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Tennis legend King marks 70th birthday in Las Vegas celebration


Tennis great Billie Jean King celebrated her 70th birthday on Saturday at Caesars Palace with Elton John, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf among the 200 revelers.

The evening commemorated a number of recent 40th anniversaries, including the Battle of the Sexes, pitting King versus Bobby Riggs, her friendship with Sir Elton and her help in founding the Women’s Tennis Association.

The party was held at Caesars’ Garden of the Gods pools after John’s show at The Colosseum. John, who dedicated “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to King during his show, was among the speakers at the party.

He described King as a personal inspiration and “the sister I never had.” John and Bernie Taupin co-wrote “Philadelphia Freedom” in King’s honor. She played for the Philadelphia Freedoms tennis team.

A former world No. 1, King won 39 grand slam titles, including a record 20 at Wimbledon. Her first Wimbledon title was in doubles as a 17-year-old.

An estimated 50 million in 37 countries watched the Battle of the Sexes, won by King, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King was 29; Riggs, a former Wimbledon champion, was 59.

Among those attending her birthday party: John’s entire band, including original members Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and percussionist Ray Cooper, King’s partner Ilana Kloss, ABC’s “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts, former tennis stars Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport, Rosie Casals and Pam Shriver and tennis analysts Bud Collins and Mary Carillo.

King’s brother, former major league pitcher Randy Moffitt, also attended, along with Women’s Tennis Association CEO Stacey Allastar and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.

King and Kloss co-hosted a round-robin at the Las Vegas Country Club tennis courts on Saturday.

King held the birthday celebration six weeks early. Her birthday is Nov. 22.

PURE MAGIC

Las Vegas magician Seth Grabel, an “America’s Got Talent” finalist, has raised the bar when it comes to magical marriage proposals.

He was on a beach Sept. 24 in the Grenadine Islands with his girlfriend, Las Vegas Magazine publisher Tammy Shaw, when they spotted a bottle partially buried in the sand.

Shaw removed a piece of paper from the bottle and began reading a poem, which Grabel had written.

When she finished, he popped the question. She said yes.

They met about 10 years ago when he was president of the Real Estate Business Society at UNLV. He told her his dream was to be a magician. The real magic happened when they started dating about six months ago.

SIGHTINGS

Tyra Banks, at Andrea’s (Encore) on Saturday with John Redmann, former “Tyra” and current “The Talk” executive producer. … Mirage headliner Terry Fator and his wife, Taylor Makakoa, backstage after attending Meat Loaf’s “RockTellz &CockTails” at Planet Hollywood Resort. … Michelle Phillips, the lone surviving member of The Mamas and the Papas, in the audience Saturday at Eastside Cannery, watching her daughter, Chynna Phillips, perform at the Wilson Phillips concert. … Film and comedy legend Jerry Lewis, in the audience at Pia Zadora’s show at Piero’s Italian Cuisine on Friday. Later she kept her commitment at Frank Marino’s 11 p.m. roast. Zadora had to cancel her Thursday gig at Piero’s because of a death in her family. Her ex-husband, Jonathan Kaufer, the father of her 16-year-old son, Jordan, died in an automobile accident between Baker and Barstow, Calif.

THE PUNCH LINE

“I’m with Boehner on this one. If we put a tax on tanning salons, more people will look pasty and white. The whole country is going to be whiter than Paula Deen’s fan club.” ­— Craig Ferguson

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.