Thursday, January 6, 2011

'All That Skate Odyssey', Part Three

Once again, I apologize if I spell a person's name wrong, attribute something said or done to the wrong person, place someone in the wrong hotel, forget someones name or forget someone altogether!  I didn't take notes, lol, other than the frantic list of names I tried to send to myself on my cell phone so I wouldn't forget who was at our post show dinner (which my mother later deleted by mistake)!  Yes, I know, I'm bad!

Author's Note: I can sometimes be very link happy, so if you see a link in this Blog, it will either take you to a web page or video link related to whatever is highlighted in the link.  For example, a link attached to a skater's name will either take you to their Twitter page, their official website, or some website in some way related to them.  In addition, I searched out videos for every number done in the show, and in all but a couple of cases I succeeded.

Slideshow: Johnny Weir at All That Skate LA


All That Skate Odyssey, Part Three

Once we left the Staples Center we headed back for the hotel.  Most of our group went up to Judith's room to talk and get ready for the actual show later that evening.  Because Judith's hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, began with the twenty-second floor and not in the lobby, she could only access the elevator to her floor with her room key.  I think I remember it taking us two elevators to get everyone upstairs since there were quite a few of us.  Judith had booked a junior suite; however, when she arrived the front desk told her they had upgraded her to an executive suite.  She had a hallway, a bedroom with a large bathroom, a walk in closet and dressing area, a second bathroom, a dining room with a table that sat six, and a mini bar.  In addition there was a living room with a desk, sofa, coffee table and chairs, not to mention a wonderful view of the Staples Center and the entire area.

Judith also had three television sets, one in the living room, one in the bedroom and the third one in the bathroom.  She told us she had found the remote control in the bathroom and did not know what it was for.  Once she played around with it she discovered the third television embedded in the bathroom mirror.  To someone like Judith who rarely even watches television it was rather amusing to have three televisions sets in her hotel suite.  Needless to say, Judith invited all of us into some very nice surroundings.

Unfortunately I do not remember every detail of what happened in between the dress rehearsal and the show; however I do remember some of it.  A few people came late and Judith had to send Michael with her key a couple of times to bring people up to her room (she indicated she did not know when she originally made her reservation about the limited access to the floors the Ritz was on).  I am not sure what the largest number of visitors she had in her room at any one time was; it was certainly more than a dozen people.

Someone ordered a late lunch snack from room service, I am not positive who, though I think it was Lauri.  There was some fruit, cheese and other items; and someone also set out some sweets they had brought.  I looked at Gary at one point and said, "We haven't really had a chance to talk yet."  So we hugged each other  and talked a little bit.  Aside from having the chance to watch Johnny Weir skate, this was another illustration of what is so great about being able to attend an event like this one.  You are able to meet in person and get to know personally those you have so far only met online or talked to over the phone.  Some of the people I met at 'All That Skate L.A.' had met each other before; however prior to this event I had only met them online.

I found out, for example, that Paula had never flown in a plane before; but had boarded her first flight to come out to Los Angeles to meet some of her fellow fans and to see Johnny skate.  She told me later she almost felt like she was meeting celebrities when she met some of her fellow citizens of Weirlandia in Los Angeles.  I also discovered what a diverse group of fans Johnny Weir attracts.  In Judith's room that day we had men and women ranging in age from twenty-two to in their sixties.  Our online community displays an even wider age ranger, everyone from teenagers to at least one person I know of in their eighties, and every age group in between.  And Johnny Weir has brought us all together!  I have discovered that, aside from the (thankfully) few 'fans' who can not resist being obnoxious and rude to other fans, and obsessive toward Johnny, we Johnny Weir fans are a giving, carrying, and thoughtful group of people.  It is a community of fans I am proud, happy and privileged to be a part of!  Okay, I went off track a little!  Back to my ridiculously overdue review...

We were all having a great time introducing ourselves, talking and discussing the latest happenings in Weirlandia, and Paula started asking us if she could take pictures of us.  I take terrible pictures, but of course I said yes.  I didn't even break her camera, ha!  We continued talking, making signs (some of them with pink neon so they could be seen better by Johnny and on television), others made by Gary from photographs of Johnny, and there were also seventy five of them sent by Debora, who could not come to the show, via Federal Express.  We wanted NBC and fans of other skaters to know Johnny Weir fans were there, and we wanted Johnny to know as well.    

Another funny thing happened...  Deborah had spilled something on her jacket earlier in the day and the hotel was having it cleaned.  Down in the lobby after the rehearsal a few of us had spoken for a few minutes to a hotel employee whose name I wish I could remember.  (This is why I should take notes, ha!)  He was very nice and curious as to what we were all up to and why we were there.  We explained there was a skating show over at the Staples Center, and that we were a group of fans of Johnny Weir getting together to have a good time and watch Johnny skate.  This same gentleman happened to be the one who brought Deborah's clean jacket up to Judith's room; so naturally we talked to him a little more.  I told the others, "We really need to take him with us to the show."  Judith and Deborah agreed it would have been a great idea, and I really think the employee would have been happy to go with us if he could have.

After a while some of us who needed to change and/or freshen up decided we better get going.  Those who had checked into their own rooms already or were close by started leaving to get ready for the show that evening.  Ila told me she was going to get ready in her own room and would then bring my bags over so I could get ready in Judith's room.  I thanked her and just waited, talking to people while others took Judith up on her offer to let them freshen up in her room.  Deborah had her bags in Judith's room because the plan was for us to check into our room at the Luxe City Center Hotel after the show.  Gary emerged from the second bathroom wearing slim silver jeans, cool boots and a tee shirt with Johnny's image on it he had designed himself.  When we looked at him he asked us if we thought his outfit was 'too much', and we all said 'No!' emphatically.  (I later told Gary on Facebook he 'looked like a rock star', which led to some teasing from other fans.  Poor Gary!)

Once Ila brought my bags back to Judith's room I commandeered the second bathroom and did what I had done at the bus station earlier in the day; only in much nicer surroundings!  I washed up, fixed my hair and my makeup, changed my clothes and pulled out my trusty travel-size bottle of Listerine.  We had loosely decided prior to the show to wear some manifestation of pink and black in Johnny's honor; and though I was actually wearing blue denim jeans, I also had a pink top I had just purchased because I really had nothing pink that was suitable.  Once I had the top on I decided it looked more red than pink, but it was actually a dark shade of pink.

Once we were all dressed and ready to go we decided to head over to the Staples Center.  The crowd going into the arena was much larger for the actual show than it had been for the dress rehearsal, several thousand people versus a few hundred.  The biggest difference was that this time we all knew for certain we had reserved seating.  Once again I had placed my small video camera in my purse and simply handed the purse, along with my cell phone to the security personnel at the door.  This time I had taken my large key ring out of my purse and left it in my suitcase back at the hotel.  The security guard looked in my purse once again, but either did not see or did not care about my video camera.  In it's little velvet bag it could easily be mistaken for something else unless you really look, and no one looked.  Not that any of the video I shot was spectacular, but it is mine at least!

We were also given light sticks to wave during the show.  Not the plastic kind that you crack and glow in the dark, but ones with streamers, a plastic bottom, a switch and a clear stop with a flickering light. 

Since we were not all in the same section we separated once inside the arena.  Judith, Michael and I were in the same section but different rows.  I was close to the ice in Row Nine, but they were even closer in the Front Row!  It turned out I went down the wrong aisle because my seat was toward a different end of the row than theirs was.  So I went back up the aisle and over to the next door for my section.  By the time I figured this out the show was starting and the usher would not let me go down while the skaters were skating, which is actually as it should be, even though it's frustrating at the same time.  After a moment my usher noticed another usher in the same section was letting people go down; so he let me go.  I heard him say to the other usher, "I thought we weren't supposed to let people go down while the skaters were skating?"  Luckily, once I found my row I only had to climb over one person.  The biggest reason I had not gone to my seat from the other end of the row was because I would have had to climb over too many people.      

I had noticed during the dress rehearsal, and noticed it again at the actual show, there was a large population of Korean-Americans at the show.  The person I had had to climb over was Korean, as were the people behind me.  Of the group of three people directly behind me, one was a young man who apparently did not have a great deal of direct knowledge of figure skating. He, like many of the Korean Americans at the show, had come to see YuNa Kim. However, I can tell you in advance, based on his reactions he was a Johnny Weir fan when he left the Staples Center that evening!

During the dress rehearsal, although it was not filmed, there had been cameras in place to tape the Saturday evening show for a October 10, 2010 broadcast on NBC.  In addition the show was being filmed for a live feed on Korean television, which some American fans somehow managed to find a way to watch online.   

The show began as the dress rehearsal had, with a group number to 'Get the Party Started' by Pink.  We were first treated to a video on a large screen at the far end of the rink with YuNa Kim and Michelle Kwan talking about their skating inspirations and then the number began.  All the cast members except for Michelle and YuNa came out in pastel colored pants and white shirts with rainbow streaks on them and then the two ladies skated out.  After performing a few group moves in unison the two dance teams skated across the ice together, followed by the two pairs, then the three male singles skaters (Johnny Weir, Stephane Lambiel, Patrick Chan), and then the three ladies (Michelle Kwan, YuNa Kim, Ashley Wagner).  The group finished with a group pose in the middle of the ice.  Each of the skaters was introduced individually and skated out on to the middle of the ice. 

While each pair or individual skater performed their numbers images played on the large video screen at the end of the ice where the skaters came out.  Each number was introduced with photos of the skater(s) up on the screen. 

Immediately after the introductory number Ashley Wagner skated out on the ice for her first individual number to 'Ain't No Other Man' by Christina Aguilera.  Unfortunately for poor Ashley, neither of her numbers made the NBC broadcast on October 10th, so in order to have seen her skate you had to have been there, seen one of the fan videos posted at YouTube and elsewhere, or watched the live feed to Korea. 

Ashley was followed by German pairs team and 2010 Olympic Bronze Medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy skating to 'Barbie Girl' by Aqua.  This number was a little more interesting than it had been at the dress rehearsal with all the planned moves added back into it; however I still didn't find it particularly compelling.  It's cute, Aliona and Robin are basically playing on ice versions of Barbie and Ken, but to my eyes the best thing about it is the death spiral in which Robin waves to the audience with one hand while maneuvering Aliona in the spiral with the other.

As during the rehearsal when Johnny Weir had skated in the opening number he had already been wearing the makeup he uses for his first number, and those of us who had been at the dress rehearsal understood why.  As stated previously it takes time to apply makeup properly, and Johnny's first number was ten minutes tops after the opening number ended; therefore he almost had to already have the makeup on.  The music for his first number is 'A Comme Amour' by Richard Clayderman, but it is known as 'Heartbroken' to his fans due to his choreographing it as a response to what happened to him at the Vancouver Olympics.  This was my first time seeing this number live, and I found it to be just as powerful and emotional as everyone who has seen it previously has said.  The ending pose of Johnny in a fetal position down on the ice is striking, as is the plainness of the costume he wears for this number.  He received an enthusiastic standing ovation from me and a number of other audience members.  I have said numerous times that, as much fun as the Lady Gaga numbers are, I want fans, especially American fans, to see Johnny skate numbers like this one.  I think it is wonderful 'Poker Face' and 'Bad Romance' have brought more fans to Johnny, but I also believe it is important for fans to realize there is much more to Johnny Weir than those fun, dancy numbers.  Unfortunately 'Heartbroken' did not make the TV broadcast of the show; however he also performed it in 'Skate For the Heart', which will be broadcast on January 16, 2011.  Hopefully it will make that broadcast, but we do have the consolation of his beautiful performance of 'Ave Maria' being seen on television from another show!         

Johnny was followed on the ice by his good friends Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto skating a fun number to 'If It Kills Me' by Jason Mraz.  It really is such a fun number, going through costume changes from school kids to older kids to grown up romantic dancing!  And throughout the entire number they had such beautiful smiles on their faces!  I just love their lifts, their moves, and their enthusiasm for every single thing they do! 

Tanith and Ben were followed by Patrick Chan, who skated to  'Take Five' by Paul Desmond.  When this show was first publicized Brian Joubert was listed as one of the skaters; however Patrick Chan was a late replacement for him.  Despite some comments he has made, and some favoritism shown to him by the judges at the Olympics and since, I have nothing in particular against Patrick Chan.  However, despite the fact he made no mistakes in this number, his skating simply does nothing for me.        

He was followed by 2010 Olympic Ice Dance Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who skated to 'Schenkst Du Beim Tango Min Dein Herz' by Dajos Bela & Nights and Days by Waldemar Kazanecki

They were followed by the wonderful 2010 Olympic Champion Chinese pair Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo who skated to 'Who Wants To Live Forever' by Queen.  One thing I noticed in competitions and shows I had been to a number of years ago is that if you watch a skater or a pair carefully you can usually tell when a big move is coming even if you have never seen the skater perform before.  The skater will usually pick up a great deal of speed which is a certain indicator a big move is coming.  Sitting in the ninth row I was close enough to notice this with Shen and Zhao; they would pick up a great deal of speed and that would indicate a big throw move or a spectacular lift was coming.  They are a beautiful pair, wonderfully in sync and they seldom make a mistake. 

Immediately following Shen and Zhao came 2010 Ladies Olympic Champion YuNa Kim.  She skated to 'Méditation' from Thaïs by Jules Massenet.  This is a beautiful piece of music that I've seen skaters use a number of times, and YuNa Kim makes very good use of it.  I don't think YuNa Kim is perfect, and she can still improve, but she is definitely a lovely skater with many wonderful qualities. 

She was followed by two-time Olympic Medalist Michelle Kwan who skated to 'No One' by Alicia Keys.  I have always been a fan of Michelle's, and this number was a good one for her. 

Michelle was followed by 2006 Olympic Champion Stephane Lambiel, who skated to 'Let the Good Times Roll' by Ray Charles.  As seems to be the case with most of the Swiss born skaters, Lambiel's spins are wonderful, and his two programs in this show were no exception.  Since only one number from the skaters made the NBC broadcast, as a fan I would much rather have seen his second number on television; however given the ladies group number immediately followed this number it almost had to be the one shown on the broadcast.

As Stephane finished his number Ashley, Aliona, Tanith, Tessa, and Shen Xue came out on to the ice and skated briefly with him.  The girls pulled his jacket off and threw it on to the ice, and then Stephane skated off and YuNa Kim and Michelle skated out.  All of the ladies skated together briefly to 'She's So Lovely' by Scouting For Girls; and then YuNa and Michelle spoke to the audience before skating a lovely number to 'Hero' by Mariah Carey.  Considering YuNa Kim considers Michelle to be one of her 'heroes' and a skating inspiration for her, for these two ladies to skate together to this song seemed quite appropriate.

The duet by YuNa Kim and Michelle Kwan ended the first half of the show; and this time when the announcer informed the audience there would be a twenty minute break while the Zamboni resurfaced the ice I knew there actually would be.  I tried to get out of my row as quickly as possible.  One of the advantages to being in a lower row is that you are closer to the ice for the show; however the biggest disadvantage is it takes longer to get out during an intermission.  Since I had been at the dress rehearsal and had a program (which I had left in my suitcase in Judith's hotel room), I knew what was coming right after the break, and I did not want to miss 'Skaters vs BBoys'.  I went to the ladies room first and then got into a line at McDonald's.  I knew there were some kind of plans for a late dinner after the show, but I did not know exactly what those plans were, and I was hungry because I had not really had anything to eat since around six am that morning. 

I could see a Big Mac was $4 and a drink and french fries were $5.75.  Now somehow my brain ceased to function temporarily and I was thinking they meant $5.75 for all three items.  (At an arena?  Sure Gail, like that's going to happen!)  So when the counter girl told me my total was around $10 ($9.75 plus tax), I was momentarily taken aback.  I paid her, grabbed my drink and my bag of food and rushed back to my seat.  I had two empty seats to my left, so I stashed my three signs, purse and McDonald's bag in the seat closest to me.

Naturally not everyone was as conscientious about getting back to their seats as I was.  There are always going to be some stragglers, and there was this time as well.  At a time when I would have really wanted the ushers to make people wait until the end of the number to go down to their seats, they were letting them through.  People constantly going by in the rows in front of me were blocking me and my camera's view of Johnny and his snug leather pants!  I did not realize until I watched my videos a couple days later that I was audibly telling people to sit down because I could not see!  I was not saying it very loud, however, so as far as I know no one heard me!  At least I hope they didn't...    

The second half of the show began with the number Skaters vs BBoys.  Five of the male skaters (Johnny Weir, Stephane Lambiel, Patrick Chan, Robin Szolkowy and Ben Agosto*) came out on to the ice and did a fun 'battle' with a group of five male hip hop dancers.  One of the skaters would perform a move, then one of the 'BBoys', another of the skaters and so on.  One of the hip hop dancers came out on to the ice and did a break dancing spin that drew a lot of applause from the audience.  Stephane did a wonderful set of spins for his 'challenge', and Johnny performed his trademark knee slide followed by a series of hip swiveling knee spins that unfortunately were not seen during the broadcast because the picture shifted to one of the 'BBoys', which is only fair since they were great also.  The fun battle ended with the two groups slapping hands and giving each other high fives. 

Immediately following the battle were Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto skating to 'Use Somebody' by Kings of Leon.  I really like this number a lot, but I am a fan of Tanith and Ben anyway!  This is a beautiful number with some wonderful lifts and a white scarf used as a prop of sorts.  Unfortunately for me I still had people going by a couple rows in front of me to get to their seats, so I did not see this performance as well as I wish I could have!   

Following Tanith and Ben was Ashley Wagner's second number 'Speechless' by Lady Gaga.  I remember some of us talking between the dress rehearsal and the show about how we noticed there was another Lady Gaga number in the show besides Johnny's 'Poker Face' performance.   

Following Ashley was Patrick Chan skating to 'Viva la Vida' by Coldplay and then Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy skating to 'Nella Fantasia' by Garðar Thór Cortes

One of the numbers I was looking forward to was the one following Aliona and Robin; Stephane Lambiel skating to 'William Tell Overture' by Gioachino Rossini.  It's always great to see his wonderful spins and his beautiful smile out on the ice, and this is a great piece of music to skate to!  That beautiful smile was fully evident during this number, even though Stephane fell on his second jump.  It was one of the few mishaps in the show, and though I've been to shows in the past that did 'reskates', there were none for this show.  It hardly mattered anyway since the rest of the number was so enjoyable to watch.

After Stephane came Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo skating their beautiful 'Turandot' program by Giacomo Puccini.  This is a beautiful and spectacular number finishing with a bit of 'Nessun Dorma'.  It is a good number to see how good this pair really is!  Not only do we get to see their spectacular technical moves, we also see their artistry and grace; and they also do a beautiful job of using a large red fan as a prop during the performance.  It reminded me of how happy I was for them they finally won their Olympic gold medal!  

Right after the Chinese pair came Johnny Weir skating his second number to 'Poker Face' by Lady GaGa.  We saw during the rehearsal he was wearing his newer costume for this number as opposed to the one he had worn when he first began to 'Poker Face'.  The announcer introduced him this way; 'He's a fashion designer, author, and has his own television show.  He is an original in every sense of the word.  Ladies and gentleman, Johnny Weir!'  Since we had been at the dress rehearsal Michael and Judith knew Johnny would be right in front of them for some of the 'hip swiveling' in this number, and of course they were both thrilled about that!  He performed only one jump in this number, and though it hardly seemed noticeable at the time, we found out soon after the show Johnny had hurt his hip in a fall during practice earlier that morning.  Johnny's mother Patti later told fans at another event her son's injury had been more serious than he had tweeted his fans about after the show, and in fact he did also tweet his fans he was taking 'PT' in his room, we just didn't realize at the time he mean 'physical therapy'.  Judith and Michael can clearly be seen during the NBC TV broadcast of this program, yay!  Though Johnny had a smile on his face the entire number and it was, as always, great fun to watch (and the young man behind me loved it, as did the girls he was with), once we realized Johnny had been hurting we started to realize he had done only the one jump.  Judith also said she felt the audience interaction Johnny is so wonderful at accomplishing wasn't quite the same as it usually is.  The interaction was still good, and in fact better than most skaters, but poor Johnny was in pain the entire time!

Right after Johnny, Michelle Kwan came out again to skate her number 'Winter Song' by Sara Bareilles with Ingrid Michaelson.  Michelle is one of those skaters, like Johnny Weir, like Brian Boitano and a few others, who never give a bad performance. 

Following Michelle were Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skating a number to a medley of three songs: 'Hip Hip Chindchin' by Club des Belugas, 'Temptation' by Diana Krall and 'Mujer Latina' by Thalia.  They are definitely a beautiful dance team, and there is no doubt they deserved a medal in Vancouver. 

YuNa Kim followed the Canadian gold medalists skating to 'Bulletproof' by La Roux.  She was introduced as YuNa Kim 'disco girl'!  This was a good number, but I was not completely enthralled by it. 

YuNa Kim's number was the last of the individual skater's numbers.  After her skate a 'special guest' was introduced to the audience.  A young Korean female singer named 윤하 (Younha) came out to sing 'Just Can't Get Enough', originally sung by Depeche Mode.  No skaters were on the ice while she sang this number.  She spoke briefly telling us she was nervous, but she was actually quite good.  Once she finished this number the finale began.  윤하 Younha sang 'Dream On' by Aerosmith as the skaters were introduced and came out for a group number.  When 'Dream On' was finished an encore was performed to 'Tik Tok' by Ke$haJohnny and Stephane skated out together and did spins during the encore, and the skaters as a group, along with show choreographer David Wilson, skated around the arena and took their final bows in several different spots.  We also got to see a hug between Johnny and YuNa Kim, and since they have always seemed to be good friends, it was nice to see that be confirmed.    

All That Skate L.A. was a really fun show to be at, and I am completely glad I was able to go (with the help of some very dear and wonderful friends)!  It was the first figure skating show I had attended in a number of years and I am glad I did not have to miss it!  It was also the first time I had seen Johnny Weir skate live, and my first opportunity to meet so many of the wonderful figure skating and Johnny Weir fans I have met online in the last several months.  Now as I made my way out of my row and section to meet up with Michael, Deborah, Gary, Lauri, Lizzy, Ila, Paula, Julie, Judith, Lisa (and her friend whose name is escaping me), Teresa and anyone else I have forgotten to name so far (so sorry!) I was looking forward to all the post skating show fun we would be having!

To be continued...


* I was never positive Ben was the fifth male skater, but I am assuming he was.  If I find out differently I will change and update my Blog!

All That Skate Odyssey, Part One

All That Skate Odyssey, Part Two

All That Skate Odyssey Picture and Video Links

My Videos From Oct 2, 2010 Rehearsal  (You may be able to hear me talking to my friends Michael and Judith during several of these videos.)

My Videos From Oct 2, 2010 ATS L.A. Show

Official 'All That Skate' Website

Official 'All That Skate' YouTube Channel

'All That Skate L.A.' on Facebook
All That Skate on Twitter
Johnny and YuNa Kim hug after the finale.
Group shot after the finale.
Johnny and Stephane going out for their 'Tik Tok' spins.

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