Johnny Weir- Reflecting on his Memoir & his Career

I can’t believe I’m finally getting around to doing this πŸ˜›
Ever since I started blogging about figure skating, I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.
Now I’m just hoping that I make good use of this opportunity and all this build-up hadn’t been for nothing.
[I apologize in advance. This is a LONG read]

I put together a wish list on Amazon of things I really wanted, assuming they’d be things I’d buy myself. But I decided for Christmas to hell with it and really ask for a couple things I wanted.
One of them was Johnny Weir’s memoir.

I started reading it, finally, on January 1st, took a break for a few days (enjoying time with family at our shore house and Atlantic City) and returned when I literally had nothing else going on…
and I just finished it yesterday.
So I figured NOW was the perfect time to do this post. While the book was still fresh in my mind and also because he’s the only figure skater I’d been watching over the past week.
It’s kind of funny when I thought about it metaphorically- of course Plushenko is very present on my social media feeds on Facebook and Twitter- so to me, it’s like I’m cheating on him with another skater. The fact that they’re good friends doesn’t exactly make this any better from a moral standpoint… but like I said, it’s a metaphor. Plus there’s the fact Johnny is gay and Plushenko is married. Neither of them I think about in a sexual way, but their skating gives me the same feeling. They’re both beautiful to watch and I enjoy them so much.

I also figured that I devoted so much YouTube to Plushenko that it couldn’t hurt to spend that time exclusively with another skater. That way, my mind can be completely on Johnny- whereas I’d be constantly comparing them if I split my time between the two… but I’d be lying if there weren’t times where I’d miss seeing Plushenko skate.
And I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t get a little excited when his name popped up in Johnny’s book. All in passing, of course, when they happened to be competing at the same event.
Also getting around to Johnny’s “Carmen” exhibition… yeah, I’ve made a point in saying it’s hard for me to see anyone else skate to that music because Plushenko made it so iconic for me…

now enough about him πŸ˜› there’ll be plenty of time for that later.
I miss him so much… I thought it was hard taking a break from the sport in the warmer months, but this is the time of year I typically watch him. Or at least that’s been the case the last couple years.
***

First things first, Johnny’s book was a really great read.
I could have polished it off easily in a couple days, but I took my time with it. Even rereading certain passages over a couple times- whether I was slightly distracted by someone talking around me or I wanted certain things to sink in.
In certain places, there was a lot to digest, but it had to with the circumstances rather than him.

As much as people think of Johnny as a weirdo, his words don’t come off that way. It’d surprise/confound people if they read as I did that his sexuality is a small part of who he is and it’s as part of the package as his eye color.
The question many ask is why he dresses as he does if that’s not important to him… my response: he gives a damn about fashion and looking good. Plus he’s not competing anymore and when he’s in exhibitions, he dresses however he feels. And also what fits with the music.
Then watching some of his programs and looking at the clothes and outfits… with the exception being his “Bad Romance” exhibition (still my favorite), nothing he wore was THAT crazy. Comparatively, his competition attire wasn’t any more outrageous than anything Plushenko wore.
He has quite a few things to say about US figure skating and one was the fact a lot of the clothes worn in competitions are boring. I can’t help but agree. Most of them just wear a form-fitting shirt and pants.

My plan for reading the book, which unfolded as I read, was to really take my time and enjoy it. But also I wanted to see the programs and competitions he was discussing. Take the background information he gave me and see how it unfolds. It became such an enjoyable experience. Kind of like spending a week with a good friend.
At first, it wasn’t smooth sailing for either of us. His earliest competitions weren’t on YouTube for obvious reasons. But also, it took me a while to feel that connection I’ve always had with him. I saw the technical talent, which was pretty amazing for someone who only started the sport a couple years earlier. But the performance left something to be desired. Not because I was used to him just being crazy- I guess I was just missing that confidence.

The first note I made was his Junior Worlds free skate, which was the first moment I enjoyed his skating. The rest before that was meh because the charisma wasn’t there yet. The craziest part was him saying how nervous he was before this and none of that showed.
Earlier he talked about how classical music calmed him down as a kid. A spooky tree outside his window made his room a scary place. But then he found a classical station on the radio and that helped him. At this competition, he tied it all together- “The Heart of Budapest” came on the speakers and it dictated his movements.

Every skater has a different arc to their career, obviously, but I had no idea of ALL the ups and downs Johnny had.
There was a season [2002-2003] where the commenters kept saying he withdrew due to illness.
He actually had his first confrontation with the US federation of figure skating about his choice of costume and he was so upset with him he faked having the flu so he wouldn’t have to compromise. I mean, some might say that was a stupid move and after the fact, he might have thought that too… but I could also respect him wanting to stay true to himself. The way he put their words, they said he was dressed like a Russian skater with his skin-tight onesie and that was like flipping them off.
Then during Nationals, he hit the wall and his automatic reaction was to feign injury. But after he collected himself, he really did injure himself and left with only a minute to go in his program. That move put him, as he called it, in skating purgatory. The US association didn’t want to support him anymore because his poor performance reflected poorly on him. So he had to fight his way back from really amateur status up to senior-Olympian status.

He rebounded within a year and with that came the moment I found the Johnny Weir I enjoyed watching.
One highlight I actually “liked” on YouTube- his US nationals performance of his “Dr. Zhivago” program. He had all of those beautiful nuances that I knew him for. He skated well to the music and brought it to life.

After that, we had his Olympic experience.
His program “The Swan” is definitely going to be one of those iconic performances everyone remembers… but I think I still prefer Zhivago personally.
Then when the free skate came… man, I feel bad about everything that happened. The fact his head wasn’t in the game because nobody mentioned to him the change of bus schedule so he was late. He didn’t mention why he changed from his new program back to “Otonal” which was from previous season. I guess because the new program wasn’t as big a hit at Nationals. The commentators said it didn’t grab their attention, but I disagreed. It had a lot of great moments. “Otonal” I loved when Johnny was on his game. But it was difficult to watch at the Olympics. He nailed most of his jumps and maybe popped a couple, but clearly his head wasn’t in it. There were no attempts at transitions and few attempts at meeting the choreography.
Nothing was worse than the backlash- how the judges at the competitions never really forgave him for how poorly he did.

Then of course there was the ever-nagging presence of Evan Lysachek.
Ever since I started my figure skating blogging, I’ve had mixed feelings about him… and this definitely wasn’t helping. But I think more of my ire will wind up focused on the US federation of figure skating than him. Simply because they figured Johnny Weir was unreliable and Evan never “challenged” them the way he did- on and off the ice.
There was one stupid moment that was more of a facepalm than anything else…
there was a Grand Prix final Plushenko performance where they said “Plushenko is here because Weir is out”… it took me a while to figure out what that meant. That Johnny got injured and had to not compete. Of course it made for another great Plushenko moment, but it was just so stupid πŸ˜› Johnny injured his ankle because he got drunk at a party and challenged Evan to a headstand contest- and he did it in ankle boots.

Definitely one of those “look back on it and laugh” situations, but at the time… he and his coach could only shake their head about it.
There was another joke where Johnny balked at one of Evan’s costumes and secretly thought the designer (a friend of his) made him look ridiculous on purpose.
And another moment where Johnny picked “Ave Maria” for an exhibition and Evan ran back to his hotel room and changed his costume and music because he’d done the same.

Aside from maybe 1-2 interviews, I never really had a reason to hate Evan specifically… most of my anger has been towards the people in power giving him the higher medals.
The same thing has kinda been happening with Patrick Chan, but I don’t think Evan deliberately went out of his way to attack other skaters.

Then as I went through the book, I started to become… what’s the word… more suspicious and distrusting of the federation of figure skating in my own country.
I mean, we’re supposed to be the country of opportunity and freedom of expression and so on. Yet the people in charge are concerned with maintaining a strong image as well as a neutral one. They don’t want their skaters to act outside of their interests. For people like Johnny, that’s just impossible. He’s going to be himself no matter what. And by the end of the book, it got the point where he didn’t want them to dictate what he does. Not that he’s not patriotic or he’s ungrateful for the experiences they’ve allowed him when he was skating. But there is a reason why he wears Russian apparel over his clothes at the rink. Not just because his new coach (who he moved on to because he wanted to improve more as a skater and he respected the discipline Russians have) but also because he’s supported a bit more by Russia than by the US. At least when it comes to the people in charge of the medals and media.

It also got me thinking about American skaters. Because of the girls from Russia and the guys from Japan, there really haven’t been a lot of success from US skaters.
Jeremy Abbott was my last big favorite and he’s not in this season. Even though he isn’t consistent when he competes, at least he’s a complete skater that can do quads and feels his music.
Jason Brown recently withdrew from nationals due to back sprain. I feel guilty because I’ve written how much I want him to do the quad so he can stay competitive with everyone else in the world. But maybe that was asking too much. I secretly hope I’m not the only person who was adding that pressure.
And comparing everyone else in the world, the rest of the US men are kinda boring and not exactly consistent.

With the women, it’s another story, but then with the dominance of female skaters in Russia, it’s hard for anyone not in Japan to stay competitive with them.

Reading the book has made me rethink a lot of things.
But heavy stuff aside, getting the scope of Johnny’s journey was interesting.

I enjoyed getting to know his different programs and finding my favorite moments and so on.
One season he worked with a different choreography that made him act a bit more serious.
His “Palladio” short program with the black/white chess costume- the commentators didn’t feel the connection and a bunch of the comments didn’t, but I really enjoyed it.
There was only one video of his “Son of Nazareth” aka “Jesus” program so I didn’t have the ample time to form an opinion. The consensus was that not a lot of people really enjoyed it.

One thing I noticed early on was a certain spin. I think someone called it a “pancake” spin. He’d started into it and extend his hands downward. I’ve seen Yuzuru do that spin, but even better.
When Johnny does, I love it when he combines it with an upright spine where he holds a leg away from him. Not just because it’s difficult, but it just looks amazing.

His relationship with his coaches was interesting to read about. I mean, they’re so instrumental in a skater’s life, but you don’t really appreciate them until you hear their pupils talk about them.
I can definitely understand why changing coaches might be good for a skater. I mean after Torino was such a disappointment, it makes sense that a change was needed. And of course the struggle of finding one that works for you and not always getting along with them.
Throughout the first season Johnny and Galina had together, they had their share of fights, but it always led him to compete better. I think it was the year he got his only medal at Worlds.

Of course I had my angry moments along with Johnny… but also I had moments that made me laugh out loud. Others, I gasped and almost cried.
When his first serious boyfriend broke up with him, he talked about listening to “Ghost” by Indigo Girls, laying outside in the rain and crying before he had an exhibition.
I found the song on YouTube and definitely felt the pain. And it fit their relationship perfectly. Then afterwards, Galina balks “I thought this happened already!”… which is kinda funny when you think about it.
He said he doesn’t do anything halfway, so he accepted his boyfriend saying “I think we should take a break” as a break-up. But the official break-up made it more real.

I watched his programs after reading about them. The least I could do is listen to this song to connect more with him. As if just reading his thoughts wasn’t quite enough. I wanted to immerse myself in this- hence the reason why I watched him on YouTube exclusively.

Then there was a moment where I panicked- reading how Johnny got sick in Korea when he was part of a skating show… it was scary how skinny he got and how he was at death’s door seemingly. Then of course Galina says how she reminded him he shouldn’t have gone there.

Probably the one place with Johnny and I will disagree… his love of furs.
It’s kinda funny that this is the big issue rather than his sexuality- but that never really bothered me. I always kinda knew that about him and it was just part of the packaged deal. That’s almost like something out of one of my book series- how a vampyre fledgling’s parents took more issue with his sexuality than him being marked to be a vampyre (and no, that is not a typo- that’s how House of Night does it)
I know he got a lot of backlash in Vancouver about it and there was a big controversy about it.
I can understand his choice to enjoy furs… but that doesn’t mean I’m going to rip him apart for it.
So many other people have done that.
It’s the same thing where I disagree with his commentary. I don’t have to agree with everything and I don’t need to attack him for having an opinion that’s different from me. First because he knows more than I do (being at this for almost 2 years does not make me an expert), but also because I’m the one watching and I’ll make my own opinions.

But again it sucks that the people in charge of things are the only ones whose opinions matter…
lately I’ve disenchanted with politicians on both sides… everything’s just getting wrapped together into one ugly knot of negativity.

…I turned to Johnny’s figure skating [catching up before the next part of the book] to get away from that one day, actually. A lot of this political negativity happens in my house and it’s people like him that take me away from it. At least temporarily. Life’s too short to spend it wallowing in misery. Especially since I’m lucky enough to have that option of escaping it.

He also got me thinking about being more confident about myself and embracing my quirks. But I also wonder if I’m pretending to have quirks so I can relate to certain weirdo celebrities.
Actually by constant, Johnny is normal. Prince is such an enigma where I don’t really understand a lot of his actions. Johnny, I can understand his reasons. It’s just not always popular with the people paying attention.

One moment that had me cheering (other than him winning competitions he was dreading)- him saying that BeyoncΓ© wasn’t his thing, but he wanted to skate to Lady Gaga for a fashion showcase…
I love the way he thinks πŸ˜‰ of course I’m a Little Monster for sure and already knew Johnny skated to “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance”… some great performances too.
At least with her, we have a kinship.

Christina Aguilera on the other hand… I’m not as big a fan of her music after her debut album (which I still own- first album I ever bought), but I can see why he admires her as a person and loves her music.

After getting through the book, I found part of his series “Be Good Johnny Weir” on YouTube…
I had so much fun with it. It’s too bad it only lasted for so long.
I had a couple fangirl moments when I saw people like his manager Tara and his BFF Paris in the flesh. They were people I read about and seeing them… that was really cool.

I remembered him being on “skating with the stars” but only barely… I didn’t stick with the series long enough to see Rebecca Budig from “All my Children” win (and she was my favorite TO win).
Interesting to see him trying to figure out what kind of judge he was going to be. One day he was too soft. Another too harsh. I believe there’s a Wikipedia entry about that with “controversy” as a heading. I do vaguely remember my parents rolling their eyes at him just being there.
I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a fan- but I don’t broadcast it all the time.

But with a lot of things, I feel like I adhere to society conventions by not getting overly fanatical… and maybe I should test that a bit more than I do.

And of course there were a few moments where Johnny lived up to the rumors of his “diva” behavior.
But I see it more as him having a certain idea in mind or wanting to stay in his comfort zone so making changes is difficult.
I’m not great with change either πŸ˜› but I’m not so strong about upholding my beliefs and not compromising.
Although there were a couple of times he did and agreed that he was better for it.

I don’t know if I enjoy his skating more or his personality more… but I enjoyed spending all this time with him.
As of this point, I haven’t gotten his attention on Twitter… I don’t know if it’s because he’s too busy (which I totally understand) or he’s had one too many bad experiences with people trolling him on Twitter…
but I haven’t given up hope that I’ll say something he’ll appreciate and he’ll meet me halfway with a like or RT.
I have gotten a few replies from one of his top bloggers and that’s good enough.
They’ve been in this longer than I have.
Although there was a moment earlier today where I tweeted something to him, they replied and I later found I already knew the answer to my question… I just forgot he mentioned it a few months ago. πŸ˜›

I guess all that’s left is to get through the rest of the videos I have of him saved on my YouTube watch later list…
and chances are very good I won’t be away from him long enough to miss him. He does have the Medal Winner’s Open coming up next week.

…already hearing him commentate again, I feel at home. Only now I know him a lot better than before. And I’m happy to.

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