carla, and Cécilia in the
first year of his presidency. Though the French profess a certain
disdain for Sarkozy’s unpresidential style, they clearly cannot get
enough. “Carla has led many lives,” the noted journalist Christine
Ockrent, whose companion, Bernard Kouchner, is the French foreign
minister, tells me. “She’s a kind of alpha female. She was never a
courtesan like Pamela Harriman—she was more like a female Don Juan.”

Carla Bruni is no stranger to privilege. In the opening scene of her
sister Valeria’s semi-autobiographical film, It’s Easier for a Camel …
, the female protagonist goes to church to confess, “I am rich—I am
very, very rich.” Bruni was born into one of the industrial dynasties
in Turin. The family fortune came from the ceat company, which produced
electrical cable. Alberto Bruni-Tedeschi, the patriarch, however, was
as much a composer and art collector as a capitalist. “He could
converse on anything from A to Z,” says a family friend. Carla’s
extroverted mother, Marisa, who appears in Valeria’s films, was a
concert pianist. Carla, Valeria, and their brother, Virginio, grew up
on a vast estate outside the city. Carla studied piano, violin, and
guitar. “Ours were not the kind of parents who would spend time with
children,” she tells me. But neither, she adds, were they interested
“in the power of money. Maybe because my parents were artists. I
remember that every time my father had to choose between increasing his
business and going to the museum he would go to the museum, and I think
that was transmitted to us.”

“It’s in your blood — it’s part of your life,” cartoonist Lynne Johnston told the Washington Post this week, as her landmark strip “For Better or Worse” moves into its next stage.

“I don’t want to quit being a
cartoonist,” Johnston says by phone from her Toronto studio. “It’s
tough to put it down — you still think of gags. And at the same time,
I knew I’d be looking at material that I’d want to improve.”

She
will keep scrawling dialogue into a pad, keep inking her fluid lines,
keep living in the intricate world of her characters. But this is not
life as she would have drawn it up. “I thought I would now be a retired
woman with my Tilley hat and sitting on a cruise ship and going to the
Galapagos,” Johnston says. But that was before the recent dissolution
of her 32-year marriage to the man many readers chose to see as John
Patterson’s inspiration and doppelganger.

“I really wanted to be
happy as a couple and make everything right, but things became more
stressful. . . . It made me look again at my career.”

— Chris L.

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  • Larry Stanfield June 24, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    It’s great to see Mary Carillo and Suzy Kolber covering Wimbledon. They are doing a terrific job.

    Reply