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The Portlandian, the Internet's premier source of Tonya News

May 1st, 2006 Edition - MAY DAY: TONYAPHILES OF THE WORLD UNITE!
(C) 2006 Portland Ice Skating Society
http://www.geocities.com/portice
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Today we have a really diverse lineup of Tonya info: we've more 
on the Tonya/Nancy opera that was mentioned a few months back, a 
review of a major Tonya documentary and an important skating-
oriented book that mentions her, a few odds and ends about 
Tonya's appearances both on TV and in person, an article about 
the shop in Arizona with a connection to an infamous incident, 
and last but not least, a chance to get Stoned with the Special 
Duties Section.


A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

Tommorrow will see the debut of the long awaited opera project 
based on the infamous events of 1994. The public premiere is on 
May 2 at the American Repertory Theatre's Zero Arrow Theatre, in 
Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, at 7 pm and 9 pm and 
will be followed by a panel discussion with the performers and 
the show's creators, Elizabeth Searle and Abigail Al-Doory. The 
opera stars Kristen Sergeant as Tonya, Margaret Hunter as Nancy, 
Joshua Levin as Gillooly, Marli Mesibov as Oksana, and Armen 
Nercessian as Shane. There is also now an official web page 
available at:

http://www.tufts.edu/as/music/t&n.htm

We have also recently received an e-mail from Ms. Searle who is 
the writer of the opera, and she is quite eager to assure 
Tonyaphiles that it will portray Tonya in a sympathetic light, 
and that alot of the media reports about it aren't accurate. For 
instance, she denies making the quote about "America is full of 
Tonya's who want to be Nancy's" that was widely published at the 
time. She also tells us that "Tonya is portrayed by a very 
beautiful talented singer who recently appeared on off-Broadway 
and is a true trained opera singer. Any Tonya fan would be 
thrilled with the casting."

In addition she says: "The opera really is an 'imaginative work' 
not meant to be historic record; for instance, we combine 'Shane' 
and 'Shawn' as one character. And the other characters, including 
our 'Tonya' are our own imaginings, but based on fact."


TONYA "ANYTHING TO WIN" GSN SPECIAL

Tonya has been on TV several times since our last issue. Without 
doubt the appearance most anticipated by Tonyaphiles was that on 
an episode of GSN's "Anything To Win" series that screened on 
March 12. At an hour long, it's one of the most important Tonya 
documentaries for several years.

We have to confess that we were initially skeptical about the 
producer's promises to treat Tonya fairly - it wouldn't be the 
first time that someone has promised Tonya a fair hearing, only 
to do a hatchet job on her in the editing suite. Thankfully we 
were not disappointed. The verdict is that it's pretty much 
essential viewing for any Tonyaphile, despite the fact that it 
doesn't contain an awful lot of previously unseen footage, apart 
from some newly-shot interviews with Tonya (who seems obviously 
angry when she recalls how the 20 years of her life that she 
devoted to skating was effectively destroyed in a matter of a few 
days by the actions of others). The basis for alot of the 
coverage of the early years of Tonya's life is the "Sharp Edges" 
documentary that Sandra Luckow (who is also interviewed) shot in 
1986. And there is a nice shot of Tonya posing with a bunch of 
pumpkins that we haven't seen before - why has this never turned 
up on line anywhere?

Its main asset is that it gives Tonya a fair hearing with none of 
the Gillooly goons getting a look in, unlike what usually happens 
on these things. One slight criticism is that it doesn't really 
cover the "whack" itself in very much detail, though we do get to 
see sequences from the Intersport "Why? Why?" tape that I've not 
seen before of Nancy coming off the ice after her practice 
seconds before the clubbing. It would have been a bit better if 
they'd analyzed the "evidence" (or lack thereof) against Tonya 
more thoroughly.

In the end it is revealed that the "anything" that Tonya will do 
to win is not, as most would expect, a ruthlessness that involves 
injuring competitors but rather her drive and determination to be 
the best that she can be, no matter what the sport.


TONYA ON ET AND GMA

Tonya has also made a couple of other appearances on ET since our 
last issue. On the 27th of February she discussed the skating at 
the Olympics:

http://et.tv.yahoo.com/celebrities/14024/

	"There's four minutes out of your life and it can mean 
	success or it can mean disaster," said Tonya. "Skating is a 
	luck sport; you can be perfect one night and you can just 
	have a really bad day the next day".

	"I really missed Michelle Kwan being able to compete here, 
	but I do give her complete kudos and courage for what she 
	did do. I'm sure everyone's going to look forward to seeing 
	her on tours and to continue to compete if she chooses to 
	do so."

Tonya also appeared on ET again on March 10th with more scenes 
from "Anything To Win" and also showed ET's Jann Carl some 
skating tips:

http://et.tv.yahoo.com/celebrities/14147/

	"Skating was all I had," exclaims Tonya. "I just had enough 
	of my life of being beat up, put down, telling me that I'm 
	not going to amount to anything in my life. I was told that 
	my whole entire life by my mother. I just had had enough."

Tonya was also scheduled to appear that same day on "Good Morning
America". Unfortunately Tonyaphiles were caught on the hop when 
they shifted her segment to the 9th. The good news is that 
Portland TV station KATU has video of her appearance available 
on-line: 

http://www.katu.com/entertainment/story.asp?ID=83972

The segment shows a clip from the GSN "Anything To Win" episode 
and also more footage of Tonya skating (including a jump - a 
double salchow, something that she didn't do on ET or "The 
Insider").


TONYA MAKES APPEARANCES

Tonya has also attended a couple of autograph signing sessions in 
the past two months.

According to the Kansas City Star, Tonya signed autographs at the 
Metro North Mall in that city on the 25th and 26th of March, 
along with what it described as "a cornucopia of colorful 
athletes". Tonya was signing from 1 to 3 pm on Saturday and 
Sunday in the center-court area of the mall.

Tonya was also present at Hollywood Collectors & Celebrities Show 
at the Hilton Burbank Hotel & Convention Center in Burbank, CA. 
on April 22 and 23. You can find more details at the show's 
official site at:

http://www.hollywoodcollectorshow.com/Burbank.htm

Congratulations, by the way, to the organizers for acknowledging 
that Tonya won TWO national figure skating titles, despite the 
attempts by the USFSA to rewrite history and pretend that she 
didn't.


BLASTS FROM THE PAST

Two items have surfaced in recent weeks that relate to the events 
of 1994. The first is an interesting article in the Arizona 
Republic about the shop that sold "the club" that was used in 
you-know-what, and features an interview with store owner Kevin 
Simpson:

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/sports/articles/0214p2main0214.html

Recalling his most (in)famous customer, "I didn't realize it 
until Sports Illustrated called," Simpson said. "I had seen still 
photos of him, but they didn't ring a bell. SI contacted us, and 
then I saw some TV footage of him being led to jail. Then I 
recognized him."

Meanwhile, this web page has a video clip of a short (around 1 
minute) BBC news item from February 1994 reporting on Tonya's 
Lillehammer skate. Quality is pretty poor, but it should have no 
problem playing on a dialup:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/6/newsid_4095000/4095661.stm

Might want to check out that link about the Sex Pistols too!

This is the RealPlayer URL for the clip itself (that's Tonya, not 
the Sex Pistols). You can paste this into the "Open location" box 
in RealPlayer and play the clip directly if the browser plugin 
doesn't work.

rtsp://rmv8.bbc.net.uk/news/media/video/otdvideo/94/02/23/nb/9409_23-02-94_4x3_nb.rm


PAUL BROWN ITEM

The Oregonian also has an item about Paul Brown, Tonya's former 
trainer, his transformation from boxer to mortician to preacher:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/portland_news/1143503749307820.xml&coll=7

Although Brown is critical of Tonya, and still claims he could 
have made her rich, he says "I tell people, this girl is a human 
being, and she should be treated as one". 


AT THE BOOKSTORE: "ON EDGE: BACKROOM DEALING, COCKTAIL SCHEMING, 
TRIPLE AXELS, AND HOW TOP SKATERS GET SCREWED" BY JON JACKSON 
WITH JAMES PEREIRA

We've mentioned this book a couple of times over the past few 
months: written by a long-time skating insider, the book has 
promised to expose serious and long standing problems within the 
sport, and we're pleased to say that it delivers.

"On Edge" starts with Jackson's recounting of Marie Reine 
LeGougne's meltdown in front of him in a hotel lobby and ends 
with a bloody murder on a Moscow street. It is really two books 
in one; the first is essentially one man's journey through figure 
skating, from his first interest in the activity (when he saw a 
flamboyantly-dressed black skater at an Ice Follies show) through 
to successful mid-level competitive skater, to Olympic-level 
judge and finally disillusioned whistleblower. The second story, 
told in parallel with the first, is that of Jackson's personal 
life, in particular coming to the realization that he is gay and 
trying to deal with that fact while growing up in one of the most 
conservatively religious states in America, Utah.

The latter aspect also leads Jackson to tackle the one subject 
about figure skating that every knows but isn't supposed to 
discuss, namely the fact that a disproportionately large 
percentage of the men involved are gay (Jackson estimates around 
50%). He argues that there is a latent homophobia running through 
the top level of figure skating, which is still largely 
administered by straight men despite the fact that most of the 
skaters, officials and audience are either women or gay men. This 
has resulted in issues such as the impact of AIDS being swept 
under the carpet, a topic already broached by Christine Brennan 
in her 1996 book "Inside Edge".

As Jackson works his way through the system he starts to realize 
that a skater's marks aren't totally about their performance: 
having the "right" coach, outfit and background are equally if 
not more important. Indeed, there is a noticeable increase in 
cynicism apparent as the book progresses, as Jackson finally 
starts to see the true nature of how top-level figure skating is 
controlled. The portrait that he paints of many of his fellow 
officials is far from flattering, which is that of a pretentious 
bunch of poseurs more interested in shagging each other and 
attending lavish parties than in judging skaters fairly. It is 
rumored that Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain" was written 
about Warren Beatty, but from the way Jackson tells it it could 
well have been about a skating judge.

Ever wondered why every judge's marks for each skater are usually 
so close together? It's simple - in many cases, they're decided 
beforehand at these parties, something that is referred to as 
"chatter". He also reveals the startling fact that some judges 
are whacked out on Valium whilst judging in order to settle their 
nerves. It is all information that will come as no surprise to 
any Tonyaphile, though it's refreshing to hear it from a skating 
insider.

Jackson mentions Tonya at several places in the book, but his 
main discussion of her is from pages 144 to 148. It's stuff that 
could have come straight out of any issue of "The Portlandian": 
in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he's read some of our 
material as he even at one place uses the same phrase - "bungling 
simpletons" - to describe the USFSA as we do at the bottom of 
http://www.geocities.com/portice/defense.htm. He recounts the 
well-known facts about Tonya's humble upbringing and rough edges, 
and how the USFSA gave her no support. However, interestingly, he 
not only points out how unfair this was to Tonya but also how it 
arguably cost the US a gold medal in '94. He compares how the 
Eastern Bloc federations, for instance, mentor athletes from 
deprived backgrounds (such as Oksana Baiul), spinning their life 
stories into heroic overcoming-the-odds tales and lobbying for 
them amongst the judges, while as the USFSA just saw Tonya as an 
embarrassment. He also gives a detailed analysis of why he thinks 
Tonya was a better skater than either Baiul or Irina Slutskaya 
(and drops a not terribly oblique hint that he thinks the latter 
may be using drugs). He believes that had the USFSA treated Tonya 
better, seen her as an asset because of her physical prowess, 
positioned her as the American success story of "the poor girl 
from the wrong side of the tracks made good" and lobbied for her 
amongst the judges the whole kneeclubbing incident would likely 
have not taken place and the US would have taken home a gold as 
well as a silver from Lillehammer. Instead, says Jackson, they 
blew it because they were more concerned about keeping the 
"wrong" sort of person out of the sport.

Then we get to the really good oil on page 148, where he says:

	It is my firm belief that the body that kept Tonya 
	struggling the majority of her career, and that continues 
	to keep her out of making a livelihood at what she does 
	best - figure-skating - is most at fault. Could it be that 
	seeing a little raggedy girl, who maybe drank too much, or 
	who stomped her cigarette butts out with the edge of her 
	blade before going out to perform, reminded many of her 
	judges just how close to home they still were?

He then launches into a particularly blistering attack on those 
judges who play games at the expense of athletes, whom he 
characterizes as "a parasitic army of insecure barnacles", a 
bunch of phonies more interested in fancy fur coats and cocktail 
parties than the interests of skaters. He also reiterates the 
total lack of evidence against Tonya:

	There was never any solid evidence that proved that Tonya 
	had anything to do with her worthless ex-husband's attack 
	on Nancy Kerrigan. Tonya said she didn't know anything 
	about it. No other court of arbitration was involved to 
	prove otherwise. Yet the bungling simpletons of U.S. Figure 
	Skating blamed and convicted her anyway, making her the 
	first person ever banned from the sport for life. They 
	didn't care that there was no proof. All they cared about 
	was that they finally had a way to get rid of the shabby 
	little girl that didn't represent their ideal of figure-
	skating.

	If Tonya could have stayed focused, she probably would have 
	medaled at the 1994 Olympics. She was technically better. 
	She had the skills to beat - or at least be on the podium 
	with - Nancy Kerrigan. She didn't have the elegance of 
	Nancy, or the propaganda of Oksana, but she was a better 
	athlete, and she had the triple axel.

In the latter chapters of the book he details the legal 
shenanigans and bully-boy tactics used by the ISU and its USFSA 
toadies to kneecap the doomed World Skating Federation before it 
barely got off the ground. These included exerting pressure on 
others within the skating business not to co-operate with the 
WSF, changing their interpretation of the rules randomly on the 
fly whenever it suited them (or just ignoring them altogether) 
and trying to stack so-called "independent" arbitration panels 
with their own lackeys. To call the process a "kangaroo court" 
would be insulting to kangaroos. The IOC was no help - the so-
called "Mr Clean" of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, wouldn't even meet 
with the WSF. So much for being the new broom. Interestingly, 
Jackson seems to think that the speedskaters at the ISU 
(Cinquanta excepted, of course) were actually more sympathetic 
towards him than the ISU figure skating crowd were, who seemed to 
be too busy plotting, conniving and stabbing each other in the 
back to actually form a united group supporting their sport's 
interests.

One thing, I think, that comes out of this is certain: Tonya 
would have had absolutely no chance of being allowed to stay in 
the USFSA even if she had gone to the hearing in Colorado Springs 
and no matter how good a case her lawyer had put up. It would 
have been a show trial with a predictable outcome. And it 
reinforces the belief that the ISU/USFSA does have the power to 
scare off others within skating that are theoretically outside of 
its control from dealing with people they don't like. If the WSF, 
with so much support from so many big-name skating insiders such 
as fans, skaters, officials and promoters couldn't fight Darth 
Speedy's evil Imperial Forces, what luck would Tonya, who was 
never an insider, have had?

The track record makes depressing reading: all of the 
whistleblowers - Jean Senft, Ted Clarke, Jon Jackson, Ron 
Pfenning, Sonia Bianchetti - have all either been silenced, 
booted out of skating or have left of their own accord because 
the stench was getting so bad it was making them vomit. 
Meanwhile, all of the crooks - LeGougne, Gailhaguet, Balkov, etc 
have recieved slap on the wrist sentences that are due to expire. 
There is, however, at least one guy who definitely won't be 
rigging any more skating contests: Chevalier Nusuyev, head of the 
Russian Youth Sports Federation and believed to have been part of 
the Russian end of the Salt Lake City fix died late last August 
of a fatal case of lead poisoning - the .38 caliber kind - when a 
hitman pumped five slugs into him as he was leaving his office in 
Moscow. Guess it doesn't pay to get yourself caught on a police 
wiretap.

Overall, the book is quite readable, more in the style of 
Brennan's "Inside Edge" than Bianchetti's "Cracked Ice". His 
scathing comments on his fellow official's appearances come 
across as a kind of "queer eye for the crooked judge", something 
that some reviewers have criticized the book for, but at the end 
of the day he's only reflecting the unhealthy obsession that his 
targets have with fashion anyway, so I think it's justified. As 
some people have pointed out, there is one aspect that is a flaw 
in that it doesn't describe the structures of the ISU & USFSA 
very well - obviously this is a book that is written for those 
that follow skating closely which might make it hard for the 
general reader to follow. He also asks some tantalizingly 
interesting questions about where the USFSA's huge $US16m budget 
and $US3m a year surplus goes (only around a tenth - $US1.6m - 
gets spent on skaters), but it's a pity that there's no answers. 
Perhaps some of the USFSA's "business partners" in Detroit that 
we mentioned a few issues ago might know? Hopefully some local 
investigative journalist will take up the case one day.

Essential reading for any Tonyaphile or serious skating fan.


GETTING STONED WITH TONYA

Recently Terry Hall of our Special Duties Section had the 
privilege of seeing the Rolling Stones in concert in Wellington 
in what will probably be their final ever performance in New 
Zealand. As it turned out, at least one Stone (Keith Richards) 
was back here rather unexpectedly when he fell out of a coconut 
tree in Fiji a few days ago and had to be flown to hospital in 
Auckland. Of course, some people may say that with all the drugs 
he's done during his career, he's been out of his tree for about 
30 years.

Which lead to an interesting question being debated around the 
PDXISS offices: what, if any, is the connection between the 
Rolling Stones and Tonya? We can think of two (and so far as we 
know, Tonya has never skated to any Stones music). If you can 
think of any, we'd be interested to hear it. The winner gets... 
well, nothing, actually, apart from the smug, self-satisfied 
feeling of knowing you know something that most other people 
don't.

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VISIT THESE GREAT TONYA WEB SITES:

PortIce - http://www.geocities.com/portice
David House - http://www.tonyaharding.org
Charlie Main - http://www.charliesweb.com/tonya/tonya.html
Puppetboy - http://www.tonyaharding.us/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
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