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Billie Jean King opens up about secret 2018 wedding in new memoir

The tennis legend reveals details of the small ceremony in "All In," which will be released next week.
/ Source: TODAY

Billie Jean King is opening up about her secret 2018 wedding in her upcoming memoir, "All In."

The tennis legend wed her former doubles partner, Ilana Kloss, after a few decades together. King shares details about the couple's relationship — and their intimate wedding ceremony — in the candid book, on sale Aug. 17.

The 20-time Wimbledon champion, 77, details how former New York Mayor David Dinkins married her and Kloss, 65, on Oct. 18, 2018, in a small ceremony in his apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Aside from the brides and Dinkins, the only other two people who attended the wedding were Dinkins' wife, Joyce, and an aide who served as a witness.

Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss
A couple on and off the tennis court, Billie Jean King, right, and her partner, Ilana Kloss, secretly tied the knot in 2018.Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for EJAF

"Nobody threw rice or smashed wedding cake in the other's face," King writes in her book. "One of the brides wore jeans and a lovely red scarf and the other had on a black shirt, a comfortable warm‑up suit, and pearls — ha! — a personal touch of glamour that Ilana still teases me about."

King, who holds 39 Grand Slam titles, said she and Kloss decided to tie the knot after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 and the couple saw "more and more" of their friends walking down the aisle.

"Elton (John) had run to the altar with David Furnish soon after same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.K., and he started nudging Ilana and me to consider it. He even offered to sing at our wedding if we’d take the plunge," she writes.

King recalled that fellow tennis champ John McEnroe "needled" her to walk down the aisle.

"John McEnroe saw me at Elton’s Smash Hit fund-raiser in Las Vegas and needled me: 'C’mon, Billie Jean! Why not get married? Wrap it up and put a bow on it already!'" she writes.

The athlete revealed that she'd been hesitant to wed Kloss, whom she called "the love of my life," because of her "conflicted feelings" about the institution of marriage.

"Besides, Ilana and I already considered ourselves partners for life. We had worn each other’s rings for years. Why change anything?" asked King, who was previously married from 1965 until 1987 to her college sweetheart, Larry King.

"But in the fall of 2018, Ilana and I called our good friend David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York City, and told him we were ready to take him up on an offer he’d been making to us for years: 'If you ever get married, I’m your guy!'" continues King.

King explained that she and Kloss ultimately decided that marrying one another honored the hard work of activists who fought to legalize same-sex marriage.

"We recognized that so many people had worked so hard to get the laws changed to give us the choice," she writes. "Emotionally, we had arrived at a place where it became important to us to formalize our love for each other."

She added, "As I said to Ilana as we were discussing it, 'Years from now, I never want anyone to question how much I was committed to you.'"

Until writing "All In," the only people other than King and Kloss who knew they'd said "I do" were David and Joyce Dinkins (both now deceased), the aide who acted as a witness and the folks at City Hall who process the couple's marriage license.

"'So much of our life has been public, keeping this private was something special we could hold on to, just for us,'" King recalls Kloss telling a friend. "'We didn't need the world to know. It was just about Billie and me and how we felt.'"