Gaysian Attorney reporting here. My 3 friends and I made up about 5% of the fans in attendance at Skaters Care, Ginger Jackson's skating benefit for Japan disaster relief. Okay, maybe not 5%, but there seriously could not have been more than, say, 500 people in attendance, half of which were related to someone performing (especially the synchro skaters and the theatre on ice folks). But those in the L.A. area too snobby to make the drive out to the boonies, you missed out. If you're unfamiliar with Angelino geography, Ontario is, as my fellow gay friend in attendance put it, the Texas of L.A. The arena is modest and apparently hosts a minor league hockey team known as the Ontario Reign when it's not hosting gay men and the skaters they love.
The opening was Japanese-themed and clearly inspired by someone's love for the Orient. The skaters did varying martial-art type moves and the girls did "Asian" poses that I'm sure pitched Ginger Jackson's tent.
Some child skaters were on hand to win us over with cuteness. Young Vincent Zhou skated quite well, and even I said out loud, is that Nathan Chen, before he was introduced. A young pair named Runa Maeda and Spencer Howe were extremely adorable. Runa, especially, has performance ability and they delivered some nice dance lifts. Spencer had a nice double axel for his age.
The Theater On Ice folks performed a competitive number to Bohemian Rhapsody. The costumes were very Madonna 1990 VMAs Vogue. The synchro skaters also performed, and they had a good share of fans in the audience, who made the atmosphere feel like a college gymnastics meet. The short track speed skaters were actually quite entertaining with the few races they put on. The Chinese skaters were charming, JR Celski was cute in his racing outfit, and the hottie speed skater commentator did a much better job than Rena Inoue and John Baldwin did.
The most memorable skaters were the men. Nick Laroche gave a lovely performance to Let It Be. When asked by my non-skating-fan friend if Nick was gay, my response was, "He's wearing a sleeveless mesh top with a heart pasted on it." Nuff said. Derrick Delmore, my favorite 1998 World Junior Champion, delivered a solid program to a cover of Robbie Williams' Angels. Derrick was simply beaming when he nailed his triple flip. He also delivered a clean triple toe and a triple salchow (with connecting steps preceding for those who favor transitions). Parker Pennington's Hey Soul Sister program was less memorable. But one never tires of the announcer reminding us that he's the only skater in history to have won national titles at four different levels. I felt it necessary to clarify to my non-skating-fan friends who attended with me that none of those were at the senior level. Doug Razzano skated a well-choreographed program to Coldplay's Fix You. Some gorgeous spread eagles were included. Ginger Jackson put on one glove and did his MJ program of course. You have to hand it to him. For a hetero white boy, he really sells that Thriller choreography. Daisuke Murakami gave us a Sexyback number that was acceptable. The music certainly had the gays bopping along.
Most of the female performances were dismal. Ellie Kawamura knew how to shake it to JLo's latest single, but her elements weren't memorable. Vanessa Lam is still skating like a junior despite some great spins in her interpretation of the instrumental version of Time To Say Goodbye. Courtney Hicks was beyond off. She skated to some awful teeny bopper song, which had lyrics revolving around the word "headphones." She missed every jump. EVERY jump. There was an unfortunate skater from Japan who had started skating at age 10 and was about 14 or so, and though my thoughts are with her native country, she struggled with the jumps and reminded us all how rare Johnny Weir was in terms of starting skating at a relatively late age yet succeeding. Young Hannah Miller skated her Gleetastic Singin' In The Rain number, complete with umbrella. Caroline Zhang ate it on her first attempt of a triple loop, but delivered on the second one. Like her general skating ability, the pearl spin was nowhere to be found. Alexe Gilles also couldn't land a jump to save her life, but hopefully Yuka and Jason will fix that soon. My fellow gay and I couldn't help but note that if Alexe's gonna do Beyonce's Single Ladies, she needs to sell the choreography better than she did. To her credit, the number did get better as it went along.
A few pairs and duets were also present. Lindsay Davis and Themi Leftheris skated. Themi was yummy. That's all I have to say about that. Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin also performed, and all I have to say about that is that Rena's mangled introduction of them sounded like "my new brother-in-love...." Bebe Liang and Braden Overett skated a duet to yet another cute Glee number, this one being Puck and Mercedes' Lady Is a Tramp.
Finally, the top men took the ice. Adam Rippon skated very well. Though he downgraded his Rippon Lutz to a Tano Lutz, his edge quality was evident. Here's hoping that his recent coaching change helps him regain the triple axel and reboots his competitive career. And oh, Adam, if you're reading this, I'm so glad you liked my necklace! Jeremy Abbott did his Plain White T's Rhythm of Love number and I'm so glad he did it. You can just tell that he loves skating the number and it just oozes charm. The hat-on two-and-a-half toe loop from his Nationals exhibition turned into an absolutely perfect hat-on triple toe here. He also hit a clean triple lutz in the finale to prove he's still got that jump. Thanks for the photo Jer! Richard Dornbush was last to skate. And even as a Jeremy-supporter, I have to admit, that Mr. Dornbush looks ready to go for Moscow. He hit a triple-triple and a triple axel (the only ones of the day). Now they weren't quite +3 GOE quality, but it can't be easy to perform a technical number in front of a random audience in Ontario with such short notice. As far as I was concerned, he looked like he could place top ten at Worlds, and what more can you ask for from a first-timer.
All in all, well worth the price of admission. The small audience actually made the event more intimate, and lord knows I wrangled as many autographs and photos as I could given the skater to audience member ratio. Ontario, we shall return for Skate America!