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The Portlandian, the Internet's premier source of Tonya News
February 5, 2008 Edition - SPECIAL SUPER-DUPER TUESDAY EDITION
(C) 2008 Portland Ice Skating Society
Welcome to the first edition of "The Portlandian" for the new
year. Today we have an exciting piece of news about the Tonya
opera that we mentioned previously, some new (old) photos, a look
at U.S. politics from a Tonyaphile's perspective and catch up
with a man who proves you really can live twice.
OPERA WILL BE ROCKED BY TONYA APPEARANCE
Last issue we mentioned that the Tonya opera that premiered a
couple of years ago was undergoing a major transformation into a
rock opera that is scheduled to make its debut this month in
Portland. Now, we have an extra exciting piece of news: Tonya
herself will be present on opening night! It seems that the
show's artistic director, Don Horn, is a major Tonyaphile who has
been in contact with Tonya for several months about the project.
According to an article in "Willamette Week", Horn quotes Tonya
as saying: "I heard about the show back East and didn't care. I
trust you'll bring the truth to the stage."
The Estacada News also features a lengthy article on the opera
(no doubt because it includes a song containing the town's name),
in which Horn promises a show that is more sympathetic to Tonya:
"I think Tonya deserves credit for being the athlete she was, and
Nancy wasn't the clean-cut kid everybody made her out to be":
Horn, the founder of Triangle Productions in Portland, learned of
the original show after reading an article in the Oregonian in
May 2006. He then contacted the opera's creators, novelist
Elizabeth Searle and her niece, Abigail Al-Doory Cross about
expanding it into a rock opera. "I was thrilled when Don
contacted me. I felt like Portland was the perfect place to
launch this as a bigger show," Searle said. Horn says his next
plan is to tour the show outside of Oregon with the ultimate goal
of ending up off-Broadway in New York.
Composer Michael Teoli of Orchestral Mayhem Productions in
Burbank, CA., was commissioned to put Searle's words to new
music. Teoli's previous work includes music for theater, rock
bands and over a dozen films (including the final film in the
"Lord of the Rings" trilogy). Two local artists will fill the
main roles: coffee-shop singer & songwriter Beth Willis will play
Tonya and rapper & soulstress Lilla D'Mone will play the other
skater. Dale Johannes plays Gillooly. The show features twenty
songs, amongst them "Whip Her Butt", "Watch Your Back," "Balls to
Get Punched in the Face" and last but certainly not least, "When
You Wake Up Sleeping in Your Car in Estacada."
Nine performances of "Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera" will be
held at the World Trade Center Auditorium in downtown Portland,
starting on Feb. 21 and running through March 9. Tickets are $22
general admission in advance, $25 at the door, and $20 for
students and seniors with valid identification. Tickets for the
opening night are $40, and Tonya will be doing a meet and greet
afterwards. You can also purchase tickets online at:
This sounds like a must-see event for Tonyaphiles in the Portland
area, especially since Tonya herself will be present on opening
night. For more information, phone 503-239-5919, or visit these
TONYA ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
The past three months have seen Tonya make several public
appearances. The first was in Harrison, Arkansas, where she
signed autographs at Royal 66 Theater in Mountain Home on the
15th of November and at Mid-States Promotion's Boxing Fight Night
at the Northwest Arkansas Fairgrounds Indoor Expo Building on the
17th. She also took the opportunity to announce her plans to
Tonya got a warm reception, as indicated in this lengthy (and
shock, horror - POSITIVE) article in a local newspaper:
"I just love it here. It reminds me a little bit of home," she
said. "The first day I got here, on my way to the condo where I'm
staying, we saw a 4 by. A 4-point buck standing right by the
road, not even a 150 yards from where I'm staying. Everybody has
just been so gracious in all the areas that I've gone to, I
couldn't have expected anything better."
"I'm very proud of what I've done in my life. There's only a few
things in my life that people can't take away from me and one of
them is my triple axel that I did. I was the only American woman
to do it for so many years," said Harding as her bright blue eyes
sparkled while she recalled the feat. "And my pride and love for
me. Nobody's going to take that away from me, no matter what."
Tonya also participated in fundraising efforts as well:
"We're also auctioning off a bunch of different items," she said.
"I'll have a set of boxing gloves that I'm going to autograph and
all the proceeds will go to getting equipment for the kids that
are learning to box in the area."
The article also reveals that Tonya has lost a considerable
amount of weight and is now down to 124 pounds (56 kilos) and
contains a photo of Tonya signing autographs, the first new photo
we've seen for several months, though unfortunately it doesn't
show her face very well.
Tonya's next appearance was in Kansas City in December at an
event entitled "Season's Beatings", where Tonya was billed as
"The Most Dangerous Woman in Ice Skating". According to a mention
in a Kansas City paper a press release promised 15 cage matches
as well as "scantily clad ring card girls, ear-splitting rock
music and free beer", which combined with the presence of Tonya,
made for the perfect guys night out.
The Kansas City Star published a followup article about Tonya's
attendance. It's a lengthy (3 pages), and quite positive article,
with a good photo:
Another long, positive interview with three great pictures:
You can click on the pictures for bigger versions.
Ever notice how the articles written by people who have actually
MET Tonya in person are generally alot more positive than those
by people who haven't? I guess that those that do meet her
quickly discover she isn't anything like the popular image that
Tonya was also supposed to fight at an event in Mobile, Alabama
on Jan. 26th, headlining a bill with Eric "Butterbean" Esch at a
mixed martial arts event entitled "Rumble In The Cage":
The event was canceled at short notice.
MORE RARE TONYA PHOTOS
We've also now uploaded the last major batch of Joe Haran's Tonya
photos. These are of extra-special interest as they are some of
the few known shots in existence that show Tonya skating in the
months immediately following the Whacking, and like the other
photos in our series have as far as we're aware not been
published anywhere else before:
Most show Tonya at practice at the Clackamas rink, in particular
an attempt by her to develop a Pairs routine with a local skating
instructor that unfortunately to our knowledge never made a
public debut. Notice in particular the enhancement to Tonya's,
er, "upper body area", which would put the time frame probably
around late 1994, after her plastic surgery, and certainly after
the shooting of most of her footage for the film "Breakaway".
THE ANTI-TONYA CANDIDATES
It may be fourteen years ago, but Tonya bashing just won't go
away, and surfaces even in the strangest places. For instance,
two major U.S. Presidential candidates have both made comments in
recent weeks relating to Tonya, and they ain't nice. It appears
that Obama's a Tonyaphobe and Huckabee's a Nancy-boy:
"Senator Barack Obama told an audience at a middle school in
Knoxville that everyone expects him to attack his opponents at
some point. 'Everyone says I need to knee-cap the front
runner,' Mr. Obama said, referring presumably to Senator
Hillary Rodham Clinton. 'You know, do a Tonya Harding on
We think that for a guy who wants the most powerful job in the
country he seems to have done a pretty lousy job of his research,
something that we certainly hope isn't indicative of the way
he'll run a future administration. If he'd bothered to get his
facts right he'd know that, to paraphrase a certain infamous
President from the past, "she is not a crook".
Meanwhile on the Republican side, former Arkansas governor Mike
Huckabee was also in an anti-Tonya mode for a group of reporters
on New Year's Day in Cedar Rapids:
"The Tonya Harding school of politics doesn't play in Iowa,"
Mr. Huckabee said. "We're going to be Nancy Kerrigan this
This seems a pretty poor analogy to us - Huckabee should remember
what happened to Nancy at the Olympics. If he survives today's
"Super Tuesday" ballot he could well find that come election day
voters will give him what he wishes for, and that like Nancy
Kerrigan he will find himself finishing in second place behind a
woman. And Tonyaphiles in the U.S. might want to remember these
anti-Tonya comments when they cast their votes both in today's
primaries and in the election later this year.
Hey, at least we're bi-partisan - there are candidates in both
parties we don't like.
THE SPY WHO WHACKED ME, OR THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN CLUB: SHAWN
ECKARDT CASHES IN HIS CHIPS AT THE CASINO ROYALE
Shawn Eric Eckardt, a key player in the Kerrigan incident, died
in December in Gresham, Portland, at the age of 40. The exact
cause of death has not been released but it is supposedly of
Eckardt was a man of stories, lots of stories. The proprietor of
the grandly-titled "World Bodyguard Services", his CV would have
made James Bond green with envy, boasting of hostage rescue
missions in exotic foreign countries and counterterrorism
activities. Unfortunately, the only thing it really had in common
with James Bond was that it was a work of pure fiction. Eckardt
had never even finished high school, and the only security-
related training he had was some mail-order courses he had been
expelled from for failing to complete the required assignments.
His sole "bodyguarding" duties during his brief tenure in this
role consisted of escorting Tonya from the plane when she
returned home after the 1994 Nationals, into the brewing media
storm that he had himself created. And at 300 pounds the spy he
bore the closest physical resemblance to wasn't Bond but rather
Fat Bastard, the overweight Scotsman from the Austin Powers
Despite this rather dodgy background, Eckardt was the man that
Tonya's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly confided in about his concerns
that the judges would not give Tonya a fair deal at the upcoming
Nationals the following month. As a result, Eckardt made a few
phone calls to some friends of his in Arizona, and the rest, as
they say, is history. What followed was to turn into one of the
biggest scandals of the decade and most bizarre sports stories of
all time, a saga that continues to fascinate today as the
aforementioned rock opera proves.
Eckardt was second only to Gillooly in his role in the Whacking.
Whether Eckardt or Gillooly actually came up with the idea is
still debatable, but one thing is for sure - if it hadn't been
for Eckardt, it would have stayed just that: an idea. Eckardt was
the one who supplied the men and materials to do the job.
Gillooly wouldn't have likely had the contacts to prosecute the
idea into something more tangible. Without Eckardt there would
have been no clubbing.
It was also Eckardt, through his inability to keep his mouth
shut, who ultimately led to the plot's unraveling. Several
acquaintances contacted authorities after Eckardt - the wannabe
secret agent who couldn't keep a secret - had bragged to them
about his role in setting up the attack. In typical style, his
stories kept changing, initially denying Tonya knew anything
about what was going on and later saying she ordered the hit. In
one of his most outrageous statements on the subject, he claimed
that Tonya approached him while practicing on New Year's Eve and
bemoaned the fact that his team had not made sufficient progress,
allegedly telling him to "stop screwing around and get it done".
In fact, a witness who was present at the time confirms that
Tonya never even went near Eckardt at the rink that night, let
alone spoke to him.
YOU ONLY DIE TWICE
In the aftermath of the assault, Eckardt spent 18 months in jail.
Later he changed his name to Brian Sean Griffith and started a
computer company. Willamette Week tracked him down for an article
in 2004, and found him living in a run-down apartment building in
the Portland suburb of Gresham, but were unable to get a quote
from him beyond "Go away!".
In the wake of his death, his family has refused to talk to the
media about either his old or new lives. "Shawn Eckardt died a
long time ago," his brother, Mike Skinner, told The Oregonian.
"There is no other person than Brian Griffith."
Ironically, Eckardt's impact on skating was as big as that of any
Olympic skater, even though there is no evidence that Eckardt
ever skated himself or had any interest in the sport beyond
seeing it as a money-making opportunity. His legacy is far more
than that of a bruised knee - the actions he set in train caused
a massive boom in skating that has only recently subsided, which
has resulted in millions of dollars pouring into the ISU and
USFSA coffers. During the late 90's dozens of made for TV
specials such as "Too Hot To Skate" and "Ice Wars" filled TV
schedules, and big-name skaters raked in the benefits. There is a
good case to be made for the USFSA erecting a statue for him in
Colorado Springs given the benefits he brought to them. His claim
at one point that he "changed world history" - at least skating
history - is arguably correct.
If Eckardt's actions benefited some, however, they caused huge
damage to others, particularly Tonya. With no knee-clubbing,
Tonya would have skated against Nancy, and probably won anyway,
giving her a second national title with no controversy.
Unquestionably she would have come it at least second, and still
gone on to skate at Lillehammer. With no media circus, she would
have been able to compete with nothing to distract her
concentration, and would have likely placed much higher, perhaps
even taking a medal. She would have then have been able to turn
pro and tour with SOI or COI. There would have been no post-whack
skating boom, so the money wouldn't have been as big, but at
least Tonya would have seen her share of it. She would have been
able to collect the paycheck she deserves for all her years of
If there had been no Shawn Eckardt, Tonya wouldn't be in the
predicament she is in today. She'd be a respected skating star
with a comfortable lifestyle, rather than being seen as
Portland's equivalent of the village idiot. While as he
paradoxically caused enormous benefit to skating, the damage he
also did to Tonya was incalculable. For that reason, we certainly
won't be donating to any statue fund.
Of course, it's always possible that perhaps he isn't really
dead. Maybe it's just all a cover story so that he can reinvent
himself and carry on his "black ops" work for the government
without being hassled.
After all, as Bond himself would say, to live and die twice is
never, ever enough.
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.trinitrotoluene.org/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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