Saturday, 1 July 2017

A Tiny Trove Of Titillating Tollerisms

Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

If there was ever a skater I could listen to interviews with all day, it would without a doubt be Toller Cranston. Articulate, blunt and certainly not shy about sharing his opinions, Toller never minced words and was unafraid to 'tell it like it is'. Today's blog is a culled together collection of quotes from Toller on a wide range of topics. They came from an interview with Linda Jade Stearns that originally appeared in the December 1978-January 1979 issue of "Canadian Skater" magazine. Reproduced with the permission of Skate Canada, these notable quotables are sure to bring not only a smile to your face but a greater perspective into this skating legend's views in the early stages of his professional career.

ON TURNING PROFESSIONAL

"After I turned professional, I thought it would be clear sailing ahead. I was so gung-ho, so opinionated, and so inflexible. I thought the world was my oyster. It's not that it isn't, but... In retrospect , I can only say - and it's a bitter pill to swallow - that I can only blame myself for my mistakes. When I turned professional, I had a desire to start my own show, etc. etc., which I did, and it was positive and successful. It went on to Broadway, we made a certain impact, and there will probably never be another show like it in a long time. But I did it and created it in a naive vacuum. My mistakes were in believing people with their claims of expertise and promises. The company actually didn't fold; it disbanded after power struggles between our distributor and manager. I then went to skate in Europe for three exhibitions and ended up staying three months."

ON JOINING THE ISU'S TOUR OF CHAMPIONS AS A PROFESSIONAL SKATER

"It's very important for me to skate and to perform at a certain level or standard. I was asked to perform in the ISU summer tour of champions this year - something unheard of for a professional rather than an amateur skater - and they've asked me back again for next year. When I went I wondered, 'How am I going to skate with the Robin Cousins and the Emi Watanabis? What are they going to say when I'm on tour with them? Why do we have to put up with this old goat?' That's what happened, but they treated me with utmost respect and my fears were completely unjustified. I had a chance to train with those skaters, and I was kind of an advisor to them. When you're skating with Robin Cousins and all those people, you don't want to be a has-been. In fact, you try harder to be better than ever."

Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

ON BECOMING A 'SLICKER' PERFORMER AS A PROFESSIONAL

"It's a very big danger for many performers. I think Liza Minelli is slick, I think Barbra Streisand is slick, and I think Diana Ross is slick. The older I get, I find that the more I perform the more vulnerable I become. I know that what I have to offer to the world of skating is not really in how high I jump, because I could never jump as high as Robin Cousins. But it's in the emotional value that I hope I can give to an audience. When I go out to skate, it's a primary intellectual concern fo me to think in terms of giving a 'memory'... You can't become slick if you're an artist. If your creativity is coming from authentic artistic processes, you can't become slick because an artist has 'tunnel vision' - you don't really think about what anybody really feels. You have to think in terms of what YOU feel, which is the key."

ON VLADIMIR KOVALEV'S LOW MARK FROM PAMELA PEAT AT THE 1978 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

"I stood up and applauded in my living room when I saw on TV that Kovalev was given a very low mark by the British judge after a bad free skating performance at Worlds. All the other judges thought, 'Well, he's Vladimir Kovalev and he's defending champion. We've got to hold him up.' The British judge was the only one who had the guts to give him the mark he deserved. That rarely happens. I think it was the first time in history that a low mark was applauded by the audience - the Ottawa audience was to be commended, really commended."

Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

ON SCHOOL FIGURES

"Figures are a lot of crap. When I say that, I don't mean to make a joke out of them because, let's face it, I did figures until I was practically dead. I feel now that the way of skating is evolving. Figures just aren't a part of what's happening now in skating. Figures just don't make sense anymore. There are going to be people who say, 'He doesn't know what he's talking about'. Hooray, you're entitled to your opinion. For me, I say just let them die their natural death."

ON BALLET

"Ballet sort of bores me. I think skating is much more interesting than ballet. It's more exciting, more athletic, more thrilling. There's only so many ballets that you can see with people running around in their nightgowns and little witches coming around the bushes and the prince dying at the end. I want more than that."

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