May 31, 2008

Going Pro

This blog may eventually have to change it's name to "Ice for those way over forty" or "Geriatrics on Ice" since I'm long retired from the sport.

That way I could start each post with something like, "Remember when you had your freestyle program cut on a record and you carried those wooden boxes along with your second pair of patch skates?" Or "Remember when you didn't fasten the top section of your scribe tight enough and it went flying across three patches when you made your circle?" Or who can resist "Remember when you joined an ice show and painted your white skates tan?"

Painted - as in paint and paint brush. Not spray painting (that would be for those, oh say, 30 - 40 years of age) or clicking on Holiday Tan Elk when buying factory-painted skates on the internet. No I'm talking painting, as in adding hardware store - along with laundromat and cheap Chinese restaurant - as another necessary place we had to find in every new city we touched down in.

Only a hardware store would have the paintbrushes, paint thinner, (or you could skip that and buy more paint brushes) and sand paper. Too bad we had to go to a drugstore or grocery store to stock up on nail polish remover (the kind full of acetone) to get the whole process started and get the white off.

Painting our boots was a real skill, and when left to amateurs gave us amusing results. I can remember painting the side of my skate too thick to make the surface look smooth only to have the entire side peel off like a used face mask. I had to go back to the drawing board, using more nail polish remover to get down to the factory-white-turned-fuzzy gray and then another rubdown of sand paper before applying the paint once more.

I was no Picasso.

But nothing said going pro more quickly in those days than tan skates. For those of us who weren't Olympic athletes, for whom going pro meant starring in Ice Capades, Disney or Holiday on Ice for big, big bucks, tan skates was the best outward sign.

Now those lines are blurred. Amateurs, seeing the end result of tan skates - thinner looking legs - wanted in. Of course, they probable were more interested in skating in TV shows along side the pros to earn some bucks. And then to make it more confusing the pros, whose competitive days we thought were over, went back to compete.

Remember when it was so easy to tell who went pro?

May 26, 2008

There's Always The One

I'm still stuck in laptop limbo ... waiting for a new computer ... checking posts at the library, internet cafes. But I wanted to get this topic posted in honor of the guest speaker at the annual PSA conference.

Let me backtrack a little. When you ask most skaters to name their favorite skaters it's hard to narrow it down. We easily mention four or five and then pause while the next batch of ten great skaters comes to mind. There are so many. Think of any one Olympics and then three or four pop out.

But I really think if you ask the same skater to name their ONE favorite. We can do that ... we have one saved for superstar status. And for every one it's a different skater (again pointing out how many great skaters there are out there.)

For me that skater is Brian Orser. Of course, the picture gave it away. I'm a huge fan, although I'm not one of the official "Orser Endorers" and I haven't joined any fan clubs. I'm just sitting back waiting for someone to ask me who my ONE favorite is and then I'll jump up and down and say Brian. Sir Brian Orser to you.

Besides being such a great skater (too many titles and honors to type up), smart, cute, and funny (how do I know this?), he is downright down to earth and nice to boot. Canada, you should be very proud.

I was in a show where Mr. Triple Axel was the principal and I was hanging back, way back, in the chorus. I didn't talk to him or hang out with him much -- I was too star stuck and tongue-tied -- but I still witnessed all those great qualities.

So for those that went to hear him at the PSA conference this weekend, let me say, I wished I could have flown in for the big speech, cheered him on like a crazed Beatles fan and then ducked out before security nabbed me.

Here's to the One! Let me know who you would pick.

May 19, 2008

Top 5 Ice Show Rules

My laptop died last week and it has stopped me in my tracks. A week without any posts. Sorry, but I had to wait all that time for the keyboard to dry from TEARS.

The rule is: Always, always back up. I had some very important documents I hadn't backed up recently. AAaarrrghhhh! So, the lesson is, repeat after me, kids: Always back up.

No need to bother with backup tapes, extra CDs or flashdrives. Just email yourself the documents and they'll be hovering out over the internet so you can get to them from ANY computer. You know, preferably, one that works.

And that got me thinking ... always back up is one of today's big rules in computers.

In the ice show world, I came up with my Top 5.

5. Never leave your skate guards on overnight
This one goes for more than show skaters. But I did revert back to guards after my first two travel days where I carried my skates in my backpack with only the soakers on. It left my hands free to push off a would-be-robber, but the toepicks, even underneath the soakers, found their way into my back, which didn't feel good. It came to symbolize why, with every jab and poke, I hated travel days.

4. Never keep your show make-up on overnight
Again, this nugget of wisdom is for more than show skaters. Have you read the magazine articles claiming you'll age 2 years for every night you left your makeup on? And they're referring to street make-up, not the thick coat of pancake foundation you slathered on or residual false eyelash glue clinging to your delicate eyelids. If those articles are true, I would look about 101 now.

3. Never whistle backstage
This one stared in the theatre and I never knew about it until a few Ice Capades girls clued me in. They didn't want to take on this superstition, so instead they kept busy reciting their "goodies" backstage. Remember those?

2. Don't let them catch you checking your watch during rehearsals
Nuff said.

and the #1 show rule (in my very unscientific poll)

1. Guide left
It keeps all the pinwheels straighter and it's not a bad thing to do when you're crossing a busy street either!

May 11, 2008


Nice Ice

When I saw the billboard for this show, I felt I had to go.

As the brochure says, "It is ice. It is air. And it is everything unlike anything in between." Well, there is a lot of ice and air all right (there was a really cool ramp that went right through the audience), but the "unlikely" part is the skating. There isn't much of it in this ice show.

For those who like a jump tally, it wasn't hard for me to keep track. Two double axels by one man, two single axels by a man and woman, a couple of sit spins, one flying camel and a layback spin to boot.

There was one interesting number where five pair teams performed a bunch of pair spins - kiss spins, bounce spin and a couple variations in between. But most of this ice show felt like an after hours talent show. Come on, they're an all-Russian cast - you just know they can whip out triples in their sleep, right? Bielmans up the whazoo. No.

Side note: Now that I'm retired, whenever I take in the latest Disney On Ice or other random show, I compare my skills to those shows I'm watching and inevitably fall short.

Always depressing. (In case you didn't know, the minimum required jump for girls to sail on Bietak's cruise ships shows is a double axel -- I landed one in a dream once.)

Well, I still couldn't have made it through the auditions for this show, but it wasn't because of jumps. If I wanted to get into this show I would have to brush up on my hula hoop skills, unicycle riding or learn to play the violin.

Yep - it's official. The circus has taken over Vegas. It's everywhere and in this ice show too. I felt like they were trying to give us Cirque de Ice.

However, I still enjoyed the show. The performances were strong, the music was great and everyone in the cast had a body to die for. The girls were gorgeous. No men were complaining about the lack of jumps or spins, that's for sure.

May 9, 2008

Showgirl Pose

Las Vegas has inspired me to throw out my theory of the "showgirl pose". I saw a lot of that pose on billboards and flyers all over town. I didn't see any traditional shows with showgirls, but I'll let you know what I did see in a future post. Stay tuned!

So back t0 my theory. See those Ice Charades girls in the photo up on the upper right hand corner? The ones with their knees bent and thighs turned in. They have some old showgirl to thank for trying to figure how to make her legs look their absolute thinnest.

Could it be Miss Chicago?

In this photo I dug up, only Miss Chicago is working the bend and flex. And don't you think it makes her look thinner? If she had a higher arch in her left foot, her whole leg would look thinner because we would see more of her knee area, the thinnest part of her leg.

Yes, someone long ago thought to put one leg directly in front of the other - so we see only the width of one leg - twist her thigh slightly inward - to hide some of the fleshy part - and then keep the leg facing front from the knee down - this time hiding the bulging calf muscle. Too bad she couldn't patent that move. She could have made some big bucks.

I know this doesn't have much to do with skating, but like I said, Vegas, baby, Vegas.

May 5, 2008

The Land Of Showgirls

I'm heading to Las Vegas today for a brief vacation. I have been to Vegas a half dozen times in the past fifteen years. (Including two Ice Capades reunions that happen every five years.)

And the city is definitely not the same as my first visit ... in 1987.

I was there for two different shows' rehearsals and only one of those times included skating at a rink. No kidding, the second time, there was no ice rink in the city. Something about a roof imploding from nuclear testing out in the desert - which is probably equally as credible as the claim from the zamboni driver that the mafia had stashed dead bodies at the ice rink site before they built it, so the rink had ghosts. Mobster ghosts - those must be some of the scariest kind.

So the producer rented a dance studio for five days for us to block the show.

As you skaters know, when performing your long program out in the backyard - crossovers and spins don't translate off the ice, and double jumps (triple - for you better skaters than I) don't fare well either. Although I must say, as long as your butt doesn't hit an acorn or tree branch, falling on the grass is not so bad.

Back to my story - Well, we didn't rely much on those rehearsals, because we still had three days on the ice at the amusement park before we opened. As I recall, the skaters took long lunches at Circus Circus (the cheapest buffet in town at the time, I think) and came back with scores of stuffed animals we had won.

Speaking of cheap - back in '87 - you could get at $.99 breakfast - eggs, pancakes, bacon, toast -stacked six inches high - bottomless cup of coffee and orange juice - and it was served any time of the day or night. That came in handy with rehearsal pay at something like a whopping $150/week, which had to cover the hotel too.

Let's see what the prices are like this time ... more on Vegas when I return.

May 1, 2008

Gershwin's Skating Dreams

I thought this was cool and I hope you fellow skaters think so too.

I was watching Fantasia 2000 with my four-year old the other day and discovered a segment in Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (to me, a beautiful piece of music), where all four main characters, each unhappy in someway, start "daydreaming" of a better situation and the animators portrayed it in the form of ice skating.

I think one of the animators must have known the freeing feeling of gliding on the ice, landing a jump, or hitting a really fast spin and likened it to a better life for those characters.

You can check it out for yourself.

Gotta love You Tube! The entire animation on the Fantasia DVD is 13 minutes, but someone on You Tube divided it into two parts, so you only have to watch a minute or so into Part 2 to see what I'm talking about.

What I wish to know is who skated for the animators? I've been digging around but haven't found any mentions of skating. If anyone knows, do tell.