Go. Be there. For the past six decades Richard Evans has followed that dictum – being where the action was, not just as a tennis writer and broadcaster – 196 Grand Slams and counting – but through his years as a foreign correspondent in America, France and Vietnam as well as a spell as a roving global reporter for the US television programme Entertainment Tonight.
Evans, whose English family fled France in June 1940, also became a National Service Captain in the British army, without having to dodge a bullet which was not the case in Cambodia nor in Miami where he was struck by a cop during an anti-Nixon demonstration.
Evans was in Memphis hours after Martin Luther King was shot; campaigned through Indiana and California with Bobby Kennedy – “a unique politician” – before he, too, was assassinated and witnessed the pre-Olympic demonstrations in 1968 against the Mexican Government which ended in massacre.
He accompanied the Wimbledon champion and activist Arthur Ashe on two trips to Africa, witnessing the dark days of apartheid and was back in South Africa in 1990 covering Mike Gatting’s rebel cricket tour during the historic weeks that saw Nelson Mandela released and apartheid abolished.
Evans paints an insider’s portrait of Margaret Thatcher and No 10 Downing Street during the time he was with the Prime Minister’s daughter, Carol; a romance with the actress Gayle Hunnicutt and two marriages; friendships with Richard Harris, Michael Crawford and more Wimbledon champions than you could fit into the players’ box. He was also the last person to interview Richard Burton.
A life lived to the full, covering the globe with a Roving Eye – being there.
In between times, we would laze around, using up our pocket money by stuffing ourselves with Cadbury’s chocolate and other delicacies in the school tuck shop. We used to sit, obliviously, under a strange looking object that we idly assumed was some pre-historic slab of art. We were right. But no one said anything.
“Excuse me, sir, have you had that thing looked at?” It never happened.
Until a real art expert, John Russell from Colombia University, passed by on a visit to the school one day in 1992 and did a double take. After having it properly looked at, Canford School found itself a great deal richer. Richer, in fact, to the tune of L7.7 million. The ‘find’, which had been so visible to so many for so long, turned out to have adorned a wall alongside the throne of King Assurnasirpal 11 of Assyria, who ruled from 883 to 859 BC. If that’s not pre-historic, it’s close.
It had been brought to England from Nimrod in northern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) by Sir Henry Layard. But the original was thought to have been lost in a river accident and everyone had assumed, in the years preceding the founding of the school, that the object hanging on the wall of what was known as the Grubber, was a plastic replica. Not so.
The seven-million-plus pounds was the highest sum ever paid for a piece of antiquity at the time and it enabled the school to build a splendid new gymnasium and sports facility. Generations of Canfordians have been kicking themselves ever since. Even the tiniest slice of L7.7 million would have been nice. “Excuse me, sir…”
About the Author
Richard Evans has been a journalist since the 1960s where he began his career writing for the Evening Standard. He has covered tennis for outlets including the Sunday Times, Fox Sports USA and Tennis Magazine, reporting on more than 196 Grand Slams over the course of his career. Evans was the play-by-play commentator for BBC Radio at Wimbledon for twenty years and was a commentator for the Tennis Channel at the French Open and AO Radio at the Australian Open. He is the author of 18 books, including biographies of tennis legends, the official history of the Davis Cup, and most recently co-authoring Pain, Set & Match.
The Roving Eye. Richard Evans. A Reporter’s Love Affair with Paris, Politics, & Sport.