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The Portlandian, the Internet's premier source of Tonya News
July 17, 2018 Edition - SPECIAL 100th MEGA-ISSUE
(C) 2018 Portland Ice Skating Society
Today we celebrate the 100th edition of "The Portlandian" - yes,
it really has been that long - so we've got an absolutely massive
issue, with details of another Tonya appearance, a recap of
Tonya's tenure on DWTS, a special soundtrack offer, our long-
awaited "I, Tonya" review, the rock opera making its debut in
Texas, and a chance to own your very own Tonya.
COME OUT TO THE COAST, WE'LL GET TOGETHER, HAVE A FEW LAUGHS...
Thursday, July 12, saw a movie being screened on the top of a Los
Angeles skyscraper. But it wasn't "Die Hard", the action classic
which celebrated the 30th anniversary of its premiere on that
date - but rather more a case of "Die Hard-ing".
Yes, Tonya was back in Tinsel Town (and described as "the
legendary Tonya Harding" in the PR blurb). And she was attending
a special presentation of "I, Tonya" that was organized by the
Alamo Drafthouse as part of their Skyline Sound + Cinema series
of outdoor screenings of classic movies:
Pre-show entertainment was provided by a live performance from
Los Angeles' Ray Little, an alternative band with lead singer
Lauren Little, former front woman of the LA rock band Queen
Skyline Sound + Cinema is produced by Alamo Drafthouse's
Rolling Roadshow team, known across the country for outdoor
screenings at incredible settings, like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE
THIRD KIND at Devils Tower, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS
MIND on a beach in Montauk, and their annual JAWS On The Water
screenings (and by the way, if you want to see "Die Hard",
that's screening at the same site on August 9).
Tonya posted the following Instagram message and photo the next
day, thanking those who turned up:
Thank you so much for all of you that came to the I Tonya movie
showing tonight it was wonderful for me to feel the energy of
the crowd behind me I truly thank you and hope you enjoyed the
evening thank you again for all your support.
All of which is enough to make any Tonyaphile want to yell
"Yippee ki-yay, motherf&*#%r"! Thankfully, no Eurotrash criminals
showed up and tried to hijack the event. Happy trails, folks!
1986: A SKATE ODDITY
It was the second dose of Tonya that week for Los Angelinos -
"I, Tonya" distributors Neon have acquired the distribution
rights to Sandra Luckow's 1986 Tonya doc "Sharp Edges" and gave
it a one-week theatrical run in L.A. from the 6th to the 12th,
with Sandra doing a personal Q&A on the 9th, 10th and 11th. She's
also been doing Q&A's in New York as it's also been screening
there that same week.
And if you couldn't make it to those, there's even better news -
it'll be coming to digital streaming platforms soon afterwards.
Shot on a non-existent budget on VHS tape, "Sharp Edges"
originated as a course assessment by Luckow, a Portland skater
who was also taking a film studies class at Yale. When Tonya's
coach Diane Rawlinson wanted a showreel of Tonya doing her stuff
to show to potential sponsors, Luckow knew she had the topic for
her assignment. The results were highly praised by her tutors,
with it winning Yale's Louis Sudler Prize in 1987.
Unfortunately, the candidness that makes it such a great
documentary ultimately proved to be a problem - Diane Rawlinson
became concerned that if USFSA officials realized Tonya's
proletarian upbringing, it would hurt her marks, so at her
insistance, it was buried, and forgotten about until The Incident
resulted in segments appearing on "60 Minutes" in 1994.
Hard to disagree with the sentiment here: "More Tonya content is
what we deserve"
Sandra also posted this photo of the New York theater, where one
of the other films screening is "2001: A Space Odyssey". Who
would have thought that a low-budget student documentary about a
young Tonya would one day share a marquee with a Kubrick film?
Okay, so Tonya's life is more like a cross between "A Clockwork
Orange" and "The Shining" than "2001", but things have definitely
come a long way...
NEW TONYA-RELATED SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
As we already alluded to above, Tonya now has her own account on
There's also been two pro-Tonya Facebook pages emerge recently.
The first was founded by Mickey Davis of New York and has around
400 members so far. He says:
Okay I've had enough. If you really want to see how women are
treated unfairly and grossly differently look at Tonya Harding.
No other male athlete has ever been treated like this. She is
not allowed to work on the ice, even as an advisor FOR LIFE.
Can you think of any male athlete banned for life from even
coaching in the sport in which they excelled globally? We will
get her reinstated. First we need a group. Please join the
The second is run by Olivia Rose Sanchez of Minnesota and was
founded more recently:
Both these people appear to be hard-core Tonyaphiles, so we'd
urge you to check them out.
"DANCING WITH THE STARS" RECAP
Without a doubt the highlight of the last two months has been
Tonya's appearance on "Dancing With The Stars". So let's recap
ROUND 1 - BALLROOM BLITZ:
April 30 was the first episode of the all-athlete's season of
"Dancing with The Stars", featuring Tonya and her dancing partner
With this round being a double elimination, many predicted it
would be a case of Last Tango In Portland for our skater-turned-
dancing queen, but Tonya survived. Allison Janney, Mckenna Grace
(mini-Tonya) and "I, Tonya" scriptwriter Steven Rogers were in
the audience cheering Tonya on. You can view Tonya & Sasha’s
Afterwards, Tonya talked to E! about surviving the double-
Tonya and Sasha later appeared on the Kelly and Ryan show in NY.
They danced part of their number from week one, and then Tonya
talked briefly about the difference between dancing and figure
skating. She also showed a pendant that had been given to her by
Tonya and Sasha also gave this interview to KXLY in Spokane, WA.:
Tonya's ballroom debut had been a spectacular success, with her
scoring high marks and good comments from the judges, who unlike
in figure skating seem to be prepared to give her a fair shot.
And ballroom dancing has at least one other thing going for it
over figure skating - Tonya doesn't need to worry about breaking
ROUND 2 - TONYA BEARS ALL:
The tension was positively un-BEARable as Tonya and Sasha entered
the second week of "Dancing With The Stars", quickstepping to
Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman", complete with a dancing bear.
We needn't have worried - the performance can only be described
as a Tonya classic, one that will rank right up with some of her
best skating routines in terms of being memorable!
And although there were no Hollywood superstars in the audience
tonight, there was someone with much more significance to Tonya:
her son was there cheering her on.
Later in the team dances, Tonya & Sasha joined Josh Norman,
Sharna Burgess, Chris Mazdzer, Witney Carson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar,
Lindsay Arnold, Artur Adamski, and Brandon Armstrong dancing to
"... Baby One More Time" by the Baseballs as Team 1950s Tennis:
Afterwards, Tonya & Sasha spoke to Access Hollywood about making
it to the semifinals:
A few days later they did another, lengthier one with Access -
about 12 minutes long, but well worth watching - and one for E!
The critical reaction was positive as well:
Tonya Harding & Sasha Farber
Considering her story, it was pretty hilarious that
Sasha chose "Redneck Woman" as their song this week,
but Tonya absolutely owned every bit of it. Once again,
she came out fierce and ready to compete, and what a
triumphant and joyous performance she gave us. The
quickstep is usually the death knell for any dancer on
this show, and Tonya got it the second week. I couldn't
believe what I was seeing in her feet. Not only was she
nailing the choreography, but she was light on her
feet, had wonderful carriage and her partnering with
Sasha was fabulously on point. That's twice now that
Tonya has come out and blown me away with what she is
capable of in dance. Maybe she missed her second career
path. Maybe it's not too late?
Judges Scores: 8, 9, 8, 8
My Score: 9
Sasha was also interviewed by Us magazine:
Tonya has proven to be one of the show's big drawcards -
according to Goldderby, her performances are third behind Adam &
Mirai's in YouTube views:
Tonya has already garnered one new fan - a former DWTS pro is
rooting for her:
Derek Hough already has a favorite on “Dancing with the Stars:
Athletes.” The six-time champ is still following the show and is
pulling for Tonya Harding.
“The one that got me a lot was obviously Tonya Harding,” the former
pro tells “Entertainment Tonight” of Harding and Sasha Farber’s
elegant foxtrot that earned a score of 23.
But more so than her dancing, Hough, who’s now judging “World of
Dance,” was most touched by the disgraced figure skater trying to
make the most of her second chance.
“It’s so interesting hearing people when they just attack people,
but I don’t know, I’m always on the defense for people who have
done something wrong and who are looking for redemption,” Hough
says, invoking renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s
journey” myth. “Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey is, like,
redemption is such an important part. I believe we all deserve
redemption, and I love that ‘Dancing with the Stars’ offers that
in some way. So I’m really rooting for her.”
By this stage, some were predicting Tonya could go all the way to
the final. Goldderby believed that people may be underrating her:
But danger lurked: although Tonya had escaped elimination this
week, we must remember that there are evil forces at work - the
Tonyaphobes - that want to see her fail. Her fans knew we could
not rest on our laurels and must continue to hammer those phones
and keyboards until our fingers bled.
And that's just the BEAR facts of the matter.
ROUND 3 - NOBODY PUTS TONYA IN THE CORNER:
The third week would see a triple elimination, with three couples
being sent home.
This time round, Tonya & Sasha danced a Rumba to "See You Again"
by Tyler Ward. The theme for this dance was MVP - the Most
Valuable Person in the dancer's life. Not surprisingly, Tonya
chose to dedicate her dance to her late father:
The second part of the show featured a Ballroom Battle with two
pairs facing off against each other while dancing to the same
music - in the case of Tonya & Sasha they were opposite Jennie
Finch Daigle & Keo Motsepe, performing a Cha Cha to "Dance" by
Tonya & Sasha made it to the final round, where they would face
off against fellow skater Adam Rippon and footballer Josh Norman.
The night also saw the shock elimination of Mirai Nagasu, so
there would be no Battle of the Axels the next week. Also sent
packing were Jennie (who was widely seen as one of the weaker
members of the pack) and Olympic luger Chris Mazdzer.
A couple of post-dance interviews, first with Access:
and then ET:
and an interview with Access from May 17:
There was now serious talk of Tonya's odds of winning.
Tonya (described as a "figure skating legend") was even spotted
on the GMA newsrunner in NYC!
They said she wouldn't last the first round - Tonya proved them
They said she'd get booted out the second week. They were wrong
Then they said she'd be sent packing in the semifinals - and once
again they were wrong, wrong, wrong.
But people seem to have a habit of underestimating Tonya. A bad
Tonya had come much further than even she had dared to dream. What
seemed absurdly optimistic just a little over a month earlier was
now a reality - Tonya was through to the final. And now we faced
the very real possibility that Tonya could actually take home the
Mirrorball Trophy. It's not quite the same as an Olympic gold
medal, but it would be a good substitute.
ROUND 4 - DISCO INFERNO:
As the end on May approached we were counting down until one of
the year's most important sports showdowns, and we're not talking
about the Indy 500.
The final saw each couple perform two dances. The first dance was
inspired by their journey on the show, and each couple was to
perform a jazz, foxtrot or Viennese waltz routine. In the case of
Tonya & Sasha, they did a Viennese Waltz to "The Time of My
Life" by David Cook.
The second was a "no holds barred" freestyle dance. Much as we
would have liked to have seen Tonya & Sasha dancing the pogo to
"God Save The Queen" by the Sex Pistols in honor of Prince Harry
& Meghan Markle's wedding, they decided to go a different route,
still kicking things up a notch with Tonya descending on a
platter from the Jumbotron above and boogieing on down to "I Will
Survive" by The Pussycat Dolls. Talk about a disco inferno - if
they ever decide to remake "Saturday Night Fever", they know who
The season then finished off with an All-Cast Finale that saw the
previously eliminated dancers return:
The final result saw Adam & Jenna crowned the winners - a not
unexpected result. Although it was not announced at the time, we
later learned that Tonya & Sasha came in third:
This one also scotches some nasty rumors spread by Tonyaphobes
about a non-existent "feud" with Adam:
Tonya & Sasha reenact their Viennese waltz on Kelly & Ryan Live:
Tonya's weight loss is obvious!
A brief interview with Tonya after the finale:
According to Goldderby, Tonya's performance was preferred by
viewers over that by that other skater from the New England
Here’s something you probably didn’t think you’d hear a month
ago: Tonya Harding is more well-liked than Nancy Kerrigan. At
least among our readers. In a recent poll asking which of the two
they preferred on “Dancing with the Stars,” Harding skated away
with 51 percent of the vote.
“Thank you to America for giving me the chance to finish
something I started along [sic] time ago, last night felt like it
was the first time I landed the triple axel,” she wrote on
Instagram. “Thank you to @sashafarber1 for absolutly [sic]
everything, you are the best, and we friends for life.”
And this change in attitude has also been reflected in the media
coverage - we're now seeing Tonya being described with words like
"living legend" and "badass":
You also can't leave out Kristi Yamaguchi, who won Season 16, and
Adam Rippon, who just took home the trophy for the recent all-
athletes cycle, beating out fellow figure skaters Mirai Nagasu
and living legend Tonya Harding.
Less heinous crimes have also received a fancy regurgitation: a
kitschy satire staged like a commando raid, I, Tonya, starring
Margot Robbie as skating badass Tonya Harding and Allison Janney
as her chain-smoking, abuse-barking momster, applied a cheesier,
staccato, cartoonish mode of attack to rivet its message of
lower-rung resentment and stymied upward mobility. Only director
John Waters has managed to pull off camp comedy free of class
All of Tonya's performances can be seen here:
Tonya's journey on Dancing With the Stars has finally come to an
end - and what a journey it was! Although it didn't have quite
the fairy tale ending we'd prefer - as expected, Adam won - it's
been one that went alot further than we dreamed was possible. In
the process, Tonya made many new friends, created a whole heap of
fans, lost a pile of weight - and learned that she can dance!
We've also heard judges and critics using words like "graceful"
to describe Tonya's technique - not something that was ever used
by the skating community about her. She's finally being treated
with the respect that was absent during most of her skating
Hopefully the Great Tonya Comeback is just getting started, and
this will open many new doors for her.
NEW TONYA PORTLAND TRIBUNE ARTICLE
June saw a new, very lengthy and positive article about Tonya by
Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune (which has generally treated
Tonya much nicer than other Portland newspapers), including
several new photos:
On the past few months: "It's been a whirlwind, but it's been
very exciting," says Harding, 47, her blue eyes beaming. "Who
could have imagined that my life would have ended up on the big
screen? Or that I would get the chance to do 'Dancing With the
Stars'? I never could have imagined things could be like they
"This has changed all that for me. Now I feel like I can walk
with my head up high. Yes, there is always going to be somebody
with something to say. It doesn't matter. I feel good about me.
Our future will always be good, because we are always going to be
"I'm most happy and proud that, after so many years, the truth
came out," she says. "God must be weighing on everybody who has
been bad. My son will know as he grows up that his mother was
never a cheater."
On her family: "I've been really happy since Joe and I got
together, but this newfound me had been lost for so long," she
says. "Now I feel good about me. When you walk around anywhere
and you feel people are judging you and not liking you, then you
don't like you.
"Our son has a little bit of my attitude, but Joe's brain. He
loves swimming, baseball, football. He loves science and outer
space and knows everything there is to know about fish. The way
he looks at Mommy and Daddy every morning makes it worth it."
On the movie: "My mother never smoked on the ice. I never had the
opportunity to tell the judges to s—k my d—k in front of
everyone, but that was great."
Did (LaVona) really throw a knife that landed in Tonya's arm?
Tonya shows the scar, time-worn, to prove it. "Yes, she paid
people off to try to make me mad (while skating)," Harding says.
"I didn't know it at the time. The line about if I'm mad, I skate
better, I never understood that. I loved skating. It pissed me
off, but it didn't make me want me to do better. I wanted to do
great just for me.
On the performances: Robbie's performance, Harding says, "was
wonderful. She's a good friend of mine now. We correspond all the
time." Janney, too, has become a good friend, Tonya says. Her
performance was better than spot-on.
"I was like, 'Holy crap, is that my mother?'" she says. "She was
The movie premiere: "It was really neat," she says. "I was
scared, a little nervous, but Margot made me feel so much better.
She was so warm. And Joe being able to be there with me to be
part of this journey."
The Golden Globes: "I was in five-inch stiletto heels in shag
carpet, trying to walk in a dress that is painted on," she says.
"My knees were shaking."
Dancing With The Stars: "When I got that call, I started
bawling," she says. "I could not believe it. I'd wanted to do
that for so many years. I love music, and I love performing,
something I've not been able to do since 1994.
We also finally discover how much weight Tonya lost while on
DWTS: 12 pounds (5.4 kilos) to get down to 120 pounds (54 kg). "I
found muscles I didn't know I had," she says.
On the final dance: "We needed to go balls out," she says.
"Anything and everything I could think of, I threw in."
"During the final (sic) show, Mckenna (Grace) gave me a gift,"
Tonya says. "I opened it up the next day. She gave me a card and
this little box. It's a necklace and it looks like the Mirrorball
(the trophy given to the winner). Right then and there, I put
Harding chokes up at the memory. "It gets me every time I think
about it," she says. "It was so thoughtful. She is the most well-
spoken little girl I've met in my life."
There is also a hint that Tonya may be on the move sometime in
the future, as problems with allergies & asthma make her consider
moving to a drier climate- but don't worry, she's not abandoning
"We don't know when or where, but my health is not good here,"
she says. "We hope someday we'll be able to afford to buy some
property and build our own home, probably in some place on the
eastern side of the state. I love working outside and building
fences and decks and doing yardwork and landscaping. But I love
it here, too. It depends on life in itself and what comes our
On her life now: "I really enjoy talking to people and letting
them know that life is too precious to throw it away," she says.
"Always know that God put you here for a reason. You have to find
that reason and believe in yourself and keep going, no matter
"I love me. My family loves me. My friends love me. And now
America has turned around and seen the real me and known the
TURNING JAPANESE - "I, TONYA" GETS THUMBS-UP FROM COMPUTER NERD
May saw the final step on I, Tonya's theatrical run, with it
opening in Japan.
We haven’t heard much more about Japan (at least not in English)
but there is this tweet from Hideo Kojima that gives the film
high praise. He’s one of Japan’s top video game designers, being
the guy behind "Metal Gear Solid" amongst others, so his
recommendation gives the movie some serious geek cred:
A WHITER SHADE OF PALE - "I, TONYA" SOUNDTRACK SPECIAL OFFER
Here's a chance to get ahold of a unique piece of "I, Tonya"
merchandise: Milan Records is releasing the soundtrack album on
pearlescent white vinyl - just like the ice Tonya skated upon!
It's a limited run of 500, and was released 18 May - so order
If you dip out, it will also available in boring old black:
Note that these are both cut-down versions and don't contain all
the tracks on the CD.
The irony, of course, is that vinyl LPs were pretty much dead at
the time Tonya was at the peak of her career. But hey, if vinyl
can make a comeback, so can Tonya. No word on whether they plan
to go authentically '90's retro and put it out on cassette.
ROCK OPERA MAKES TEXAS DEBUT
The Tonya/Nancy rock opera made its Texas debut in late June at
Ohlook! Performing Arts in Grapevine, near Dallas.
This production features Kristin Payne Smith as Tonya and Lacey
Jane Dangerstone (is that a badass name or what?) as Nancy, with
Samantha Padilla playing both mothers. Justin Rowe (Jeff), Jason
Solis (Shawn) and Maxwell Skaggs (Shane) round out the rest of
Director Jill Lord explains how she came to be involved in the
production: "New York Musical Festival is where I saw Tonya and
Nancy. I tried to get them to let me do the show right after I
saw it but they were making some changes and didn’t want to
license it yet, so when we were planning our summer season this
year, I thought I’d reach out again and fortunately this time
they said yes! I think it’s important to champion new works and
"I met with the writer in New York and she said she has always
been just a little obsessed with the story. I know she was
writing it before she knew about the movie, so it’s just kind of
a weird coincidence that all of these happened at the same time.
She is trying to make it to the final weekend of our
performances. I haven’t read The Ice Treatment, but now I think
I’ll have to order it!"
On her production: "Oh it’s definitely campy. Or at least our
take on it is. How can an 'opera' about ice skating be anything
but? Ha ha! When I saw the NYMF version I thought they played a
lot of it too straight so as I was watching it I was thinking,
'Oh, they should have done it like this, or that, blah, blah….'
Of course I tend to do that with almost everything I watch. I
feel like I’m either re-directing everything in my head or
watching thinking, that’s so cool I’m going to steal that!"
On the music: "Some of the music is very challenging. Nancy’s
music is very 'operatic' in parts and written for a true soprano.
I think the writers have taken a bit of a stretch calling it an
'opera' since there is dialogue as well (it is not completely
sung through) but it also just adds to the comedy to think of it
in an operatic fashion!"
The reviewer describes the show as "appropriately campy and over-
the-top. As expected in a rock opera, the music is guitar-heavy,
and most of the performers jibe with the style. Dangerstone nails
it in the post-attack song 'Why Me?' and my favorite number is
Gillooly’s song 'When You Wake Up Sleeping in Your Car in
Estacada.' The two leads sing beautifully, and chorus numbers are
mostly strong, with Breanne Jackson and Mallory Roelke as
This production was unfortunately only for two weeks and not
widely advertised. Hopefully, given the positive write-up, it'll
return to the Texas sometime soon for a longer run.
COSTUME AUCTION RESULT
Last issue we made reference to an auction for one of Tonya's
costumes that she wore at the Olympics.
This closed on May 6 with a bid of $14,730.00, including buyer's
premium, after attracting three bids. We think who ever got it
made a sound investment.
"I, TONYA" - THE REVIEW
And now, what you've all been waiting months for - Terry Hall,
Head of the PDXISS Special Duties Section, gives our verdict on
"I, Tonya". He says:
Okay. I've now seen it several times from a screener and four
times on a big screen - two small arthouse cinemas, a large
multiplex, and an outdoor screening. All were well-attended. I'm
not going to go through it scene by scene - you've all seen it by
now and know the story. So let's take this sucker apart, and see
how it measures up against the Special Duties Section's exacting
Let's cut to the chase: it's just as badass as I hoped it would
be. I don't really see it as a comedy - with the exception of
LaVona's parrot and the bumbling antics of Shawn Eckardt and his
"agents" there's not really a great deal to laugh at at all. I
don't see it as making fun of domestic violence or rednecks as
some critics have complained. Certainly no-one was laughing
during the violent bits at any of the screenings I was at.
Firstly, the casting. Margot doesn't really look much like Tonya
- but they do seem to have bent over backwards to try and make up
for it by emulating Tonya's hair, makeup and costumes down to the
last sequin. And Aussie Margot does a passable Oregon accent. I
was worried that as somebody who is more familiar with Tonya than
most people I wouldn't be able to suspend disbelief and buy into
Margot as Tonya, but this wasn't a problem in practice. Certainly
it won't be a problem for the vast bulk of the audience who have
only a vague idea of what the real Tonya looks like.
Sebastian Stan is excellent as Gillooly - much better than I
initially thought he would be. He sounds creepily like him, based
on what little material is available of the real one, and should
have got a Best Supporting Actor nom. And that terrible mustache
is perfect down to the last hair.
Allison Janney nails Tonya's mother LaVona to a T, and thoroughly
deserves her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Much of the abuse she
hurls at wee Tonya (who is well-played by Mckenna Grace)
accurately mirrors what has been confirmed by independent
witnesses. Yes, LaVona really did tell Tonya "that girl is your
enemy", force her to "skate wet", and beat her with a hairbrush.
And Tonya has a scar to prove the knife incident. Julianne
Nicholson, bedecked with a blonde wig, nicely captures Tonya's
prim and proper coach Diane Rawlinson, though oddly, the real
Diane Rawlinson was actually better-looking - usually it's the
other way around in movies.
As by now you're well aware, the film starts with Margot, made up
to look like an older Tonya, being interviewed in the present day
for a "Price of Gold"-type documentary, along with Jeff, LaVona,
Shawn, Diane and a fictional tabloid journalist called Martin
Maddox (played with suitable oily charm by Bobby Cannavale), all
of whom reflect on Tonya's life in flashback. Needless to say,
they agree on very little as being the "truth".
Personally I found this "meta" approach to be a bit gimmicky,
with it having been used in other recent films like "Casting
JonBenet" and "Kate Plays Christine". As hard-core Tonyaphiles
will know, it's also been used with the Tonya story itself in the
earlier TV movie "Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story" in 1994, which
also featured a "he said/she said" approach, characters breaking
the fourth wall and interviews with fake journalists. Another
film from that same period, "The Positively True Adventures Of
The Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom" (1993) also used
fake interviews with the protagonist. Apparently there were even
more of these in the script, but it's unclear how many were
filmed and then ditched. It might appear innovative to critics
and audiences with short memories, but credit must go to these
earlier films for using these ideas first.
In terms of accuracy, I would say that in general terms it's
largely accurate - but it shouldn't be mistaken for a
documentary. It's quite upfront about the fact it's based on
unreliable, contradictory sources and often introduces deliberate
errors to exaggerate this, such as scenes that never happened,
e.g. the scene where Tonya tells a skating judge to do something
anatomically impossible. The film also deliberately plays with
time to heighten this sense of ambiguity, such as bogus dates on
security camera videos and the broken clock behind the "Hard
Copy" guy. Further examples of this are the fact that Tonya won
her 1994 title on the 8th, not 7th of January, she reunited with
Jeff back around mid '93, not for a few weeks as stated, and the
Olympic Committee decided on Lillehammer as the location for the
1994 Winter Games in 1988, not after the Albertville Games, as is
implied here. Other "alternative facts" I've noticed:
- the real Tonya didn't skate to ZZ Top until the 90/91 season as
far as I can tell - she was still skating to classical music in
1986. And vocals weren't allowed in skating music until recently;
- real Tonya didn't say "suck my d__k" to a skating judge - even
she wasn't that much of a badass. But apparently the real Tonya
enjoyed that sequence, so if it's okay for her, it's okay for me;
- her split with Diane was amicable; it was she who suggested
Tonya move to Dody Teachman, not Tonya;
Again, it's an unnecessary gimmick approach. Unlike other films
which mess with the truth, however (Oliver Stone's "JFK", for
instance), it is at least honest about what it's doing.
One further factual criticism: there is too much swearing,
particularly from Tonya. With an estimated 123 f-words (and
numerous other profanities) it actually has over double that of
the legendarily potty-mouthed hockey classic "Slap Shot" (1977)
which only had 61, making it probably the most foul-mouthed movie
on skates - and certainly the only R-rated movie about figure
skating. While as there's plenty of independent eye-witness
evidence that LaVona had a mouth like a sewer, the real Tonya
doesn't swear that much, according to people who know her well.
Scriptwriter Steven Rogers has to take most of the blame for
this, as well as Margot improvising. The film seems like a
middle-class gay man's idea of how to depict someone as "white
trash" - have them use the f-word constantly, and it makes Tonya
look unnecessarily vulgar. A better writer would have found a
more subtle way. LaVona's swearing is more than enough to get the
desired R rating, if that was the intention.
The first half of the film mainly deals with Tonya's turbulent
relationship with Jeff - thankfully it mostly goes with Tonya's
version of things here - and her increasingly strained
relationship with the skating establishment, who dislike her
inability (or unwillingness) to conform to their antiquated 1950s
Stepford-wife vision of what a ladies figure skating champion
should be. There's no mention of Elaine Stamm's fan club. And I'm
bitterly disappointed that we don't get to see Margot re-enact
the Wedding Night Video.
Obviously a key measure of success for any biopic about Tonya has
to be its depiction of her skating. And here I'm pleased to say
that "I, Tonya" delivers by the truckload. The key skating scenes
in Tonya's career - including her 1991 Nationals triple axel and
two Olympic Games - are all recreated with great precision,
mostly by Margot herself, with stunt doubles and CGI only being
employed for the most difficult stuff like spins and jumps. Craig
Gillespie's decision to go for the full 2.35:1 widescreen aspect
ratio really pays dividends here.
The skating sequences are exciting and dynamic, thanks to a
Steadicam operator who could skate and follow Margot around on
the ice. It's also benefited from advances in CGI that mean the
director no longer has to disguise the use of stunt doubles with
spotlights or arty music video-type editing, as was the case in
earlier skating movies like "The Cutting Edge" or the 1994
Tonya/Nancy TV movie. I don't see the problems with the FX that
some people have complained of, despite having viewed it several
times at 4K resolution on a big cinema screen. I suspect that
many of those complaining have become so used to seeing the fake-
looking effects of too many superhero movies that they can no
longer tell what's real anymore.
The Triple Axel scene in particular is the highlight of the movie
for any Tonyaphile, being done twice, once in real time and then
again lovingly in slow motion to Joanie Summers' "Little Girl
Bad". Finally, Tonya realizes that she's not the loser she's been
told she was by so many people in her life.
Apparently the filmmakers seem to be unaware of the real reason
why Tonya bombed in Albertville - not excessive boozing and
pool-playing as shown, but rather the USFSA holding her back for
medical tests, resulting in her arriving late and jet-lagged.
Only two other quibbles: Most of Tonya's practice was actually at
mall rinks, rather than at dedicated skating facilities, but
puzzlingly, a mall rink is only shown once. This is important as
it emphasizes Tonya's poverty - she couldn't afford private ice-
time. Also, unfortunately the Batman & Jurassic Park themes are
substituted with generic music, presumably because of clearance
issues, but we do get ZZ Top's "Sleeping Bag" & LaTour's "People
Are Still Having Sex". And let's face it, a Tonya movie without
"People Are Still Having Sex" is like a Vietnam War movie without
a track by The Doors or Jefferson Airplane - kind of missing
About halfway through, we get to The Whack, or as Margot calls it
"the f-ing incident". Here, regrettably, it mostly goes with
Jeff's version - though his claim that it was originally a plot
to just send Nancy threatening letters and it was Shawn's
decision to escalate the whole thing into physical violence
behind his back is ridiculous, and contradicts everything he said
at the time. This is at least his fourth version of events he's
come out with over the years and yet another reason to distrust
anything he says about Tonya. As the Maddox character points out,
why do you need training times if you're just mailing letters?
Here, however, is where Paul Walter Hauser comes into his own: I
think the only reason this guy was actually conceived was so that
one day he could play Shawn Eckardt, and in my view, he should
have also got a Best Supporting Actor nom as well. In a
subsequent interview he mentioned that he tracked down Eugene
Saunders, the church minister whom the real Shawn revealed his
plan to, as part of his research. The New Year's Eve practice
scene where he brags about his "two top operatives" and "balls in
motion" and "shit to fry" is hilarious, even if it never happened
that way. In any case, it's suggested that although Tonya was
aware of the death-threat plot, she viewed it as just another one
of Shawn's fantastic schemes with no chance of ever coming to
There are many subtle touches here, which often only become
noticeable on subsequent viewings, e.g. Shawn asking his mother
if they've got any shortbread for the FBI agents, one of whom is
black. Eckardt is so white, he doesn't know many real black
people and thinks they all eat shortnin' bread and watermelons.
He and Jeff meet at a bar where the stripper is fat, with saggy
boobs. These guys are such losers, they can't even afford decent
Shawn's "hit team" are also suitably buffoonish, pumping
themselves up to Laura Branigan's "Gloria" as they drive to the
rink, one of the film's nice comic touches. In terms of the
clubbing itself, I have to admit that the recreation of this
could have been better done, particularly given that this is the
"money shot" of the whole film. For a start, Ricky Russert is
badly miscast as Shane Stant, who was actually of part Hawaiian
heritage and looks nothing like him. Is this political
correctness run amuck, in that they don't want the hit man to
look black? It seems hard to see what other reason there is for
this miscasting given the attention to detail elsewhere. Caitlyn
Carver doesn't really look much like Nancy either, but she's only
on screen for a few minutes so it doesn't really matter. The real
Cobo arena was in an urban area, not semi-rural as shown, and had
alot more snow around, but hey, that's what happens when you film
in Georgia for tax reasons. Stant actually head-butted the
Plexiglas panel out of the door, and didn't smash any glass. And
where the heck is Gene Samuels and his video camera, who captured
the footage of Nancy wailing? Still, Peter Nashel's creepy score
and Tatiana Riegel's editing adds atmosphere to the scene, as we
feel Stant's tension as he psychs himself up to do the dirty
The post-Whack media circus nicely captures the hell that Tonya
was put through. Her truck really was towed, though from outside
the mall rink, not her house. LaVona really did wear a wire to
try and entrap her. Tonya's apology for not owning up sooner is
recreated virtually word for word. As "old" Tonya puts it in her
interview, "I thought being famous was gonna be fun. I was loved
for a minute. Then I was hated. Then I was just a punchline. It
was like being abused all over again. Only this time it was by
you. All of you. You're all my attackers too."
Which reminds me: you know what's missing from the movie? It
needs a Tarantinoesque-type scene in which a smug, self-righteous
sportswriter - not thinking of anyone in particular here - gets
brutally clubbed to death with a baseball bat to the music of
some long-forgotten mid-1970s one-hit-wonder like "Ma, He's
Making Eyes At Me" by Lena Zavaroni. Okay, it never happened, but
like the "suck my d--k" scene which never happened either, it
would be very, very satisfying.
Eventually we get to Norway. The whole broken shoelace meltdown
is very accurately recreated, even down to Scott Hamilton's
commentary, which is recited virtually word for word. Apparently
this was researched from Japanese HDTV footage that was found
online that captured dialog not picked up by the American network
feeds. We see the culmination of twenty years of hard work going
down the gurgler in front of millions of TV viewers as Tonya's
skating dreams come to a catastrophic end.
But there's worse to come. Back in Portland, Tonya pleads guilty
to hindering the prosecution. Here we have more embellishment:
the plea bargain actually only required Tonya to resign from the
USFSA - it was the latter organization that imposed the life ban.
Her tearful courtroom speech to Judge Londer never happened -
Tonya just said "I'm sorry I interfered" - but the movie version
helps to hammer home the extent of Tonya's loss: her one source
of stability, her skating, is now gone too. And the truth is the
media were actually long gone from outside Jeff's house (Tonya
had moved out several weeks earlier) by the time of OJ's Bronco
chase. Once it became obvious there would be no trial, they had
already moved on.
The film ends with a montage of Tonya's short-lived boxing career
- Tonya reasons that since her life often includes getting beaten
up, she might as well at least get paid for it. It's suitably
bloody, and painful to watch. The original script had a happier
ending, but we all knew that a happy ending to this saga just
wouldn't ring true. Doris Day's "Dream A Little Dream", which is
also used during Tonya & Jeff's wedding reception earlier on,
plays in the background of this violence. It's an old trick,
resembling the sequence in "Good Morning Vietnam" where "It's a
Wonderful World" plays over scenes of villages being napalmed -
but it works.
On the topic of the soundtrack music: some people have complained
about the amount of "needle drops" of pop music sprinkled
throughout the film, which they see as excessive, overused or
era-inappropriate, given it's mostly from the 70's. However, as
has been pointed out, this was the time when Tonya grew up, so
she would have been influenced by music like this. Craig
Gillespie manages the seemingly impossible - making 1970s-era
Cliff Richard sound cool (and by the way, the "Devil Woman"
refers to baby Tonya, not LaVona, as "she gets (Diane) from
behind"). Personally I would have gone with "My Way" by Sid
Vicious, and maybe some E.L.O. and New York Dolls, but any movie
that uses Siouxsie and the Banshees over the end credits scores
serious points in my book.
The end credits have the nice touch of playing the real Tonya's
1991 nationals 3 axel routine, plus clips of the real Jeff,
LaVona (from Sandra Luckow's "Sharp Edges") and Shawn (which
reveals he really was as deluded as portrayed). We've seen all
these clips before, but most of the public haven't. Mention
should also be made of Peter Nashel's three classical pieces that
were specially composed for the film; "A Fair Shot", "The
Incident", and "Tonya Suite", the latter which is also played
over the credit sequence.
To summarize: Margot, Sebastian, Allison, Paul, Craig, Steven &
their team have provided a well-crafted and stylish addition to
the Tonya legend. Margot depicts Tonya as a cool, sexy badass, "a
rebel without applause", which is what we've all known she was.
Steven Rogers, formerly consigned to Hollywood's scrap-heap as a
has-been writer of the now unfashionable rom-com genre, has
successfully rebooted his career with this one. His script may be
a bit too clever, and a bit too profane, but it does contain
memorable dialog - "retarded tooth fairy", "soft four", and the
"gardener/flower" scene - that will stick in the memory for many
years to come. And overall it does Tonya justice, even if we
would have preferred it to ignore Jeff's side of things. Craig
Gillespie, who prior to this was generally viewed as a journeyman
director best known for making a quirky comedy about a guy and a
sex doll, completely redefines his reputation here, directing
with style and flair - "Goodfellas" of figure skating is right!
Thematically, it ticks all the right boxes: the classism &
elitism of the snooty figure skating establishment;
tabloidization of the media with its fake news and alternative
facts; bullying and toxic masculinity (currently in the spotlight
thanks to the #MeToo movement) and a realization that the system
is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful - all subjects that
are resonating more than ever today. As a result, it's a Tonya
movie for our times.
To be sure, it's not perfect, and could have benefitted if the
filmmakers had filmed in Portland (which apparently was
considered), and chosen to interact with the Tonyaphile community
more to get it more accurate. And a bigger budget would always be
welcome. But we don't live in a perfect world, and "I, Tonya" is
certainly far better than what we could have ended up with.
Regardless of its limitations, it has one big thing going for it:
it's changing people's minds about Tonya. It's as if someone has
given us a free, 11 million dollar, 2-hour advertisement for
Tonya, starring the chick from Suicide Squad and the guy from
Winter Soldier and helmed by one of the world's top commercial
directors. And it hasn't cost us a dime! It might not be
everything we want, but it's doing its job as a piece of pro-
Tonya propaganda, and for me that's what really counts. It's
already got Tonya on Dancing With The Stars.
For these reasons, I think it deserves a solid 5.8 out of 6.0.
And that's the f-ing truth.
TONYAS FOR SALE
As The Beatles once sang, you "Can't Buy Me Love". But you can
buy a Tonya.
Listen - Do You Want To Know A Secret? There's a guy with a Tonya
for sale in Santa Monica:
In fact, two Tonyas. Okay, they're not actually real, only
cardboard, and they're just Margot pretending to be Tonya, but
they're very lifelike - indeed, when I Saw Her Standing There, my
immediate reaction was I Wanna Hold Your Hand. And at 30 bucks
each, it's enough to make any Tonyaphile want to Twist & Shout.
But I suspect that at that price they won't last long, so you'd
better act fast or else You're Gonna Lose That Girl!
As the seller points out, they're rather large - so you might
need some "Help!" getting them home down The Long & Winding Road.
However, I'm sure that in the end, We Can Work It Out.
NOTE: there is an urban legend going around that there is a
picture of the real Tonya underneath the Margot picture that can
be revealed by peeling off the top Margot picture. DO NOT ATTEMPT
TO DO THIS! It is a myth - there is no other picture hidden
underneath and you will just end up butchering your Tonya!
And you might want a Butcher Cover, but the last thing anybody
would want is a Butchered Tonya...
VISIT THESE GREAT TONYA WEB SITES:
PortIce - http://www.pdxiss.org
David House - http://www.tonyaharding.org
Charlie Main - http://www.charliesweb.com/tonya/tonya.html
Puppetboy - http://www.usapaul.net/tonya/
Valerie Smith - http://www.olywa.net/radu/valerie/LilHam.html
Swan Lake - http://members.tripod.com/~TonyaHarding/index.html
Blades of Gold - http://members.tripod.com/tmhfan/index.html
THNK1994 Museum - https://www.facebook.com/THNK1994/
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