Just add ice -- Wyckoff visits with Johnny Weir

Pop star on ice visits Lake Placid

Johnny Weir and Kendall Wyckoff take some time off the ice to chat in Lake Placid.
Johnny Weir and Kendall Wyckoff take some time off the ice to chat in Lake Placid. (courtesy of Kendall Wyckoff )


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By Kendall Wyckoff, special to
(08/06/2009) - Last Saturday, the ice of the 1932 rink at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., was graced by the presence of the fabulous Johnny Weir. His first performance was a tender and moving program to Edith Piaf's "Hymne a l'amour." Weir ended the show with an eye-popping skate to the pop hit "Poker Face" by the fashion-forward Lady GaGa. The audience was filled with adoring fans, young and old, including my younger sister, Cambria, who had met Weir at nationals.

Cambria rarely sets foot in a rink, but still possesses an incredible familiarity with who's who in figure skating. The people she has met in skating are just part of her reality -- her frame of reference. When my sister was five, she thought her skating 'Ken' doll looked like Drew Meekins. Now, age nine, she "can't believe how much Jack on The Secret Life of the American Teenager looks like Scott Smith." And, on one recent night, Cambria couldn't fall asleep, because she was wondering about Weir. She had imagined a world befitting the pop star on ice, and was excited to know if "he arrives in a limo or does he have a tour bus?"

I said I would ask him. After the show, I sat down with Weir to inquire into his VIP lifestyle.

Contrary to my sister's vision, Weir arrived in Lake Placid via his own car, though he has enjoyed his share of celebrity moments. One year, Weir attended Elton John's AIDS Foundation Oscar Party, where he mingled with the rich and famous as he glided down the Red Carpet.

"It was all very cool," described Weir.

A few weeks ago, he even met one of his favorite entertainers, Lady GaGa, at a photo shoot in NYC.

"That was very special because now I have Poker Face [for a program]."

Weir is definitely a VIP between Lady GaGa and Elton John, and going on different TV shows. He was excited to say that "there have been a lot of cool things that have happened."

We touched base about Weir's documentary Pop Star on Ice, and his upcoming reality show, Be Good, Johnny Weir.

"It is very strange to see myself on television when I'm not actually skating."

He says that the movie has had no bad reviews, and hopes that the show will be very much the same. Fans can watch the TV debut of the documentary on Dec. 24 on the Sundance Channel. The TV show premieres immediately after -- just before the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships kick off in Spokane, Wash.

His year-round, round-the-world fan base includes one devoted fan from South Dakota who got a tattoo of Weir's autograph on her ankle. In South Korea, Weir-supporters wait for days outside the airport for his arrival, and in Russia, he has been given his very own police escort. Weir added, "There are many fun and crazy moments like these."

Weir also mentioned his collection of Cheburashka, an adorable Russian cartoon character.

"He's really, really, really cute," said Weir. "If you YouTube [Cheburashka] you'll see that he's the little brown guy with giant ears. I collect his toys and my fans bring me dishes and coffee mugs and t-shirts and lots and lots and lots of things."

Weir added that one fan even sent him a head band bearing the huge fuzzy ears of the character.

Eventually, we arrived to the subject of fashion, which is obviously one of Weir's passions. Weir described: "I design all my costumes, and then a lady in New York makes them for me because I can't sew."

His favorite designer: Balenciaga.

His fragrance: "I wear a different smell every day!"

When asked about future careers, Weir responded that he sees himself as many things in the future. He aspires to be a fashion designer, an actor, and even a diplomat for the United States to Russia, South Korea, and Japan!

"There are lots of things I want to do before I die," mused Weir. "It's just a matter of figuring out what things I want to do in what order."

When talking about his new choreographer David Wilson, Weir's zeal was evident. "He's fantastic and he's crazier than me, which makes it really fun."

He says they collaborate well in working toward their goal. They are especially adept at stepping out of the box, because they are both artistic and full of cutting-edge ideas.

"I'm really excited about my new programs." Finally, I asked "What three things do you look for in a coach" to which Weir replied "it depends on how old you are." As a younger student, Weir needed someone who was very nurturing, had good technique, and could teach him about the sport. As he got older, he required someone "who [he] was afraid of, someone who would push [him] to work even when [he] didn't want to, and also someone who has very good technique," hence his switch to Galina Zmievskaya.

"It's kind of the exact opposite, but with some of the same basics."

Weir is someone you could talk to all day. He has countless tales to tell, but it is his warmth and candor that sets him apart. Maybe next time I'll ask him about his younger brother.