Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
What do you prefer: Roz Sumners the commentator or Roz Sumners the professional skater? I honestly don't know which one is worse. Even as an eleven-year-old, I knew this hag was pathetic.
There is so much to hate about Roz as a commentator: that superior tone, bitchy attitude and overall unpleasantness.
But let's focus Roz Sumners the professional skater. Long ago, in 1984, Roz Sumners choked at the Olympics. The world moved on rather quickly. Roz did not. Roz put on her pair of matronly tan skates and would never leave the dimming spotlight. Every program Roz did was exactly the same: Roz stands upright, looks left and right, and tried to look sexy. Tried.
Like Johnny Weir, Roz Sumners lost her jumps right after the Olympics. Hell, Roz couldn't even do most of them AT the Olympics, as she popped everything. Most are still convinced that she slept with the Italian judge who gave her a 6.0.
Dick Button always like Roz Sumners as a skater. It is understandable and Dick is usually a person of refined taste. Roz's skating is technically 'correct.' She has secure clean edges, attractive positions, stretch, line and proper posture. She was packaged the way any American Ice Queen from her era would've been expected to.
Yet the think about the idea of Roz the World Champion and Roz the professional wonder-skater, is that there was always an underlying poserish quality. Roz was initially hired by Stars On Ice back when it was a ramshackle tour and she was all but unemployed after decorating Donald Duck's birthday cake in Disney On Ice. Woefully out of shape two years after the Olympics, Stars On Ice revived a professional career that was headed nowhere.
Originally somewhat of a D-List tour, Stars On Ice eventually grew into a premiere skating tour by the time the skating boom hit in 1994. Ten years removed from her skating career, Roz likely would've hung up her skates around then had Tonya not whacked Nancy.
The skating boom provided skaters with unprecedented financial opportunities and Roz understandably took advantage of them. As television became over-saturated with professional skating, we saw way more of Roz Sumners and learned for more about her via fluff pieces and her commentary, than we ever cared to.
Let's be frank, Roz Sumners was a B-List professional skater who we just couldn't get rid of. Like a bad case of the herp, Roz popped up EVERYWHERE. Yuka Sato was World Professional Champion in 1995 and was represented by IMG, but she wasn't touring with Stars On Ice because 'there wasn't a spot for her.' The real truth is that Roz Sumners was past her prime and needed to bow out gracefully. She did not. See, Roz Sumners was engaged to the much older Bob Kain, an IMG executive, for seemingly ever. Despite whatever reputation she had off the ice, her engagement meant that IMG couldn't get rid of Roz, no matter how badly Sandra Bezic wanted to.
And Roz took every opportunity to live out the sunset of her career. Every freakin opportunity. There wasn't a competition, show or television appearance that she said no to. Pro skating was first and foremost a business. Every network wanted skating. If TBS, UPN, USA Network, TNT or ESPN wanted a skating show, Roz was a far easier 'get' and had a far lower appearance fee than Kristi Yamaguchi or Nancy Kerrigan. Even the D-List ''Legends" competition on ESPN got ratings, because the world was so taken by skating. Do you remember skating events on ESPN? Roz was always there trying to muster that big double axel and Rory Flack-Burghart was always there because she needed money to pay for that house that burned down. Sometimes the producers would be so desperate that Tiffany Chin and Charlene Wong would skate. They always had the most awful pro skating. The general rule of the day is: If Liz Manley is in the lead and Christopher Bowman is commentating, turn that damn shit off!
See, skaters like Roz Sumners and Liz Manley were 'acceptable' in their day, but their glorified egos as pro skaters got them much more attention and financial opportunities than either ever deserved. While amateur skaters were having to compete real jumps and artistic programs to earn prize money, pro skaters had to show up, skate to pop music and be themselves. It became laughably transparent as we saw the same programs again and again and again. We knew way too much about these skaters. How many times did we seriously need to watch Roz Sumners cry about 1984? We get it. You skated a good run through the night before. Congratulations, you were the original Sasha Cohen.
The rule of the day was, if you're an IMG skater having your program choreographed by Lee Ann Miller, it means Sandra Bezic just doesn't have the energy or desire to waste any of her precious time on you. She worked with A-Listers: Kristi. Boitano. Lu Chen. Browning. Bezic even worked with Underhill and Martini and Hough and Ladret, but she certainly wasn't sweating over any programs for Roz Sumners.
Stars On Ice eventually cut Roz down to one solo per show and for the last four years of her career, each solo appeared to be her swan song. "Remember Me This Way," seemed like a perfect farewell song in 1996. Good, she had a nice career and it was time to bow out gracefully, but Roz did not. No, no.
The next year Roz performed what would become her signature insufferable program as a pro skater: Beautiful Goodbye. Dressed in a Jeff Billings version of lingerie, Roz 'acted' out emotional angst on the ice. We didn't just see this program on Stars On Ice or in one or two shows or competitions. Roz skated this program as often as Yuka Sato performed "Hat Full of Stars." Only, Yuka was just getting her money's worth out of that program. Roz was being transparently stale, as she performed it every night on tour. Designed as a power ballad, the song lacked emotional depth and so did Roz's performance. Everything about Roz's choreography was deliberate and obviously rehearsed. The clenched fists and faux angst. All of it was contrived. Roz never pushed through and became an artistic skater or performer. There was no ownership of her programs. Just as she didn't challenge herself with her jumps, she didn't challenge herself with her programs either.
By 1996-1997, it was a miracle if Roz ever landed that double axel, or "her pride and joy jump" as friend Scott Hamilton called it. Roz barely had the technical skills of an intermediate lady, but she was raking it in on tour and competing. And despite her utter lack of technical ability, Roz Sumners competed A LOT. She even took every opportunity to compete in Pro-Ams against Bobek and Kwan when she could barely muster a double flip. And the commentators always had to find ways to soften the blow of her already-inflated marks. That superior smirk on Roz's face deserved a slap across the face each and every time.
See, the skating boom enabled Roz Sumners to develop a much inflated sense of self. She was treated as a much bigger deal than she actually was, and somewhere along the line, Roz developed the notion that she was somehow 'sexy.' Already obviously showing signs of aging, Roz's high cut dresses became skimpier, leopard prints came out and the programs became cringe worthy. I really don't know what was harder, trying not to vomit during "Mouth" and "Sweet Rosalynn" or trying not to laugh at the obvious in-joke of Katarina Witt, skating's # 1 East German drag queen, skating to "This Is A Man's World." Scott Hamilton told us that Roz lived on a stair master in his autobiography, and it is obvious why. Those thighs went up and down and she did NOT have the midriff for that 'Mouth' costume. We already knew she had binge eating problems from all of her crying fluff pieces. Good riddance. You are NOT sexy to anyone younger than Bob Kain.
When performers and athletes talk about not wanting to stay at the party too long, Roz Sumners is the perfect example of what they're referring to. Dear God Roz, GO! Just GO! I'll push you out of that door and it will truly be that beautiful goodbye!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
While he wasn't an IMG Client, Brian Boitano may have just been the most pimped out skater during the professional skating boom of the '90s. In recent years, we've learned that Mr. Boitano has quite the self-deprecating sense of humor and it has made it quite charming, but the Brian Boitano of the '90s took life (and made for TV competitions) very seriously.
Cue opera ballad sung by boyfriend. Inhale. Raise arm over head. Look intense. Back three turn. Bend over and stick out giant ass. Attempt to not be clumsy while attempting compulsory figures mid program.
Oh, Boitano programs at the World Pros were like no other. Landover was Brian's house and every year he delivered new levels of seriousness for that silver platter. With powerful buns that my mother adored and big Polish-esque thighs, the 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist powered around the rink before a spread eagle into Tano lutz, triple axel, triple flip, camel spin, weak sit spin, HUGE death drop and almost-blurred scratch spin! All to the commentary of Sandra Bezic marveling at a program she created.
While the total power bottom is an amazing skater and obviously a fantastic competitor, it wasn't enough for Scott Hamilton, the king of professional commentary. Whether it was out of unrequited lust or a desire to make the one time he defeated Boitano and actually "won" a pro competition a much bigger deal than it actually was, Scott liked to YELLL about what a truly amazing alpha male Brian actually is.
At 1995 Ice Wars: The Rematch, Scott delivered one of his most memorable (and curious) commentating performances while watching Boitano compete his overwrought artistic program to Seal's "Don't Cry."
"He's so strong. He could do this program with his arms and legs tied behind his back at 3 AM, with the lights off, bound and gagged."
Mind you, until Kurt Browning started schooling Boitano at the World Pros (and boy was it heaven), every Boitano program was exactly the same as the last, so he had a ton of practice and his muscle memory likely would've helped him through skating in the dark while tied up like a hostage on The Young and The Restless.
I don't know what I miss more about pro skating: Scott Hamilton pretending that Roz Sumners' (oft-popped) double axel was an amazing human feat or all of society being forced to pretend that Katarina Witt and Brian Boitano were involved in some sort of torrid love affair. Don't scoff over that silver lame shirt he wore, you know it was the wardrobe of super heros!
It wasn't until an ass kicking by Browning and South Park spoofing his professional persona that we actually got a glimpse at the real Brian Boitano. Sadly, it was only a decade too late.