BOOKED for the evening, The Westport Library’s signature fundraising event, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in high style in 2024, welcoming one of the greatest figures in the history of sport and a revered trailblazer in the fight for equality.

Tennis legend and social justice pioneer Billie Jean King will be this year’s awardee, honored in the Library’s Trefz Forum on Thursday, September 12. Tickets for the event will go on sale to the general public in mid-July.

King comes to the Library fresh off the 2024 US Open, whose grounds were named in her honor in 2006. In that ceremony, she told the crowd of 20,000-plus, “Mi casa es su casa, my house is your house, this house is our house.” That demonstration of openness and emphasis on community has been an enduring hallmark of King’s unparalleled life and career — one which she’ll share on September 12, in conversation with Chris McKendry, a Westport resident and host for ESPN’s tennis coverage.

“We are delighted to welcome tennis great and sporting pioneer Billie Jean King as our 2024 BOOKED for the evening honoree,” said Bill Harmer, Westport Library executive director. “Having Billie Jean King as our guest of honor for this milestone 25th anniversary is especially significant. Her unparalleled achievements and unwavering dedication to equality and justice resonate deeply with the values our library and community.

“This silver anniversary is a time to reflect on our shared commitment to fostering knowledge, inclusivity, and progress, and there is no one more fitting to inspire us than Billie Jean King. Her enduring impact on sports and society makes her a beacon of hope and change, and we are thrilled to celebrate her remarkable legacy with our community.”

BOOKED for the evening annually honors an individual whose work reflects the purpose of the Library: to nurture a love of learning and to enhance our understanding of the world. There is perhaps no other figure in the history of sports who has done more to fulfill that mission than King.

The International Tennis Hall of Famer stands as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She was one of the game’s premier stars in the 1960s and 70s, and in her career won an astounding 39 Grand Slam titles, 12 in singles, and finished No. 1 in the world on five occasions.

For her all accomplishments on the court, she is best known today for championing equality and fairness — in sport and in society. Her victory over Bobby Riggs in the famed Battle of the Sexes match in 1973 was a seminal moment in professional sports, and in many ways the culmination of her work championing equality in the years preceding.

In 1970, she launched the Virginia Slims Tour — the first professional tennis tour for women, a groundbreaking move at the time — and in 1971 she became the first woman athlete to earn more than $100,000 in prize money. Yet, when she won the US Open in 1972, she received $15,000 less than the men’s champion Ilie Năstase.

The following year, resolute to create lasting change, King leveraged her position and her clout to spearhead the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association, becoming its first president. In that position, she lobbied for equal prize money at the US Open — and succeeded. The US Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money to both men and women, something none of the other three Grand Slams accomplished regularly until the Australian Open followed suit in 2001, nearly three decades later.

In the ensuing years, King continued to exercise her voice as a champion for equal rights and gay rights, emerging as one of the world’s most outspoken advocates against discrimination and for the fair treatment for all people, all the time, everywhere.

“One thing we stressed in the WTA, and the older players at the time when we started, was: This is a platform,” King told PBS NewsHour at the 2023 US Open. “We have an opportunity. We actually have an obligation to help make this world a better place.”

King’s accolades are many:

She was elected to the Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, and the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1990.

In 2006, the renaming of the US Open grounds — now recognized as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — made King the first woman to have a major sports venue dedicated in her honor. (King grew up learning to play tennis on the public courts of Long Beach, California, and the National Tennis Center is the one of the world’s largest public tennis facilities, making this another fitting tribute.)

In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for her advocacy work on behalf of women and the LGBTQ community, becoming the first woman athlete to receive the distinction.

In 2014, she founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the critical issues required to achieve diverse, inclusive leadership in the workforce.

In 2020, the International Tennis Federation renamed the Fed Cup, the world cup of women’s tennis and the largest annual global team competition in women’s sports, the Billie Jean King Cup.

In 2021, she was honored with the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, the legendary magazine’s highest honor.

And most fitting for this occasion, King also has a library named after her. In 2019, the Long Beach City Council honored her by naming its new library the Billie Jean King Main Library.

“I believe in the power of dreaming big and never giving up,” King said, adding separately, “The legacy I would like to leave is that it’s OK to be yourself, and it’s OK to be different.”

Previous BOOKED for the evening award recipients include 2023 guest of honor Laura Linney, the award-winning actress and acclaimed humanitarian, as well as luminaries such as Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Arthur Mitchell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Will Shortz, Patti Smith, Barry Levinson, Jon Meacham, Nile Rodgers, Lynsey Addario, Ron Chernow, Alan Alda, Justin Paul, Frederic Chiu, Itzhak Perlman, and Shonda Rhimes.

Laura Linney (right) and moderator Lynne Meadow

“Tonight, we honor an artist of the highest caliber, Laura Linney.”

With that, Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer presented the 2023 BOOKED for the evening guest of honor with her award, eliciting a standing ovation from the capacity crowd of 450-plus who turned out for the 24th edition of the Library’s signature fundraising event — and who made this year’s edition the most financially successful BOOKED for the evening in the event’s history.

It was a stunning evening, replete with a cocktail reception, in-person tributes from former New York Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley, actor John Benjamin Hickey, and playwright Donald Marguiles, and video tributes from actors Jason Bateman, Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeanne Tripplehorn, among others, all celebrating Linney’s life and career.

That was followed by an extended conversation between moderator Lynne Meadow, the longtime artistic visionary behind the Manhattan Theatre Club, and Linney, covering a wide variety of topics that included Linney’s introduction to acting, her process, her love of books, and much more.

“Where the arts and community intersect anywhere, it’s a really powerful and important part of our culture,” said Linney, whose remarkable career includes two Golden Globe and four Emmy Award wins and three Academy Award and five Tony Award nominations. “I think there is a profound need for community and the arts. And I’m so happy to be here and to see so many people here. The arts are essential for culture. They’re medicinal. They help us understand things we didn’t understand before and they make you understand things about yourself that you had no idea of — it’s a profoundly important thing to keep alive.”

Linney emphasized the special place the arts serve not only in her life, but for society as a whole — “Time in the arts is never wasted time,” she said — and how meaningful it was to receive this award from a library, an institution she reveres.

“Books are one of the first aspects of the arts that we all encounter — the small books as a child, things that you have, holding a book in your hand,” said Linney. “So, it’s really a joy to be here. I’ve had, in some ways, my most spiritual experiences in libraries — the library in my college, the library in my high school, the library I created in my home. I love being there. I love being quiet. I love staring at the books and they all talk to me as you remember what you’ve read, what those characters had to say. I find it such a wonderful, calming place to be.”

[Related: BOOKED for the evening 2023 photo album]

BOOKED for the evening 2023 closed with a song from American Idol finalist and Staples High School graduate Drew Angus, who performed a soaring rendition of Time for Me to Fly by REO Speedwagon, and with drinks and dessert in the Hub on the Library’s main level.

“The night was electric,” Harmer said. “It was everything we could have asked for and more. Once again, we realize how honored we are to live in such a vibrant arts community — and in a community that understands the importance of libraries and that supports our mission and goals. That an actress of Laura Linney’s immense talent would feel at home in our space is a testament both to the Library and the people who sustain it.”

“It was, start to finish, a remarkable evening,” said Westport Library Development Director Agata Slattery. “I cannot say enough about the incredible efforts of the BOOKED for the evening committee, led by co-chairs Wendy Brown and Candice Savin, all the Library staff members who have worked for months to make the event come to life, and of course all the patrons who came out to support the Library. We cannot wait to try to top this again next year when we celebrate 25 years of BOOKED for the evening.”

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Photos: Pamela Einarsen Photography

Tickets for BOOKED for the evening, The Westport Library’s signature fundraiser, will go on sale Monday, May 8, at 10 am, available for purchase on the Library’s BOOKED for the evening homepage.

BOOKED for the evening this year will be honoring award-winning theatre, film, and television actress Laura Linney, who will be appearing in person in the Library’s Trefz Forum on Thursday, July 13, at 8 pm.

Now in its 24th year, BOOKED for the evening honors an individual whose work reflects the purpose of the Library: to nurture a love of learning and to enhance our understanding of the world.

In her remarkable career, Linney has been nominated three times for an Academy Award, five times for a Tony Award, once for a BAFTA Award, and eight times for a Golden Globe. She has won one SAG Award, one National Board of Review Award, two Golden Globes, and four Emmys.

Her film credits include Genius, Nocturnal Animals, Mr. Holmes, Kinsey, You Can Count on Me, Mystic River, Love Actually, and The Truman Show. Among her prominent Broadway productions are The Crucible, Time Stands Still, Sight Unseen, and Six Degrees of Separation. And on television, she has starred in the Showtime series The Big C and the HBO mini-series John Adams, as well as Tales of the City and Frasier. She currently features as Wendy Byrde in Ozark, a role for which she has earned Emmy and SAG Award nominations.

Linney holds honorary doctorates from her alma maters, Brown University and The Julliard School. She has been honored for her work in cancer advocacy and is a sought-after speaker focusing on reconsidering the arts as essential for success, easing the pain of cancer and finding beauty in tragedy, and navigating gender inequality in the film industry. She also delivers master classes on acting and theatre.

Previous BOOKED for the evening award recipients include Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Arthur Mitchell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Will Shortz, Patti Smith, Barry Levinson, Jon Meacham, Nile Rodgers, Lynsey Addario, Ron Chernow, Alan Alda, Justin Paul, Frederic Chiu, Itzhak Perlman, and 2022 guest of honor Shonda Rhimes.

BOOKED for the evening, The Westport Library’s annual fundraiser, is proud to welcome award-winning theatre, film, and television actress Laura Linney as its guest of honor for 2023.

Linney will be appearing in person for the event, in the Library’s Trefz Forum, on Thursday evening, July 13. Tickets for the event will go on sale in May.

Now in its 24th year, BOOKED for the evening is the Library’s signature fundraising event, honoring an individual whose work reflects the purpose of the Library: to nurture a love of learning and to enhance our understanding of the world.

“Laura Linney is not only one of the great actresses of her generation, she is also a lifelong supporter of the power of the arts and creativity, a humanitarian lauded for her work on behalf of cancer patients and their families, and a champion for women in film,” said Bill Harmer, Westport Library executive director. “For all those reasons and more, we are honored to have her as our guest for the 24th annual BOOKED for the evening celebration.”

Linney has enjoyed remarkable success across stage and screen during her brilliant career.

Her film credits include Genius, Nocturnal Animals, Mr. Holmes, Kinsey, You Can Count on Me, Mystic River, Love Actually, and The Truman Show.Among her prominent Broadway productions are The Crucible, Time Stands Still, Sight Unseen, and Six Degrees of Separation. And on television, she has starred in the Showtime series The Big C and the HBO mini-series John Adams, as well as Tales of the City and Frasier. She currently features as Wendy Byrde in Ozark, a role for which she has earned Emmy and SAG Award nominations.

In all, Linney has been nominated three times for an Academy Award, five times for a Tony Award, once for a BAFTA Award, and eight times for a Golden Globe. She has won one SAG Award, one National Board of Review Award, two Golden Globes, and four Emmys.

Linney holds honorary doctorates from her alma maters, Brown University and The Julliard School. She has been honored for her work in cancer advocacy and is a sought-after speaker focusing on reconsidering the arts as essential for success, easing the pain of cancer and finding beauty in tragedy, and navigating gender inequality in the film industry. She also delivers master classes on acting and theatre.

Previous BOOKED for the evening award recipients include 2022 guest of honor Shonda Rhimes, CEO of the global media company Shondaland, as well as luminaries such as Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Arthur Mitchell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Will Shortz, Patti Smith, Barry Levinson, Jon Meacham, Nile Rodgers, Lynsey Addario, Ron Chernow, Alan Alda, Justin Paul, Frederic Chiu, and Itzhak Perlman.

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