Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Thursday, January 19, 2006


The first American, male skater to get a personal TV special, Brian Boitano, was already mapping his vision for the show as he moved through the maze of press immediately following his 1988 Olympic win in Calgary.

His fantasy project, he explained, would involve children, and a chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of skating on a glacier. ABC-TV agreed to fund both of those ambitions, but suggested that the definitive Boitano special would include an appearance by Katarina Witt, taped in her native East Germany.

The 1984 & 1988 Olympic champion was eager to participate. Her political influence at the time was at its zenith, and, after months of negotiations, Katarina received government permission to take part in the American project.

However, while her government was telling Katarina that permission had been granted, they were telling ABC that permission had been denied. Finally, on Labor Day 1988, a conference call was set up between ABC, Brian Boitano, and Katarina Witt -- phoning from the commissar's office -- so that the politically savvy Witt could monitor what was being said by and to all the participating parties.

Once the battle to shoot in East Germany was won though, the ABC staff did wonder what they'd gotten themselves into. Remembers the special's director, Doug Wilson, "We had minimum facilities, we were in a drab, East German, not-sensually motivating rink, and we had to do very dramatic, very theatrical things on a venue that had no quality related to that."

Wilson and choreographer Sandra Bezic (he praises, "She's the most beautiful genius I've ever met, and you can quote me,") racked their brains trying to figure out how they were going to transform an unsightly, cold rink into the site of Brian and Katarina's hot-blooded ice-tryst. Finally, a decision was made to flood the set with as much light as possible, blurring the background until they created a practically animated, stop-action, smokey effect. Wilson admits, "You wouldn't want to watch skating like that all the time, but, in the context of the piece, it isn't bad. The emotions that came out of it were genuine."

The success of the Boitano/Witt pairing prompted their reunion to film Carmen on Ice. Released as a theatrical feature in Europe and shown in the U.S. on HBO, Carmen broke new ground for televised ice-ballets in that portions of the movie were shot on location in Seville, Spain, including inside a bull-fighting ring.

Portable ice-rinks were buried at ground level, then painted over to blend in with the surroundings. Along with co-star Brian Orser, Boitano and Witt won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Individual Performance.

Joked Boitano, "Here I spend twenty years working for an Olympic Gold medal and my first year out I win an Emmy!"

(To Be Continued)


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