The 1978 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

They were hitting the floor to Chic's hit "Dance Dance Dance... Yowsah! Yowsah! Yowsah!" and queuing up at theatres to watch "Saturday Night Fever". Hungry, Hungry Hippos and ruffle belts were the latest fads and history was made when U.S. Senate proceedings were broadcast on radio for the first time.


Newspaper headlines were filled with stories of the arrest of the 'Vampire of Sacramento' and the Pacific Western Airlines Flight 314 crash. From February 8 to 11, 1978, they gathered at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon for the 1978 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Photo courtesy Cora Boothby

It was the first time the U.S. Championships were held in the Northwest since 1969 and first time that Oregon played host to the Championships. Integral to the bid to bring the event to the state was James Lawrence, President of the Oregon Skating Council, which was created by members of three Portland area clubs specifically for the purpose of bringing the event to the area. It was also the first time a multi-club co-operative had been established for the purpose of organizing the U.S. Championships, which drew one hundred entries 'from sea to shining sea'.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

The Northeastern United States blizzard of 1978, which killed approximately one hundred people and caused over five hundred million dollars in damage, delayed many travellers. However, it proved a stroke of good luck for television audiences, who were treated to extra figure skating coverage on ABC's Wide World Of Sports when many sporting events in the East were cancelled. Let's take a look back at how things played out!

THE NOVICE AND JUNIOR EVENTS


Photos courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Sixteen year old Karl Kurtz of Hershey, Pennsylvania won the novice men's title, defeating the likes of Brian Wright, Nathan Birch and Rocky Marval. Los Angeles' Michelle Schelske translated a win at the Pacific Coast Championships to gold in the novice women's event at Nationals. Among those she defeated were future World Champions Rosalynn Sumners and Elaine Zayak.

Photos courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Californians Maria DiDomenico and Larry Schrier were victorious in the junior pairs event. Future Olympic Medallists Peter Oppegard and Paul Wylie, skating with Elizabeth Chabot and Dana Graham respectively, also competed. The previous year's novice women's champion, Jill Sawyer of the Lakewood Winter Club in Tacoma, Washington, claimed the junior women's crown.

Judy Ferris and Scott Gregory

It was the first year that junior (Silver) dancers performed three compulsories, a (Foxtrot) OSP and three-minute free dance at Nationals. Eighteen year old Richard Callaghan students Judy Ferris and Scott Gregory won the title with unanimous first place marks. More than ten thousand spectators cheered on their free dance, an eclectic mix set to "Hair", "Send In The Clowns", samba
and polka music. Ferris was a freshman studying criminal justice at SUNY in Buffalo and Gregory was a senior at Amherst Central High School. Gregory skated with a screw in one knee and had been kept off the ice for much of the last two seasons with two knee operations. The young couple had only been skating together for five months. Pacific Coast Champions Judy Blumberg and Robert Engler won the free dance, but finished third overall behind Midwestern Champions Becky Lee Baker and Rick Berg in a field of ten teams.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Twenty year old David Michalowski of Park Ridge, Illinois led after the junior men's school figures but dropped behind fourteen year old Brian Boitano of Sunnyvale, California in the short program. Boitano rebounded to win the title with an outstanding free skate... and a triple Lutz to boot.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Featured on the ABC broadcast, Michalowski, the deaf skater who had dropped from second to sixth in the junior men's event. He fell three times in his free skate, but earned a standing ovation. He had never been interviewed on national television before but was able to read lips. Off camera, Dick Button reminded him, "I fell twice in juniors" and encouraged him to keep skating. Michalowski was unable to hear his music, the groans of the crowd each time he fell, or their cheers when he finished his program. His coach Carol Witti Ueck used cues such as waving her right index finger, snapping and bringing her wrist down to signal his program was over.

THE PAIRS COMPETITION



Seventeen year old Tai Babilonia and nineteen year old Randy Gardner, defending U.S. Champions and reigning World Bronze Medallists, took the lead in the short program to no one's surprise. They represented the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club and were coached by John Nicks. Their free skate, set to "Taras Bulba - The Ride To Dubno", "Young Bess" and "Tsena Tsena", featured a split double twist, four different side-by-side double jumps, a gorgeous throw double Axel and their trademark pull Arabians. Their only errors were a fall on the side-by-side double Axel by Tai and a problem on an overhead lift in the slow section. Both technically and artistically, they were in a class by themselves and their marks ranged from 5.7 to 5.9, more than enough for them to defend their title.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

Gail Hamula and Frank Sweiding of the Broadmoor Skating Club held on to their second place finish after the short program with their free skate set to to the music "Alfie", "Malaguena" and "Méditation" from "Thaïs" . They landed side-by-side double Lutzes, flips and toe-loops and a throw Axel but had a bad fall on the entrance to a cartwheel lift and stepped out of their first of two throw double loops. Like Hamula and Sweiding, Massachusetts teenagers Sheryl Franks and Michael Botticelli had their problems in the free skate but hung on for the bronze medal on the strength of their pair moves. Strong lifts and death spirals peppered both team's performances. Vicki Heasley and Robert Wagenhoffer finished just off the podium in fourth. Robert was the only man to compete in both senior men's and pairs at the Championships. The pairs medallists from 1977 placed in exactly the same order as they had the year prior, just as they had in 1971 and 1972.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION


Photo courtesy Cora Boothby

The twelve senior men in figures had to weave their way through three school figures and the seven required elements of the short program before taking to the ice for their free skates. The short program required elements in Portland were the double loop, double Axel, two jump combination consisting of a toe-loop jump together with any double or triple jump, crossfoot spin, spin combination, flying sit spin with change of landing foot and serpentine step sequence. Twenty four year old Charlie Tickner, the defending U.S. Champion from the Denver Figure Skating Club, won both the figures and short program.

Several men skated exceptionally well in the free skate, really giving the judges something to judge. Despite landing five triple jumps to Charlie Tickner's four, twenty year old David Santee of Park Ridge, Illinois had to settle for silver. Tickner earned three 5.9's for his free skate set to "Carmen", "L'Arlésienne", "El Cid" and "Mexicaine", which was chock full of inventive choreography and fast footwork. Scott Hamilton of Littleton, Colorado took the bronze - his first senior medal at the U.S. Championships - besting his rival Scott Cramer. He had placed ninth the year prior in his senior debut after winning the U.S. junior men's title in 1976. Robert Wagenhoffer, skating double duty in senior men's and pairs, placed sixth.

Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

In his book "Landing It", Scott Hamilton recalled, "In February, the weather in the Pacific Northwest was forbidding: dark, gloomy, cold and rainy. But I was in such a zone I didn't let it bother me. I was focused and confident, and in my best shape in two years... I repeated my solid performances from Midwesterns - I was third in the short, hitting the Lutz combination again - and third in the long. Placing third overall, I made the world team... As I was waiting for the medal ceremony, I went back to the dressing room and saw how much losing his place on the world team meant to Scott [Cramer]. He was really, really upset. A small group pof skaters - Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, and Michael Botticelli... were consoling him. I felt bad. As much as I wanted to represent the U.S. in Ottawa, I was even happier about beating Scott... I didn't know it at the time, but my rivalry with Scott was about to take one of those turns where I would never feel sorry for him again."

After winning, Charlie Tickner told reporters, "I was pleased with my performance. It wasn't my best, but I didn't miss anything. I wasn't really thinking of winning or losing. I was concentrating on my own skating. I felt that if I skated my best, I would end up the way I wanted to end up. There are good performances and then there are great performances and that difference is the nerves."

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION


Photo courtesy 1978 U.S. Championships program, Cora Boothby

The retirement of 1977 U.S. Champions Judi Genovesi and Kent Weigle meant that new senior (Gold) dance champions would be crowned in Portland. 1977 U.S. Bronze Medallists Michelle Ford and Glenn Patterson had also retired, opening up the field even further.

Stacey Smith and John Summers of Wilmington, Delaware took a narrow lead in the compulsories (Starlight Waltz, Kilian and Tango Romantica) and Paso Doble OSP. Even closer in the free dance, they defeated Michigan's Carol Fox and Richard Dalley by just one ordinal placing in a four-three split of the judging panel. Susan Kelley and Andrew Stroukoff, also of Wilmington, took the bronze. Smith and Summers' win had been nothing less than dramatic. Barely into their free dance, Summers' bootstrap came undone. He tried to keep skating but tripped and fell on his back. Referee Edith Shoemaker allowed them to stop so Summers could fix the problem. The couple returned later in the group and started their program from the beginning. Smith and Summers and Kelley and Stroukoff were both coached by Ron Ludington. In a show of good sportsmanship and comraderie, Kelley and Stroukoff handed their flowers to Smith and Summers at the awards ceremony.

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Left: Linda Fratianne. Right: Carrie Rugh.

Barbie Smith and Wendy Burge, the silver and bronze medallists at the 1977 U.S. Championships in Hartford, Connecticut, had moved on from the amateur ranks. Linda Fratianne, the seventeen year old reigning World and U.S. Champion, represented by the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club and was coached by Frank Carroll. She amassed a strong lead in the school figures and short program and based on her winning performance at the Pacific Coast Championships, everyone expected big things in the free skate. Skating to Kimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade", Fratianne performed exceptionally well, landing a triple toe-loop and two double Axels. Her only true error was a hand down on a third double Axel attempt, but she did double her planned opening triple Salchow. She earned marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.8.

On any other day, Linda Fratianne would have won the free skate no problem, but in Portland Lisa-Marie Allen of Garden Grove, California gave the performance of her life, earning a standing ovation and the only 5.9 of the event. Second in the short, Allen's fifth place finish in the figures kept her from claiming the gold. It was a devastating loss for the young student of former U.S. Champion Barbara Roles. Sixteen year old Priscilla Hill of Lexington, Massachusetts took the bronze, ahead of Carrie Rugh, making a comeback of her own after losing ground when she placed sixth in the short.


Lisa-Marie Allen told reporter Linda Kramer, "I just try to give everything I've got every time I skate. Sometimes I'm cautious but tonight I wasn't very cautious. It's not only the skill but the beauty of skating. I think I'm really good at theatrical skating."

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Hult On A Minute, This Blog's About Ivar Hult!

Ivar Hult and Rudolf Sundgren

Born in 1865, Ivar Hult was raised in Karlskrona, an island city in the eastern part of the Blekinge archipelago in southern Sweden, alongside a whopping nine siblings. In his youth, he showed great passion for ice skating. As a teenager, he decided to leave the family nest to learn more about what the ice had to offer.

Ivar made his debut at the Stockholms allmänna skridskoklubb in a competition for young men over sixteen years of age in February 1883. It was a rocky start to the young man's skating career. The Swedish newspaper "Post Blekinge" reported that "ice conditions were not the very best" and that anyone who managed to stand up deserved a prize. Placing fourth of the five men competing, behind Carl Sundstrom of Stockholm and brothers Richard and Henry Krause of Gothenburg, Ivar received a small silver cup for his efforts.

By the following year, the historical records of the Stockholms allmänna skridskoklubb report that Ivar had remained in the city and made "significant progress since last year [and] attracted much attention" with his skating. He was accepted into a special class for promising youths over the age of sixteen that year. In his meticulously researched 1959 book "Ice-Skating: A History", Nigel Brown noted that "competition in artistic skating was encouraged very early in Sweden, and junior school championships were numerous. This produced many promising youngsters who later would influence the development of artistic skating." Not yet twenty, Ivar was one of those whippersnappers. As a member of this special class, he received instruction in the art and appeared in an endless series of competitions at the Stockholms allmänna skridskoklubb throughout the 1880's. He soon was regarded as one of the club's finest skaters. Referring to the skating of Rudolf Sundgren, John Catani and Ivar Hult in the 1894 book "Tio vintrar på Nybroviken", Ivar Boktryckeri wrote, "In these three skaters, the Swedish school of skating has reached its peak and ones question if we shall ever [again see] three more excellent skaters. Their skating reminds one much of Jackson Haines, who loved to move in large circles... with elegance and agility."

Ivar Hult's skate design

In February 1889, Ivar participated in an international competition in Gothenburg, Sweden that included skaters from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Great Britain. Visiting British skater Douglas Adams recalled that he "astonished us with some of his elaborate figures." He finished second, sandwiched between clubmates Rudolf Sundgren and John Catani. The following February, Ivar travelled with Sundgren and represented the Stockholms allmänna skridskoklubb at an international championship in Russia staged to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the St. Petersburg Skating Club, where he competed against Louis Rubenstein, Alexei P. Lebedeff and Miss A. Malmgren of St. Petersburg. He did not win, but he learned a great deal by studying the techniques and innovations of his competitors. On his return to Sweden, he stopped in Vienna, Austria. While there, he studied the principles of the Viennese school of skating. When he returned to Sweden in 1891, he relayed methodologies of the Canadian, Russian and Viennese styles to other members of his club, and elements of all three soon caught on in Stockholm. Although Jackson Haines himself had spent time in Sweden, Austria and Russia and greatly influenced the evolution of skating wherever he went, it was arguably Ivar who can be credited with generating a renewed enthusiasm for free skating at a time when the creation of 'special figures' was the vogue in Sweden.

Hult's special figures, skated at the 1899 international competition in Gothenburg, Sweden

Ivar joined the Swedish military and became a Lieutenant, married twice and became a young father to three sons and one daughter but never lost his passion for skating. He sat with Tibor von Földváry, Robert Holletschek and others on the ISU's first Figure Skating Committee, formed to draft and submit regulations on the governance of the sport. When Ulrich Salchow competed at his first World Championships in 1897 in Stockholm, Ivar was the lone rebel of the five judges. He was the only judge to place Norway's Johan Peter Lefstad and Sweden's Hugo Carlson ahead of both Salchow and winner Gustav Hügel. He never returned to judge at another European or World Championships. Instead, he penned two books about Swedish military history, passing away in 1931. In "Tio vintrar på Nybroviken", Ivar Boktryckeri praised him thusly: "Mr. Hult was an exceptionally well-trained skater [who trained] at home under the most difficult ice conditions. His real strength lay in small, finely worked figures, which he performed with great skill and strength. Especially beautiful too were his forward figures but errors in his skating [stemmed from] his great need of strong momentum as he was compelled to run long strides before he would perform any figure. He truly had a measure of power and energy in his skating. His attitude was always excellent."

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

The Rhythm Girl With The Red Hair: The Mae Ross Story


Born April 23, 1924 in Methuen, Massachusetts, (Julia) Mae Ross was the daughter of Robert and Kathleen (Butler) Ross. By the time she was six, Mae's mother had moved her and her sister June Rae to Portland, Maine. Kathleen supported her girls by managing a rooming house. After a time, the Ross family relocated to Boston, where Mae and June studied ballet, tap, ballroom and acrobatic dancing. At the age of eight, Mae added figure skating to her ever growing list of hobbies.


When Mae and June were teenagers, they moved with their mother to Los Angeles, California. While attending the Mar-Ken Professional School - which focused on show biz children - the girls hung around the MGM, Fox and Warner Brothers lots. Mae's fire engine red hair caught the eye of the studio execs and landed her dancing roles in several films, including "Music In The Air" and "The Painted Veil".  By 1940, the five hundred dollars she made a year was helping keep a roof over her mother and sister's heads.


Mae's 'big break' was a starring role in MGM's short-lived ice ballet at the Persian Room in the St. Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Though skating had been nothing more than a hobby of her youth, she managed to turn heads on the nineteen by thirty inch tank enough to earn a part in an ice show at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. However, it wasn't until this self-made skater joined the cast of the Ice Follies that people really started to pay attention.



When she was performing with the Ice Follies, Mae was married to a skater named Bill Stine, who doubled as the tour's director and stage manager. A budding actor and assistant director in films, Bill helped promote Mae and skated pairs with her too.  She was billed as a 'rhythm girl', but she soon became known for her interpretive skating and ability to act on the ice. She played everything from a tightrope walker to a gypsy captive of pirates and even the 'Daughter of the Shah' in an act called 'Persian Festival' on the 1948 tour. When she wasn't skating, Mae was swimming, horseback riding, listening to Bob Hope on the radio and putting her airplane pilot's license to use.

Mae Ross and Bill Stine

Not long after Bill and Mae divorced, she hung up her skates and moved to Texas, where she remarried and became a mother. She passed away at the age of eighty one on April 10, 2005 in Midland, Texas... her time in the spotlight as one of the leading ladies of the Ice Follies all but forgotten.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Gliding In Glasgow, Part Three: The Artist Formerly Known As Cyclos

Satirical cartoon of George Anderson, circa 1880-1884

The son of George and Rachel (Inglis) Anderson of Luscar, Fifeshire, George Anderson was born in Liverpool, England in 1819. His father was managing partner of the firm Dennistown & Co. and manager of the Kirkcaldy branch of the old Glasgow Bank and in his youth, George didn't want for a thing except perhaps a gold platter to rest his silver spoon on. Educated at Le Havre, the High School of Edinburgh and the University Of St. Andrews, George came to Glasgow, Scotland in 1841 and took a job as managing partner of Alex. Fletcher & Co., a flax spinning company which employed nearly two thousand labourers. It was there that he became first exposed to the woes of the lower classes and by accounts, he was a sympathetic ear to his employees.

A busy man, George also served as a promoter or director of the Polytechnic Institution, the Fine Art Exhibitions, the Art Union, Glasgow Philosophical Society and the Lock Hospital. He was also an enthusiastic member of the Scotland Angling Club, the long-time President of the Glasgow Skating Club and the author of "The Art Of Skating" under the nom de plume Cyclos. His book was one of the most influential texts on figure skating in Great Britain during the nineteenth century. It was translated into several languages and formed the basis of many skater's educations.


A talented skater, George invented an apparatus designed to assist novice skaters stay upright on the ice: the Victorian equivalent of the chair all too often seen on public skating sessions in the twentieth century. He worked with a local silversmith, recommending innovations to skate design which later became widely adopted, and welcomed Canadian skaters who espoused ideas that opposed the stiff English Style with open arms. For his era, he was also progressive in his views towards female skaters at a time when many weren't having any of it. He wrote, "I like to see ladies skate; though, no doubt, the early steps must be rather trying to female nerves and female draperies; but more in idea than in reality, for with careful instructions, a lady may acquire sufficient skill to move about freely without any extensive ordeal of falls. At the same time, where the opportunity can be had of a private pond, these little difficulties may be more easily surmounted." Though he never competed as competition amongst skaters was considered quite uncivilized among his well-to-do peers in Great Britain at the time, George excelled at combined figures, salutations and spirals. He was, simply put, the Scottish skating authority of his time.

Though skating was George's passion, politics turned out to be his claim to fame. He was elected in 1868 General Election as one of three Members Of Parliament for Glasgow. A staunch Liberal and a very popular and outspoken legislator, he became well known as an authority on labour and mercantile issues. He supported labour rights, a national issue of note currency, compulsory nonsectarian education, Irish Church and Land Bills, the disestablishment of the Church Of England, the legalization of marriage with a deceased wife's sister and the abolition of game laws. Notoriously stingy, he was fiercely opposed to military spending and went to great pains to fight military pensions, stating "the whole system of pay and pensions in the army was rotten and wrong". In 1880, he called for investigation of the claim of Chief Justice of Hong Kong John Smale that slavery had been developed and tolerated under British rule in Hong Kong, demanding to know what steps the government had taken "to deal with the evil." He frequently asked questions in Parliament that others seemed to not want brought up and ticked off the many Colonels who sat in the House by successfully reducing the pensions of many military higher-ups.

In his book "Western Worthies: A Gallery of Biographical and Critical Sketches", James Stephen James remarked, "Mr. Anderson's speeches are always short, unadorned and practical. He was endeavoured, by a moving a resolution, to reduce the inordinate length of the speeches in the House as the only way of saving time to get through the yearly increasing work of legislation." George held his seat in Parliament until March 1885, when he resigned and became the Steward of the Manor of Northstead and took up the post of the Master of the Mint in Melbourne, Australia. He passed away on November 4, 1896 at the age of seventy seven, leaving behind a legacy as a champion of both the patineurs and the people.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Gliding In Glasgow, Part Two: The Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace

Photo courtesy the National Library Of Scotland

Though Edinburgh holds the distinction of playing host to the first skating club in both Scotland and the world, Glasgow can perhaps lay claim to being the first Scottish city to have its own artificial ice rink.

Built in 1888, the domed Panorama Building on Sauciehall Street in Glasgow was the definition of Victorian era luxury in Scotland. It first played host to a European style Continental Restaurant and Ladies Café which catered to the city's high society. Visiting German artist Philipp Fleischer painted a dramatic panorama of the 1314 Battle Of Bannockburn in 1314 on its walls, where the Scots triumphantly defeated the English. The art installation served quite a conversation piece while the Lords and Ladies sipped tea imported from Ceylon and nibbled on shortbreads and scones.

All that changed on May 16, 1896, when the building was repurposed as The Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace by Gordon Cameron, one time chairman of the National Skating Palace at Hengler's Circus in London. Financed by a group of men whose interests lied mainly in mining, the Palace was a novelty artificial rink in the vein of the Glaciariums. Skates were rented at reasonable fees and skaters enjoyed music played by a live orchestra, light refreshments and a 'cinematographe' which projected images on a screen while they carved out threes and eights on the same vile, noxious ice that was sneered at in London.

Clipping from the June 16, 1896 edition of "The Glasgow Herald", graciously provided by Mr. Bob Cowan

Renovations of the building were extensive. A new floor was installed as well as a stage in its north-east corner, of a size sufficient to accommodate up to one hundred performers. Fleischer's panoroma painting remained and was incorporated into the decor. The October 9, 1895 issue of "The Glasgow Herald" noted, "The freezing engines employed are those known as Messrs. J. & E. Hall's No. 6 Carbonic Anhydride process. These engines are capable of producing 50 tons of ice per day, and compared with the old-fashioned compressed air and chemical systems the saving in fuel is very great."

Unfortunately, curling and hockey quickly overran the rink and the members of the Glasgow Skating Club ultimately decided to stay loyal to their outdoor pond near the city's asylum until the Crossmyloof rink was constructed in 1907, replete with a bandstand at center ice. In no time flat, the
The Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace faded into obscurity, a huge loss to its investors and a fascinating footnote in skating history.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Gliding In Glasgow, Part One: The Glasgow Skating Club


Skating was a popular pastime throughout Scotland in the nineteenth century. From the
Caledonian Canal basin at Clachnaharry to Loch-na-Shanninsh near Inverness, the Scots just couldn't get enough edges! Glasgow residents flocked to the ice at Lochburnie, Hillhead Pond, the Great Northern Pond on Third Avenue South, St. Vincent Crescent, Springbank, Shawfield, Burnside, Rutherglen and Morriston. They even skated on flooded bowling-greens and travelled to Hogganfield, Gartcosh, Lochlomond and Lochwinnoch in pursuit of good ice. Many of the ponds in the city charged a small admission fee, but skates were available to be rented and the ice was supervised by members of a local Humane Society, who were prepared to assist in saving lives if and when the ice froze and skaters took an icy dip.

Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams dated the Glasgow Skating Club as being founded in 1830, the same year as The Skating Club in London, making it one of the three oldest clubs in Great Britain along with the Edinburgh Skating Club. Along with the Cambridge University Skating Club, Southampton Skating Club and Wimbledon Skating Club, these clubs predated the foundation of the National Skating Association in 1879.

Long time Glasgow Skating Club President George Anderson, writing in the first edition of his book "The Art Of Skating; with Plain Directions For The Acquirement Of The Most Difficult And Elegant Movements" under the pseudonym Cyclos, wrote: "In Glasgow, there is probably less skating than in any town in the kingdom of near its size; the inhabitants are so much engaged with business all day, and there is so total an absence of idle people, that the ice has only a few devotees. These few, however, form the centre of a very flourishing skating club, who have a pond of their own; and besides this, there are a number of ponds and small lakes within convenient distance of this town, and being situated so far from the sea, they have at least three times as many days of ice in each season, as the Edinburgh men." 

George Anderson related that the River Clyde which flows through Glasgow rarely froze and when it did the ice conditions were poor. Town plans from The National Library of Scotland show that for some time the Glasgow Skating Club utilized their own pond off of South Balgray Road very close to the Royal Lunatic Asylum to practice. Curling historian Bob Cowan, who graciously assisted with primary sources for this piece, explained that this pond was only used for a few years before both the Glasgow Skating Club and the Willowbank Curling Club both moved to a pond on the corner of Great Western and Gartnavel Roads in Kelvinside West north of the Asylum's grounds. Mr. Cowan recalled skating there in the sixties, when it was known as Bingham's Pond.

Charles Kirkwood, in his 1884 book "Kirkwood's Dictionary of Glasgow and Vicinity" noted, "The ordinary membership [of the Glasgow Skating Club] is limited to 650... Candidates for admission  must be recommended by two members, and elected by the committee... Children of  members and strangers are also admitted to the pond on special terms." An annual subscription to the club was 10s. 6d. but members could instead choose to pay a life membership for seven pounds and seven shillings.

The club devised its own custom skate with a beech or boxwood sole which matched the size and shape of the boot it was being affixed to which was followed at either end to fit more closely to the foot. These iron skates didn't have the curlicue ends in place of the toe-picks of today's skates that we associate with early Dutch skates. Instead, both ends were rounded off. Anderson believed this particular skate design originated in Glasgow. Glasgow club skates were sold at Hilliard and Chapman on Buchanan Street with prices ranging from 18s. to 25s. depending on the size and choice of fastening. Hilliard later patented a variation of this design and sold it to Harris' Clamp Skates.

Members of the Glasgow Skating Club wore a badge with a flying eagle holding its claws in a skate. Though members didn't take formalized tests, there were three badges distinguishing between the levels of merit of the club's members: copper, silver and silver-gilt respectively. Though the majority of the club's members were men, a limited number of women were permitted membership. 

Montagu Monier-Williams claimed that his friend Alexander Sloan wrote despairingly of the club in an 1882 personal letter, citing the arrival of Canadian soldiers who introduced "a small, tricky style of skating" as an example of how the English Style of the time had been degraded by 'fancy skating'. Combined figures still remained de rigueur with three turns, 'shamrocks' and intersecting eights skated in fours around a ball.

In the third edition of "The Art Of Skating" in 1873, George Anderson noted, "Both Glasgow and Edinburgh have shared in the general increase and improvement in skating. The skaters in Glasgow are very numerous, and even conservative Edinburgh begins to doubt if her 'goose' figure is really the only thing worth doing." 

Following the short-lived Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace in 1896 - which we will explore more later - the first 'true' artificial ice rink in Scotland was opened at Crossmyloff, Glasgow by the Scottish Ice Rink Co. in 1907. This rink had an unorthodox design with a bandstand on four pillars in the middle of the ice, which would have posed an obstacle for any figure skater using the rink. However, city magistrates allowed members of the Glasgow Skating Club to use this rink on Sundays. The rink remained open until 1918, later replaced with a larger rink with the same name in 1928, which played host to the Scottish Figure Skating Club. In an interview for the British Ice Hockey Writers website, hockey player Kenny McKie recalled, "It was a dump. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the place and still have many fond memories of playing there, but I won’t beat about the bush, it was a dump." 

In the next two parts of this "Gliding In Glasgow" series, we will rewind the tape a little bit and delve deeper into the Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace and the story of George Anderson a little deeper. Stay tuned... It's pretty fascinating stuff! 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html

The Rock N' Roll Skating Championships


"Right now it's somewhere between wrestling and American Gladiators. It's given the skating audience what they wanted - more!" - Evy Scotvold, "Newsweek", February 13, 1995

In the flood of professional figure skating competitions that materialized in the wake of the Lillehammer Olympics, one event certainly stood out for its uniqueness. The Rock N' Roll Skating Championships were a concoction of Michael Burg, the Executive Producer of Jefferson-Pilot Productions and veteran network sports director Joseph Aceti. Unlike other professional competitions where skaters were given more or less free reign to choose what style of program to use, the Rock N' Roll Skating Championships tried to appeal to a "younger, hipper audience" by asking skaters to perform only to contemporary hits. The FOX network billed the event as "a skating competition with an attitude" and brought in D list celebrities with no skating background to score the skater's two artistic programs on Artistic Interpretation, Individual Performance, Entertainment Value and Audience Reaction.


The first Rock N' Roll Skating Championships were held on December 1, 1994 at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. For twenty five to thirty five dollars, residents of the city known as the Birthplace of Rock 'n Roll and Barbecued Pork Capital of the World were treated to 'the first head-to-head competition' between Oksana Baiul and Nancy Kerrigan since the Lillehammer Olympics. The two Olympic medallists had faced off less than a month earlier at the Ice Wars team event in Uniondale and Providence but had represented the U.S.A. and The World, receiving combined scores with their teammates. As in Norway, Oksana Baiul took the title over Nancy Kerrigan... by one-tenth of a point again.


Rallying the crowd with his trademark program to Aerosmith's "Walk This Way", Scott Hamilton took the men's title over Viktor Petrenko. Some of the music choices were unusual for a competition billed the Rock 'N Roll Skating Championships. Rosalynn Sumners skated to Kenny G's "The Wedding Song"; Oksana Baiul skated to new age group Enigma. The marking was also at times unusual. Mark Mitchell's performance to Prince's "Baby I'm A Star" received marks ranging from 9.0 to a perfect 10.0. Gary Beacom received marks below 9.0 - a rarity in professional competition - while others received 10.0's, perhaps in excess. A sanction was obtained for Elvis Stojko to give an exhibition in conjunction with the competition. Philippe Candeloro had initially been announced as a competitor, but decided to remain amateur. Peggy Fleming refereed the judges panel, which included MTV's Downtown Julie Brown, gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi and NHL hockey player Bryan Trottier. The event's original broadcast on January 17, 1995 (commentated by Kurt Browning and Pat O'Brien) earned an impressive 13.5 Nielsen rating... on a Tuesday night.


On December 6, 1995, the Rock N' Roll Skating Championships moved to the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, South Carolina. The women's event proved to be an exact repeat of The Gold Figure Skating Championships (an event open only to Olympic Gold Medallists) less than two weeks prior in Vancouver. Kristi Yamaguchi took the title skating to the music of Tanya Tucker and Björk, besting Oksana Baiul and Katarina Witt - the exact same result as in British Columbia. 


Scott Hamilton defended the men's title, besting Kurt Browning and Jozef Sabovčík this time. The 1995 event marked the only time the Rock N' Roll Skating Championships included a pairs competition, which was won by Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler. 


Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini finished third. It was the first time they lost a competition in the nineties and consequently, one of Brasseur and Eisler's few wins as pros. The event was televised on FOX on January 16, 1996, with James Brown and Dorothy Hamill acting as hosts. 


The third and final Rock N' Roll Skating Championships were held on December 4, 1996, again in Charleston, South Carolina. Scott Hamilton won the event for the third consecutive time, besting Kurt Browning, Viktor Petrenko, Jozef Sabovčík and Gary Beacom. In what was considered quite the upset at the time, Liz Manley defeated Kristi Yamaguchi in the women's competition. She brought down the house with her first program to Diana Ross' rendition of "I Will Survive" then power balladed her way to win with a program to Céline Dion's "Call The Man". It was Manley's first win as a professional since the Legends Of Figure Skating Competition in September of 1995. The event also marked one of only two times that both Jill Trenary and Debi Thomas competed post-Lillehammer. The event was aired on FOX on January 14, 1997. Unfortunately, this event was one of many professional events to get the ax prior to the 1998 Olympic season, as over saturation of the market lead to a drop in ratings.


The competition inspired the Skate TV Championships, an unrelated competition with an eerily identical format held on April 24, 1998 in Charleston, South Carolina. The special aired on ABC and featured the professional debuts of World Medallists Tara Lipinski, Surya Bonaly and Viacheslav Zagorodniuk. The ABC executives aimed at "winning back the under 50 crowd" (sound familiar?) with skaters performing to pop music like Save Ferris and Massive Attack, but the competition failed spectacularly in the ratings. One of its flaws was the fact that skaters were "required" to do a minimum number of triple jumps in their programs. By that point in time, Katarina Witt and Oksana Baiul rarely attempted more than one. Not that the judges, who had no skating background whatsoever, would have likely known the difference. Michael Davies, executive vice president, alternative series and specials at ABC, told reporters, "This might not be an incredibly popular view, especially with the skating community, but there has not been a great deal of innovation or uniqueness to redefine what a skating special should be. I do think there's a need to react; both the skating community and TV community have to look at how they're covering it."

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here? Have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

A Master Of The English Style: The Roy Scott Hewett Story

Photo courtesy Rob Hewett

Born May 31, 1886 at Forest Gate, Essex, Robert Roylst 'Roy' Scott Hewett, C.B.E. was the son of Robert Muirhead Hewett and Alice Minna Hewett. He grew up at Roden (Roding) Lodge in Barking, Essex with six siblings in the lap of luxury, the family having at least five servants on staff.

Photo courtesy Barking Historical Society, Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Centre

Robert's father was a Justice Of The Peace for the County Of Essex, an auctioneer and the President of the Barking Liberal Association... as well as an avid fisherman to say the least. At one time the fishing industry boomed in Barking and the Hewett family's historic Short Blue Fleet was believed to be the largest private fishing fleet in the world.

Roy's father Robert Muirhead Hewett. Photos courtesy Rob Hewett, Barking Historical Society, Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Centre
.
In his youth, Roy became an avid fisherman himself, making his first trawler trip to Iceland when he was only eleven years old. However - as you might have guessed - one of his greatest claims to fame was his expertise on the ice. Roy started skating at a very young age and joined The Skating Club in London, where his father enjoyed skating combined figures "once back and forward meet" in The English Style. By the age of thirteen, young Roy was skating at The National Skating Palace with Madge Syers (then Cave).

Roy was as proficient on roller skates as he was on ice skates. In 1911, he won the first championship on rollers in the English Style instituted by the National Skating Association. His father was the runner-up. He went on to win this title - which was only ever contested five times - twice more in the years that followed. In 1913, at the age of twenty seven, he was made a first class judge by the National Skating Association... which was certainly a rare achievement for a man so young in those days.

Roy Scott Hewett with Dorothy Greenhough Smith and Marion Lay at the 1931 British Championships

After earning the rank of Captain while serving in the Royal Army Service Corps during World War I, Roy joined the family fishing business and pursued figure skating during the winters with a renewed vigour, often visiting the Swiss skating resorts to hone his craft. His efforts paid off in dividends when he won the National Skating Association's Championships in the stiff English Style in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1926 and 1927. In his 1939 book "Skaters' Cavalcade", A.C.A. Wade noted, "Captain Hewett and his father, Mr. R.M. Hewett... for many years [gave] valuable services in guiding the destinies of the N.S.A. Both are 'masters' in all branches of ice and roller skating... It would be difficult to find anyone more active and alert than 'R.M.H.' who, at eighty years of age, could give points to many men twenty years his junior. Both the Hewett's were always great sportsmen, and exceedingly keen in improving British skating. When Cecilia Colledge became World Champion in succession to Sonja Henie in 1937 in London, I was reminded of a remarkably prophetic remark made to me some years previously by Captain Hewett. Cecilia was barely ten years old when one day Captain Hewett rang me up to tell me jubilantly that Cecilia had won the N.S.A. gold medal for figures. 'She is the youngest girl skater who has ever won the gold medal,' he said, 'and she should be a future world beater - an English Sonja Henie... Captain Hewett himself won the gold medal when only eleven, and held the record for many years as the youngest skater to achieve this honour. Another distinction of Captain Hewett's is that he is the only man who has been British amateur figure champion on rollers as well as ice." NISA historian Elaine Hooper noted that Roy's career paralleled that of Ronald Gilbey of the Gilbey's Gin family. She noted that both were "prolific on both ice and rollers and members of the NSA Roller Committee while also being ice skating judges."

A combined figure in The English Style

Roy went on to serve as a Secretary of the National Skating Association and a skating judge for many years. In 1934, he was honoured with an honorary lifetime membership to the National Skating Association. Later, he served as a Common Councilman of the Corporation of London and a Sheriff during World War II. He was also a member of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers, Company of Watermen and Lightermen.

Roy's epitaph from the Hewett Memorial at Rippleside Cemetery. Photo courtesy Barking Historical Society.

Roy also served as President of the Billingsgate Christian Mission and Dispensary and was a member of the Royal Thames, Corinthian and Essex Yacht Clubs. He lived for some years at Marine Parade. Leigh On Sea and passed away on May 23, 1967 in Walmer, Kent at the age of eighty.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

#Unearthed: A Chat With Toller


When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time.

This month's gem is an IRC chat with Toller Cranston conducted during the 1996 World Figure Skating Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. The chat was arranged by the "Edmonton Journal" and a transcript was later published on the website for the competition. The month of the event, Toller was in town skating on artificial ice in the second act of the Edmonton Opera's performance of "Die Fliedermaus" and giving an exhibition of his paintings at the Kathleen Laverty Gallery.

IRC CHAT WITH TOLLER CRANSTON (MARCH 23, 1996)


Left: "The Snail Lady", a composition study once owned by Toller Cranston. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library. Right: Toller Cranston with one of his paintings.

Toller: Good evening, everybody, from Toller

FROM Robbyn: Can you ask Toller when he first started skating?

Toller: Robbyn, well, it's been so long, it's really pretty difficult to remember, but I figure it's been from the age of six and I started skating in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.

FROM Melinda: Welcome Toller. I think you are wonderful. Are you in any skating shows this spring?

Toller: Hi Melinda, Last Christmas I broke my leg and then I had to really reassess my life and whether or not I could continue skating. This past summer I made a movie with Katarina Witt which was kind of ostensibly my comeback to skating and with regard to the spring, I have very little planned but I'm available.

FROM Rodent: Tell Toller the rodent says hello and welcome to cyberspace. Congrats on transforming from the renaissance man to cyber skater. :)

Toller: Rodent, It's been too long! And I've decided that the twenty first century is not for me, and how do I get back to the fourteenth? And how much does it cost?

FROM Janice: What do you think about the rule to ban Kristi and Kurt from skating [in the exhibitions]?

Toller: Janice, This is the age of O.J. Simpson and Herzegovina, and one disaster after another. When people like Kurt and Kristi can give so much pleasure to so many people, isn't it pathetic that they couldn't skate for their fans?

Toller: Robbyn, You asked how it was skating with Katarina Witt. Katarina Witt is a fabulous and extremely down-to-earth girl, and working with her, as you can imagine, and as anyone can imagine, was wonderful.

Toller: DJS, About overcoming a difficult skate... DJS, I've had so many disasters and so much turbulence in my life, it's the good performances that are hard to remember. But the way that you cope with any of this and the precise advice I gave to Elvis two minutes after he skated was that maybe he lost a battle, but that he's fighting to win a war. And that this is just part of the texture of what is and will be a spectacular and dramatic career. Go Elvis Go!

FROM Katikam: Toller, what do you consider the single most important characteristic necessary for a skater to have today?

Toller: Katikam, I think the most important thing is the implicit belief that anything is possible to a willing heart. P.S. Stupidity is a distinct advantage.

FROM Katikam: Stupidity.....in terms of ignorance and willingness to take risks?

Toller: Katikam, I used the word stupidity seriously because many people could never follow the rocky road of international competition. If they really knew the kind of agony, frustration, and torment they would experience along the way, frankly, it's much better not to know what's around the next corner. And one hopes that there are no monsters lurking behind bushes. If you catch the drift.

FROM Janice: Does he like the turn skating has taken? With the pros and the amateurs?

Toller: Janice, I hate to tell you, Janice, but in the words of Joan Rivers... 'can we talk?' There hasn't been an amateur alive, for what I'm sure is, the last twenty five years. There is no difference between amateur and professional. It is simply a question of semantics and greediness on the part of official organizations... ie. the ISU and various and sundry organizations.

FROM Janice: I understand and love you Toller.

FROM Rockwell: How does it feel to see a new generation of skaters still using your style of spins?

Toller: Rockwell, The new generation depresses me because I really can't afford a major face lift, but I guess the fact that they're emulating many of the things that I invented, spins included. I suppose it's quite flattering.

FROM Sandra: Many of the other fans on the net have been concerned that the glut of pro competitions in the last year or two has been bad for the sport in general because they lack any credibility in the rules or judging. What's your take on this?

Toller: Sandra, The pro competitions are wonderful for the sport because, Sandra, let's fact it, the most known skaters in the world are professional, and the most known skaters in the world are huge icons and role models for all other skaters, especially the amateurs. Don't you think Kurt Browning, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Scott Hamilton have really contributed more to the sport in a global way than almost any of the amateurs? I also am a professional judge, interestingly, amongst top professionals and Olympic medallists. There is a vast and divided opinion as to who should come where, and so I think that, although there are politics involved, usually the people that win in important professional competitions win legitimately. Too bad judges didn't get a cut.

FROM Janice: Do you think a skater with raw talent can make it in this weird aristocratic world of figure skating without losing his passion?

Toller: Janice, Talent is not necessarily an important criteria for being a champion. Great talent can even be a handicap, and raw talent is worthless without meticulous polish and refinement. Personally, I'm a big supporter of guts and money. But especially money!

FROM Bianca: I would like to know which of the new skaters really impress you and why.

Toller: Bianca:,I don't know if you're privy to seeing the World Championships here in Edmonton. There are many extraordinary new kids on the block... Ilia Kulik, in the last two days here in Edmonton, has become an international star and a sex symbol (similar to Kurt). Irina Slutskaya, from Russia, is unknown today but quite conceivably tomorrow (long program for the women's competition) could also become an international idol overnight. She's also, I think, one of the best bets for becoming an Olympic champion in 1998. But my personal favorite, the fifteen year old girl that I adore and is so charming and refined when those two aspects have become rare, is a young skater from Switzerland whose name is Lucinda Ruh. Can forty seven year-olds marry fifteen year-olds or will I be arrested?

FROM Janice: Toller, when you paint, do you have any special way you like to organize your ideas or do they just lash out on the canvas?

Toller: Janice, I can't give painting lessons tonight, Janice, but I employ something which I cannot possibly explain, but some people out there will know about the secret technique of using the "third eye". I am a virtual expert in this department, but only the people who are aware of this ability know what I am talking about. And by the way, Janice, do you have an art collection? Would you like to buy a painting?

FROM Cattibri: Toller, as a judge, can you please comment on the skating style of Bourne and Kraatz?

Toller: Cattibri: I love Bourne and Kraatz. They have the quintessential qualities of becoming truly great skaters, and perhaps the only North Americans in recent memory who can ever consider competing and triumphing over Russian couples. But they're not there yet. And there are many miles of skating for them to cover before they are in combat range.

FROM Sandra: I'm very curious to hear what you think about Rudy Galindo - he actually reminds me very much of you!

toller: Sandra, Rudy Galindo has become a role model for many as he proved that by not giving up and adhering to his dreams that anything's possible. Last night Rudy Galindo paid me the greatest compliment and said that I had had a profound influence on his career, but that he didn't feel he's as good as I am. I, of course, told him that he was slightly ridiculous and thanked him for the tribute. But, although people may feel there's a similarity between us, and I do understand why they may feel this, but personally, if Rudy's on the moon, I'm on Mars. We can only wave at each other from a distance.

FROM Cybermom: Is off-ice dance important to a developing skater?

Toller: Dear Cybermom, Are you interested in coaching? That is a profound question. And yes! Off-ice dance is madly important. By the way kids, has anybody seen the movie "Strictly Ballroom"? Go babies, go!

FROM Cybermom: No, but I am a figure skating mom, with three boys who love to skate, In a HOCKEY village that's not so easy.

Toller: Dear Cybermom, I can't imagine that any young male - hockey player - small town boy - could possibly fail to be awed by people like Todd Eldredge and Elvis Stojko. Can you?

FROM Janice: Did you enjoy touring with Skate the Nation? Did you fill them with your deep knowledge?

Toller: Janice, Part of me loved skating with many of my friends in Skate the Nation. However, part of me hated visiting Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo people, no offence. But, I'm convinced that they all came out of the tour supersaturated, but I'm not absolutely certain it was with my profound knowledge. I have another word for it.

FROM Janice: Does he like the turn skating has taken? With the pros and the amateurs?

Toller: Janice, As mentioned before, there is no difference between a pro and an amateur. However, there is a common denominator that both aspire to, and that is great skating. Capiche?

FROM Rockwell: Do you think judges have kept abreast of what is actually taking place on the ice and do you think there is a better way to score skaters?

Toller: Good question, Rockwell. You just opened a can of worms. Don't tell anybody, but I have virtually no respect for practically any judge. Some of the judging at the World Championship does not pass the laugh test. Judges should be professional and ANY judge judging top international competitions, should have been an international competitor themselves. Judges should also be accountable and in a public forum after important competitions coerced into explaining precise marks. As you should know, there's a certain elite snobbery that permeates the upper echelons of the judging stratosphere, and most refuse to respond to any serious and pointed question. A judge over the years is often concerned about fitting in the sandwich between the two slices of bread and not wanting to be a pickle on a side plate. Often, the extreme mark by some adventuresome and daring judge, high or low, is the only precise judgment. Incidentally, what about having a dictator on the panel and simply having one person (like me, for instance) decide who should really be the World Champion? I think I'm made for the job!

FROM Sandra: Well, if you *were* the dictator, who *would* be world champion? :-)

Toller: Dear Sandra: As vitriolic and down on judges as I am, strangely, the people that win World's today or come second or third are invariably judged properly. It is only individuals and individual marks that I take exception to and as a passionate skater I feel that public execution is a possible solution. I hate to see any injustice committed to any skater from any country. Got it?

FROM Katikam: If you were giving advice to a young person, just starting out in skating...what "words of wisdom" would you give them?

Toller: Dear Katikam... Your question is sincere. But I can't help but be a bit flip. My words of advice would be "chase your passion and make it happen! If you don't enjoy it, give it a rest!"

FROM Robbyn: Out of all the places you have toured, which was your most favorite?

Toller: Dear Robbyn: I'm going to give you three of my top 50. #1: I had a splendid time two years ago in Stars On Ice with the likes of Yamaguchi, Wylie, Orser, etc., in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We felt like the Beatles bringing a new art form to a country that, up until that time, was ignorant of top-quality skating. #2: would have to be, and don't criticize me, an exhibition done in 1985 in Sun City, South Africa. I can't tell you how much fun that was. And #3: and perhaps more seriously, an extraordinary trip to Beijing in the early eighties was as fascinating as it was peculiar, not to mention historical. Has anyone seen the Ming Tombs lately?

FROM Janice: If you could go back to the Renaissance for one day, would you take something back with you and what?

Toller: Dear Janice: If I went back to the Renaissance, what city might I be in? And as I couldn't take, at least I don't think I could lift it, Michelangelo's 'David', I guess I'll have to settle on the 'Mona Lisa' which is infinitely more portable. And, I might add, probably more valuable. I don't think either are available today, however.

FROM Sandra: I always get a good laugh out of those absolutely withering put-downs you come up with. Is there anything or anybody you'd like to insult while you're here? :-) :-)

Toller: Dear Sandra: Lovely question... in fact, there is one person. I was extremely disgusted with the gutless marks of one Mary Pearson (Vancouver judge) who awarded Elvis Stojko, after his near flawless performance and triumphant comeback (A MAJOR FEAT) with a 5.7. Does anyone know her address? And can we send her something nasty?

FROM Rodent: Toller. do you have any programs in Worlds this year?

toller: Dear Rodent: How are you, baby? No, I don't have any programs, but I have half a dozen costumes floating around. Check out Lucinda Ruh's pink long program dress.

FROM Katikam: Toller, do you interpret passion as the ability to express your inner self on the ice in front of an audience?

toller: Dear Katikam: You are obviously a serious person, and I am obviously not. But, on that note, if I can be serious, for one moment in time, "passion" comes from the reservoir of the soul and is revealed in body language, whatever that vocabulary may be, indigenous to the specific individual. Passion conquers all in the final analysis.

FROM Robbyn: This question has to do with your artwork, do you have a favorite piece?

Toller: Dear Robbyn, My favorite piece, without a doubt, is the very last one that was sold. By the way, do you have an art collection? And if you do, how do I get your phone number?

FROM Melinda: Are you enjoying the Worlds so far?

toller: Dear Melinda: Prozac is quite a divine drug. I'm talking to you, Melinda. Worlds has been more divine than I had ever imagined it would be. And on that DIVINE note, I bid thee all farewell! Keep skating, kids!

FROM Janice: THANK YOU TOLLER!!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.