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

(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.


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 
web sites:


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 
resume boxing:

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 
is portrayed.

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.


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".


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.


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 
natural causes.

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.


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 
hard work.

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.


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