After he won the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal,
Bruce Jenner wanted to buy a home in Malibu but knew he was short
of funds. As an amateur athlete who made $9,000 a year from
selling insurance, Jenner had few assets to list on the loan
application. "All I have to put down is this gold medal," he told
the bank officer, jokingly. Jenner got the loan and the house.
For 26 years his gold medal performance has been all the
collateral he's needed. "Nobody's worked one performance better
than I have," says Jenner, who, at 53, has become as ubiquitous
as a 3 a.m. infomercial. "I was in that stadium for 48 hours, and
now you can't get rid of me."
He pitches everything from vitamins to cameras to Bruce Jenner's
World Class Decathlon video game, and makes 75 corporate
appearances a year for the likes of Visa, Coca-Cola and IBM. His
assets now are considerable, including Bruce Jenner Aviation,
which purchases and resells Cessnas and Learjets, and Jenner
Communications, an infomercial production company. "I never went
after fame," he insists. "It fell into my lap."
Jenner retired from track immediately after the Summer Games, so
what made his Olympic fame everlasting? "The Montreal Olympics
were in July 1976, the bicentennial, at the height of
patriotism," he says. "I beat a Soviet [Nikolai Avilov], it was
the last Olympics before cable took off, and it was close by." It
also didn't hurt that he had Hollywood good looks.
Jenner fed his competitive urge by racing Trans-Ams and Porsches,
powerboats and mountain bikes. He also worked as a correspondent
for Good Morning America, overcoming his dyslexia by memorizing
his reports and ad-libbing as much as possible.
Married to the former Chrystie Scott when he won his gold medal,
Jenner was divorced in 1979 and two years later wed Hee Haw
actress Linda Thompson. After that marriage ended in '83, Jenner
was introduced to Kris Kardashian, who had recently divorced O.J.
Simpson's friend and lawyer Robert Kardashian. Simpson was an
usher at the Jenners' wedding five months later. Bruce and Kris,
who each brought four children from previous marriages, have two
kids; Kendall, 7, and Kylie, 4.
These days Jenner is hooked on golf and has a four handicap. He
had a synthetic putting green and three sand traps built into his
former backyard in Hidden Hills, Calif. After Kris bought him a
$300,000 membership at the nearby Sherwood Country Club, Jenner
bought a house on the course, 200 yards from the driving range.
Obviously, his name is still as good as gold. --Brian Cazeneuve
COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. (COVER) SPRINGBOARD A gold medal in Montreal started Jenner on the road to fame and fortune.
COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO
Between pitching products, speaking and running several
businesses, Jenner plays to a four handicap.