Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Following the 1980 Olympics, Dick Button, in a bid to create a pro skating circuit, attempted to put together an event pitting established stars like Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill against "kids" fresh from the Olympics. However, the older skaters were afraid that losing a professional event would somehow diminish their Olympic titles. The only way Button could convince them to take part, was to make the 1980 World Pros a team compe-tition, with no individual scores.

That first contest proved so successful -- despite the "Stars of the 1980 Olympics" team, including Games' Silver medalist Linda Fratianne, Gold Medalist Robin Cousins, Bronze Medalist Charlie Tickner, and Babilonia & Gardner, soundly defeating the "World and Olympic Professional Stars" team of Fleming, Hamill, and Starbuck & Shelley -- that the team format stayed in place through 1981 and 1982.

In 1983, for the first time, individual results for all four divisions were tallied in addition to the team event, though prize money still went to the top team. That year, Janet Lynn prevailed over Dorothy Hamill, who, in their last head-to-head had finished 4th to Janet's 2nd at the 1973 Worlds, as well as over Linda Fratianne who, back in 1973, at age twelve, was only the U.S. Junior Silver Medalist.

In the men, however, youth prevailed, as 1980 Olympic Bronze Medalist Charlie Tickner beat 1976 Olympic Bronze Medalist Toller Cranston, and 1960 Olympic Bronze Medalist Don Jackson.

According to ABC television director Doug Wilson, "Dick Button was a pioneer in many respects, and he was a pioneer in giving skaters a venue where they could compete for money and earn a living outside of skating in shows. His Candid Productions created, in a sense, his own league."

Former Candid Productions' Vice-President Jirina Ribbens credits the success of those first World Pros, as well as the subsequent ones to "a combination of sponsor, television, and public. You can't have (pro competitions) just for the public. It doesn't pay for itself. The production costs are way out there."

TV viewers at home, however, never saw the competition in the same order as the fans who watched it live.

Explains Ribbens, "It's very ironic that, for the public at large, skating is all about women. For skating fans, skating is all about men. When you do an event live, you always have to end with the men if you want the best evening. When you do an event for television, you always want to end with the women, if you want people to stay tuned. If we play the competition the way it runs live (with men as the final event), we lose viewers. But, if you keep teasing the women, TV viewers will stay tuned."

(To Be Continued...)


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