Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006


2002 Olympic Bronze Medalist Timothy Goebel has announced his retirement from eligible skating.

The writing was on the wall when he didn't make the 2006 Olympic team, but I believe his legacy as the Quad King is one he can and should be rightly proud of. He, and not Michael Weiss, will always be the first American man to land a Quad in competition. (Vern Taylor of Canada, who landed the first triple Axel in 1978 never won a World title, but is still better remembered then the guy who did that year, America's Charlie Tickener).

While I appreciated his technical mastery, I was never a big fan of Tim's overall skating. The hunched shoulders, the shuffling from place to place just never did it for me. Especially in light of the following story.

The first Nationals I ever attended was in Detroit 1994. My brother was competing in Novice Dance. The kid who won Novice Men that year was a curly headed blond boy named Timothy Goebel. I watched him skate in the exhibition. And I was blown away by his... stroking.

His stroking, in 1994, was to die-for. So good you didn't even noticed that he fell at least once that I can recall on a jump. I went home and gushed about this kid as the next Toller Cranston.

Still not sure what happened.

Still disappointed that it did.
Monday, April 24, 2006


Had a nice chat with Sasha Cohen last week for my International Figure Skating column, Skate of the Art: Skating on Movies, Television, Music and Books.

We talked about her Oscar night work, also an upcoming cameo on Las Vegas, and a possible role in the Ben Stiller movie, Blades of Glory. She sounded very psyched about her potential new career, and even had nice things to say about Natalie Portman, who spoofed her on the infamous Saturday Night Live sketch. My interview with her is scheduled to run in the June/July issue of IFS - check it out when you get the chance!

In other skating entertainment news, Tara Lipinski will guest-star on Malcolm in the Middle, and Nicole Bobek's feature film debut is right around the corner!
Friday, April 21, 2006


In spite -- or maybe because -- of his success with the Disney productions, not everything Kenneth Feld produces turns to ticket-selling gold.

In 1997, he attempted to bring Andrew Lloyd Weber's Broadway musical, Starlight Express, about roller-skating trains, to the ice. On stage, the cast sang their own musical numbers, and roller-skated straight into the audience. On ice, the skaters lip-synched their warbling, and, rather than bringing the show into the audience, brought the audience into the show through four electric flat-bed cars parked right on the edge of the ice. The production was scheduled to tour through the Fall of 1997 and Winter of 1998, but, poor ticket sales (attributed by some to inadequate publicity, by others to a show that came off as "tacky and childish") prompted it to be pulled around Thanksgiving-time.

But, without a doubt, the biggest skating show loser of 1997 had to be the one most associated with the ice-extravaganza. In 1997, Ice Capades finally folded.

Roughly forty million dollars in debt, the show first declared bankruptcy in 1993, when it was bought, with momentous fanfare, by former headliner Dorothy Hamill.

For over a year, with herself as the primary star, Hamill attempted to salvage the institution with family-style productions like Cinderella: Frozen in Time and Hansel & Gretel, The Witch, and The Cat. In 1994, facing personal and financial problems, she sold Ice Capades to International Family Entertainment, which, in turn, was purchased, in August of 1997, by Rupert Murdoch. Who promptly shut down the entire operation.

Ex-Ice Capades manager Dick Palmer told International Figure Skating in December of 1997 that he blamed the tour's decline on all the other skating-show options flooding the marketplace. Ice Capades, which battled to keep ticket prices low so that the whole family might come, just could not keep up.

"There was a point that came along when (Olympic and World) champions became so expensive (to hire). They had their small tours that started getting bigger with Tom Collins and Stars on Ice. (Of course) the competition became greater when they started doing television specials on ice."

Sadly, in the end, the show that conceived of bringing skating to everyone's hometown was killed by the concept's popularity.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006


As Russia's 2006 Olympic medalists prepare to turn pro (some, like Slutskaya and Plushenko with arguably more opportunities than Totmianina & Marinin or Navka & Kostamarov), takes a look back at the post-competitive career of another Russian pair circa 2001:

Russia's 1994 World Pair Champions Evgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov have embarked on a new life in the United States.

In December of 1999, the husband and wife skated their last exhibition performance. Now, they are full-time coaches (Naumov is the Director of Pair Skating, while Shishkova works with singles) at the International Skating Center of Connecticut.

One year after retirement, the couple expresses no regrets about their choice.

Shishkova explains, "There was no point to keep competing, especially since there was very little opportunity for us. We had no agent -- we were on our own. We got some offers here and there, but, it was very rare. I don't miss competing. I used to get so nervous when we performed. By the time we retired, I wasn't only worn out physically, but, emotionally, too. Vadim doesn't miss competing, either. Now, we both live through our students."

As proof of their commitment to making a life in Simsbury, Shishkova and Naumov bought their first house in July of 2000. Shishkova raves, "We love it here in Simsbury, it's very calm, very clean, very pretty."

And both she and her husband love being coaches. Shishkova explains, "We're going to try to remember everything we learned (in Russia), so can bring our knowledge to our American skaters."

Despite how well they've settled in, Shishkova does admit to feeling a bit strange to be coaching American, rather than Russian students. But, "unfortunately, there is no work for us in Russia. We couldn't live on the salary we were offered. Here, though, we are valued, and we can make a living. We're very grateful. That's why we're going to give our students everything we have; we're not going to hold anything back."

Ed. note: Vadim coached Americans Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash to a 2005 U.S. Pair title. He and Evgenia are also now the parents of a son, Maxim (born August 1, 2001).
Thursday, April 13, 2006


In the early 1990s, as Stars on Ice, Skating, and Champions on Ice cashed in on the sport's post Tonya/Nancy popularity, customers looking for more traditional ice-show touring fare had Walt Disney's World on Ice, which purchased Ice Follies and went into business with producer Kenneth Feld.

Feld mounted Wizard of Oz, staring 1987 U.S. Junior Champion Jeri Campbell, and, with Disney, was the live show producer on Beauty and the Beast with Maradith Feinberg and Craig Horowitz, and Aladdin with Cynthia Coull, Jamie Eggleton and 1979 U.S. Junior Men's Champion, Jimmy Santee.

Adhering to Hollywood's tradition of replacing Broadway originators with movie-star names when a show changed from stage to screen (Audrey Hepburn for Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady, Richard Harris for Richard Burton in Camelot, Madonna for Patti LuPone in Evita) on television, the lead role in The Wizard of Oz was skated by Oksana Baiul, Beauty and the Beast by Ekaterina Gordeeva and Viktor Petrenko, and Aladdin by Kristi Yamaguchi and Kurt Browning.

The latter, a one-hour special for CBS, was taped entirely on location in Cairo, Egypt. Producer Steve Binder was determined to show as much of the countryside as possible, since the last thing he wanted was to go through all the expense of moving company and crew to North Africa, only to end up with an ice-show that looked like it could have been staged on an L.A. lot. That's why his opening montage featured Kristi and Kurt atop a camel riding towards the Pyramids, as well as shots by the Nile and along an outdoor bazaar. Considering the ancient beauty of the country and the setting of Aladdin, it was easy to see why these shots were necessary.

It was less easy to figure out why Princess Jasmine and her heroic street urchin were running through all these picturesque locations wearing skates, or why their indoor routines were constantly being interrupted by shots from the movie, breaking the flow of the action, and playing up the fact that neither Kristi nor Kurt looked anything like the Disney drawings.

Shooting an ice-show is difficult on any location, but, in a Muslim country, complications came from the strict edict forbidding the wearing of tight-fitting tops, revealing skirts, or sleeveless shirts for the women, plus the presence of locals, hired as extras, who had never seen sheets of ice before, and kept staring at it in wonder. Joked Browning, "They were a good audience, because their expectation of ice was putting it in their drinks."

With the success of the above, Disney added Hercules and The Spirit of Pocahontas, starring Joanna Ng, who, in 1991, at the age of twelve, was the youngest-ever winner of Skate Canada. In keeping with the movie's hit song, Colors of the Wind, eight pair teams plus seven male skaters, each dressed in a distinctive shade, were used to anthropomorphize the invisible element.

For rendering Toy Story to the ice, difficulties popped up in finding methods to bring huge toys to convincing life, including two people to expand and contract Slinky Dog, and a skating Mr. Potato Head who can pull his face off at will. Also, unlike the other projects, Toy Story was not a musical, and it's solitary female character was Bo Peep. So, in spite of the historic image of ice-shows as starring chorus line after chorus line of gorgeous girls in skimpy outfits, except for a brief stint as space-sirens, the women of Toy Story come out dressed as either soldiers, Martians, or commandos.
Monday, April 10, 2006


A wonderful organization, Figure Skating in Harlem, is having their 2nd Annual Skating With the Stars Under the Stars. In attendance last year were Elvis Stojko, Victor Petrenko, Oksana Baiul, Tai Babilonia, Michelle Kwan and more. This year's honoree is Dr. Debi Thomas.
Friday, April 07, 2006


For those who've ever wondered if I am capble of writing something that doesn't include rinks and skaters, I am currently guest-blogging over at my friend, Kyra Davis', site.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Following in Scott Hamilton's touring footsteps, fellow American, Olympic champion Brian Boitano launched Skating in 1990. With Katarina Witt, Rosalynn Sumners, Underhill & Martini, Caryn Kadavy, Gary Beacom, Blumberg & Seibert, and others, Skating travelled to 31 U.S. cities. Like Stars on Ice, it featured group numbers as well as solos ranging from Witt's portrayal of Delilah's seduction and betrayal of Samson, to Beacom demonstrating -- sans music -- his repertoire of funky edges.

Skating debuted in Portland to a sold-out audience, a result that was by no means a given, despite the popularity of its stars, since, at many venues, Skating came to town on the heels of the World Tour. Since Collins' contract with arenas included a clause forbidding them from advertising another skating show until after the World Tour left, fans calling to ask about Skating were often told no information was available.

A year later, Skating II returned to the ice with most of the same cast, and a "light and dark" theme, wherein the first part of the show featured exclusively light-colored costumes and flowing music, and the second half focused on darkness, with black costumes the rule, and throbbing, pulsating music.

After its third edition, the show's producer sold Skating's dates to Stars on Ice, leaving Boitano, after a quick pop back into the eligible world for the 1994 Olympics, to branch out into other concepts, including Skating Romance I, II and III, Skating Kicks Back: Country Music and More, and The Brian Boitano Holiday Skating Spectacular, all produced by someone he could trust -- his own production company, White Canvas.

As Skating Romance's Artistic Director, Brian was also able to insist on a touch cheered by many TV-watching skating purists. He mandated that his show be broadcast with no announcers. He was determined to let the skating stand on its own, and speak for itself.

Brian's co-star for the inaugural Skating Romance was Oksana Baiul, fresh from her triumph in Lillehammer, and somewhat unused to life amongst the pros.

Brian was reportedly quite patient in directing and coaxing precisely the performance he desired out of her for their somnambulistic pas-de-deux to La Sonambula.

His co-star for Skating Romance II, however, was the always professional Katarina Witt. Arguably the sharpest woman in skating, Katarina was also then the one with the highest worldwide profile, based, in no small part, on the charisma she generates on the ice. With Katarina as his partner, Brian was able to produce a sexier, more adult duet.

For Skating Romance III, on the other hand, Brian chose to headline with his good pal, teen-ager Michelle Kwan, leaving choreographers Renee Roca and Gorsha Sur to feel a touch squeamish about putting together one of their traditionally sexy numbers for a seventeen year old girl, and a man old enough to be her father.

Brian reassured Renee and Gorsha that sexy wasn't what he wanted at all, and, instead, they conceived a routine where, in Paris, a giggly Kwan pursues the object of her crush, Boitano, by following him around and aping his every move, including every triple jump. Considering that, in real life, Kwan's first memory of watching skating on TV is Brian winning the 1988 Olympics, the number proved not so far off from the truth.

A few years earlier, the notion of an amateur skater like Kwan performing on the same ice as hard-core professionals like Boitano and Roca & Sur, would have been inconceivable. But, by 1997, it was just another one of the perks available to the new eligibles.
Monday, April 03, 2006


Established the year Brian Boitano won his first World Championship, Stars on Ice is the brainchild of Scott Hamilton, a tour restricted to professional skaters, featuring individual routines as well as group numbers. Originally called Scott Hamilton's America Tour, it played in only five New England towns its first season, and starred Hamilton, Toller Cranston, Rosalynn Sumners and Blumberg & Seibert, along with several, lesser-known names.

A determining signature of Stars on Ice is its group numbers, where skaters are mixed and matched up in combinations the audience might not necessarily expect. Meg Streeter, who directed the show for television from 1992 to 1997 explained, "They take the general premise that you've got a lot of individual, great skaters and then (show choreographer) Sandra Bezic does these incredible, innovative group numbers for threesomes or foursomes, whatever feels right at the time, that are also sprinkled throughout the show to give you a sense of family, to create a sense of bonding among the skaters. Kristi (Yamaguchi) and Katarina (Witt) once skated a lovely duet. There was the number where the four women came out, and each one sat on a chair while the other did a solo. What was lovely about that number is Katya (Gordeeva) used to say, 'I love watching Roz (Sumners) skate.' Four women were out there on the ice, having a good time, and connecting with each other. Those are some of the things that make Stars on Ice special."

Former Candid Production VP Jirina Ribbens credits the ongoing success of Stars on Ice to Hamilton, praising, "Scott is unequaled as a performer, he totally understands how to keep the audience in his hand. When he started Stars on Ice, that was his vehicle. He really used turning pro to his advantage. Scott was the first one to have it all."

Along with Stars on Ice, Scott made his stage acting debut in 1989 as the star of Broadway on Ice where, in addition to skating, he sang his way across the country in a specially written vehicle featuring versions of classic Broadway-show routines.

Coming Up Next: Boitano and Witt go Skating!
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