Friday, August 6, 2010

Johnny 2.0

All aglow with glitter:
Johnny, Alice, David, and Binky
in Lake Placid, July 2010.

As I may have casually mentioned one or two thousand times or so, I first met Johnny in person at Ice Dreams back in April. That meet-n-greet was, as is widely traditional, sweltering and chaotic; my camera refused to cooperate but Tara was kind enough to keep trying; and I was unable to speak other than to say "thank you" to Johnny twice.

This time I did a little better.

And since today is my birthday, and my trip to Lake Placid was my birthday present to myself from me and my family, I'm going to spend my day reveling in every last moment of last weekend, and will probably still be doing so long after you've all tiptoed away and quietly shut the door behind you ...

So we now rejoin Binky after the show, where the free meet-n-greet is about to begin ...

Wait in line in the hallway once again, where the temperature has gently elevated from a balmy 150 degrees to an undeniably tropical 510 degrees. Bless you once more, Mimi Dzyacky, for your beautiful and wonderfully functional fans. The fabulous Karen Weeks gently but firmly insists that I take one of the extra 8 x 10 photos she has brought and get it autographed by Johnny. Because of course I'm an idiot and have not come prepared. I choose a gorgeous Heartbroken shot from ITNY, and she also loans me her silver Sharpie.

Hear applause and cheering. Johnny has arrived! Crane neck to see, but there's too many people. Maggie Strasser volunteers to be a runner and check out the scene. She reports back that he's seated in a chair, with a table to his right for autographing, and an empy chair to his left.

Shuffle imperceptibly forward. I am suddenly reminded of the wait staff at Nicola's (although fans report service was much speedier on Saturday). Everyone is in a good mood. Tara had alerted us earlier that though photos with Johnny would only be taken by his pro photographer, the amazing Leah Adams, we are welcome to use our own cameras or cell phones to take candid shots while waiting in line.

Reassure Karen Burke's absolutely lovely little daughter that it's OK to take pictures.

Turn around five minutes later to discover this sweet child crying because a female Storm Trooper/self-appointed Flashbulb Nazi (thank you, Trish Aaron-Misiura, for that apt title) had scolded her for trying to take pictures. WTF? You know, I actually have it in writing from Tara that candids were OK, so why/how the arena staff failed to get that message is beyond me. As is why they felt it necessary to be so heavy-handed in monitoring "unauthorized" camera usage--which apparently at the Jack Shea Death Star is like a RED ALERT TERRORIST THREAT--that they made a beautiful little Johnny fan burst into tears.

Fume. Compose strongly worded letter in my head to the arena manager regarding the complete lack of consideration for customers. "Dear Asshat: Hello. We're here spending big f*#king money in your little f*#king town. Sorry if that's an enormous f*#king nuisance for you. F*#k you very much."

Reflect that this letter may need some editing.

Observe that each person is taking maybe one to two minutes of Johnny's time, and the photos are progressing well. Make a mental note that the pro-photographer idea is really excellent and is definitely making this meet-n-greet run more smoothly than previous ones.

Notice that the Storm Troopers seem quite restless and are actually starting to turn off some of the lights. Head Storm Trooper announces that they absolutely HAVE to close the arena at 11 p.m. I'm not sure what horrible disaster will befall everyone if the arena stays open past its bedtime, but it's clearly just one horseman shy of the Apocalypse, judging by his expression and tone. [Note: Yes, I understand that maybe the arena staff wanted to go home. Maybe they were heading into overtime hours without overtime pay. Maybe they weren't expecting that to happen. Given that they barely seemed to comprehend who Johnny Weir is, it's likely that they also were blissfully unaware that he has lots of fans. I don't know. I do know that even so, it would have been possible to handle this situation with paying customers far more professionally and courteously. Like, oh, say, the Taliban would have. Or animals that eat their young.]

Realize that there are still a lot of people behind me in line and that the two-chair set-up is designed to accommodate one fan at a time. Because we don't want to take up more than our fair share of time with Johnny, my two kids leave the line to wait for me.

See Chloe Larson and friends doing a fab group photo with Johnny! Frantically wave at kids to rejoin me. We'll make it work.

And then.


Our turn!

First Johnny hug ever!

Then he turns to hug my kids, whom he actually remembers from Ice Dreams. He greets my Russian-speaking daughter in, yes, Russian. She purrs. He and I sit down, kids standing behind us, and he smiles and thanks me for the blog.

I am completely, utterly humbled by his graciousness. Also giddy.

And then.


I speak.

All in a rush, because I spend way too much time on Twitter so communicating entirely in hashtags feels perfectly natural. I say: "You're so welcome. And I don't have anything else to say because I say everything on the blog and I'm really shy and awkward in person so please just read the blog kthxbai." This makes him smile as he autographs a lovely message on the photo Karen gave me, and then we do the picture. And my kids are standing stiffly behind us, so he turns and smiles at them, "Come on, people, we're not bookends here. Get in the picture!" So they lean in close to us, and Leah takes the shot. And announces that somebody's eyes are closed. So she takes another one. And somebody's eyes are closed again. And Johnny commands, "OK, everybody, eyes open REALLY WIDE," and Leah takes a THIRD shot and I'm cringing inside because this is exactly what I did NOT want to do, which is chew up way too much time because there are still a bunch of people waiting and the Head Storm Trooper is snarling in the compassionate manner of a pitbull on steroids that this arena WILL close in ten minutes no matter how many people are left in line--and finally this time the photo turns out fine.

Hurry away to discover that Patti is standing right there! Yay for more Patti hugs! And then she announces to everyone milling around her just basking in her Patti-ness that she enjoys my blog! So very kind of her to say all those words together in a sentence like that where people can hear her. I am purring so loudly I fear one of the Storm Troopers will mistake me for a helicopter and launch an anti-aircraft missile at me.

And then: It's over. We gather our stuff, return the silver Sharpie to the incredibly kind and thoughtful Karen, and make our way toward the stairs, never looking back for fear the security people will interpret that as a hostile move signaling our intent to camp in the hallway for the night, and mow us down with machine guns.

Return to the hotel, deliriously happy. Sleep the deeply satisfying sleep of those who have been completely bathed in sparkliness and still have a bit of it clinging to their clothes. Which they will never ever wash because Johnny hugged them in those clothes.

Awake the next morning, check out, load the car, and give Lake Placid dining one last chance by having breakfast at the Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Company. My daughter orders an extremely complicated meal for which we should have provided a written recipe: Plain white toast. Which takes absolutely forever. Possibly longer. About forty-five minutes in, consider complaining to the manager, only to discover that our waiter is, in fact, the manager. Alice's toast finally arrives, and Smucker's jelly is offered. She murmurs under her breath, "Oh, no, I can't. I'll die."

Head home.

Where, 2,050 round-trip miles later and all three of us in desperate need of a bathroom about twenty miles ago, there is an absolutely wonderful welcome-home serendipity waiting in the mail for me: The Mook Book, courtesy of Glitter Yak and F'nD. The perfect ending to an absolutely perfect and unforgettable road trip.

And now, to sum up, just for my dear fellow fan Lauren Ashbaugh:

Miles: 2,050
Driving time: 38 hours
Time spent waiting for food: 38 hours
Gasoline: About 80 gallons
Starbucks: About 80 gallons
Hotels: Way more than I should have spent
Johnny on the ice, Johnny's hugs, Patti's hugs, Tara's kindness, and meeting so many wonderful fans: You guessed it. Priceless.


One of the things that struck me last week was the contrast between Johnny on April 1 in Bensenville and Johnny on July 31 in Lake Placid. Back in April, he was beyond tired, having just flown in from Russia that very day, where he had been performing with Kings on Ice. And I understand so much more now, in retrospect, that on top of his mind-numbing exhaustion, how fresh and raw the wound that was the 2010 Olympics was for him then. He was still grappling with that experience, with the reactions to his Oly performances and to his decision to withdraw from Worlds, and with trying to figure out what it all meant and where to go from there. To fans, he was, as always, kind and gracious, polite and patient; but underneath there was such tremendous pain.

Johnny in Lake Placid is a man who has made peace with at least some of that pain. Although always in his eyes there is knowledge gained at great cost, through hurt deeper than any of us can imagine. But he's also, like his mother, very savvy, and sharp enough to recognize that this is his time. He's a man on the brink of something big--far bigger than the insular and inbred world of competitive figure skating can ever offer him. That world simply cannot contain him; he's bursting out of it. And he knows it.

Yes, there are those who complain that he has never lived up to his potential as a figure skater. I don't evan know what that means. He should have won more medals? In my opinion, he accomplished something far, far greater this year than any medal could signify. And what's more important? To be who you have to be in order to earn medals from within a--let's face it--manmade and rather sadly corrupt system; or to be who you are, who God made you to be, and to own who you are--whether flawed human drones reward you with medals for it or not?

There also are those who are sure that his changing hairstyles are a barometer indicating his descent into career suicide, accomplished step-by-step with appearances on "D-list" reality shows. I beg to differ. Lindsay Lohan = career suicide, marked by out-of-bounds behavior that is so obviously crying out, like a desperately insecure two-year-old, for someone to please STOP ME, coupled with drug abuse, jail time, rehab, etc. Not quite the same as winning the edgily fresh NewNowNext Award or Figure Skater of the Year.

Others sigh that OK, if he's not going to skate competitively this year, could he at least pick one thing and stick with it? To which I say, WTF? Why should he limit himself? Free of the USFSA and all its attendant [stuffiness / coldness / constipated harrumphing / unforgivable stupidity / insert your own unflattering but accurate noun here], at least for this year, it's very much his chance to explore the options--just like any other man in his mid-twenties. He's never been much of a "limits" person anyway, and now, more than ever, he surely doesn't need to be. During and after the Olys, his fan base exploded, driven largely by his reality show, which introduced him to a brand-new, non-skating audience who completely fell in love with him as a person and then went on to discover him as an athlete and an artist. In the coming months, fans who are enjoying this ride will find even more to squee about, as new appearances and events are announced, new merchandise becomes available, his song and video are released, his book is published (book tour! yay!), Season Two of BGJW begins, and more opportunities to meet him, to cheer for him, and to be ever fascinated by him, keep rolling in.

So far he's only said that he's taking a year off from competitive skating. Maybe he'll return. Maybe he won't. I don't know. I do know that, as a strongly grounded person with the support of a smart and loving inner circle, he'll make the decision that's right for him.

In the meantime: Here he is, poised for takeoff.

So get ready for Johnny 2.0: Hip, haute, and hotter than ever.

BB, I can't wait. :)

Dance like no one is looking
Sing like no one can hear
Love like you've never hurt before
Live like there's nothing to fear
--Newsboys, "Dance"

And every chance you get
Go see Johnny Weir ...

Hey! You can enter to win a virtual styling session
with Johnny and a $500 shopping spree
Just submit a photo of the most
outrageous item in your closet!
Johnny will be choosing the winner in 15 days!
More info here!

Coming soon: The series
of translated interviews from the Mook Book
courtesy of the fabulous Akiko Nakata!

copyright 2010 / Binky and the Misfit Mimes / Lynn V. Ingogly / all rights reserved


noviarium said...

Every story about this meet and greet has Johnny saying very nice, kind things that put the fan (who are invariably nervous and self-conscious) at (relative) ease. He remembers people and what interest them, making them feel important and cherished. I love it that he greeted your daughter in Russian and that scene when the four of you were taking group photo, so adorable, so easygoing. His capacity to be so giving and warm at the end of a long day, when he was pobably exhausted and hungry and needing his bed, is mindboggling and very humbling.

Your comparison of the two encounters with Johnny is therapeutic to say the least, and affirmative. While I still wish I would be able to see more of Johnny's skating, he is getting far bigger than the world of ice skating, and he is going places where he will no longer have to conform to outrageous boundaries to shine. And I will still love him deeply and unquestioningly, no matter what his hairdo looks like, if only because he greets a girl he met months before and knows to have interest in Russian, in that language.

Happy birthday, Binky! Many happy returns!

And enjoy the mook book. Isn't it a treasure?

aaaack said...

As Sandra Boynton would say, "Hippo birdie two ewes"! Thank you for putting bright, glittery spots in my life with your columns.

Anonymous said...

You should casually slip it into the conversation next time you talk to Tara that Johnny has a ton of fans who would love to see him skate down south, too, so we can all share the love. The motto of Austin, TX is "keep Austin weird" after all. And the first Neiman Marcus was in Dallas. He'd love it. :)

auntyamyj said...

Aww Binks, I certainly have enjoyed traveling vicariously through you to all these wonderful events! I'm so glad you and your children have had these experiences together, and have wonderful memories to cherish! One of these days..... I'll take some time off of working and everything else and track down a Johnny experience of my own, but for now Thank you Thank you Thank you for sharing yours! Oh, and Happy Birthday!

Drama Queen said...

LAHV LAHV LAHV this entry, and especially the epilogue. You rock!

Jana Colgin said...

I really enjoyed hearing about your trip, and your thoughts on Johnny. I'm not surprised at all that he and his mother like this blog! You're such a clever writer, and it always puts a smile on my face to read your blog. I laughed out loud at this:

"I'm not sure what horrible disaster will befall everyone if the arena stays open past its bedtime, but it's clearly just one horseman shy of the Apocalypse, judging by his expression and tone."

Anonymous said...

So so wonderful- I gotta say this directly to Patti or Johnny or anyone else close to him: THIS SPEAKS FOR ME and I'm sure many many fans out there, what Binky is saying in the epilogue about Johnny and his future. "...he accomplished something far, far greater this year than any medal could signify...."

I trust him, and I'm looking forward to the ride!


Nico said...


You saucy minx, you, for not mentioning your birthday earlier! Happy, happy birthday, bb!

For those of us who can no longer get out of bed without reading your blog first, the time you spent in LP has been doubly, triply, quadruply rewarded by everything you've written before and since. Thanks for sharing your Johnny Weir with us. (I think he's yours!) And your life, your beautiful kids, your inspiration for going on the trip, your childhood, your everything. It's an honor just to be here to witness you being YOU.

And I think that parallels witnessing Johnny, from afar or up close. The whole think is the sparkliest of honors. Like you, my daughter and son ADORED him in person, and my daughter, especially, cannot stop talking about his kindness and warmth. Whatever he does next, we're SO on the edge of our seats, cheering all the way. Loving all of the surprises, treasuring every experience. Thanks for making every morning a Johnny morning...for all of us.

In closing, may your birthday be absolutely stunning! You certainly are.

Much love love always,

JEKitten said...

Thank you for the wrap up Binky. It's like being there all over again. And thanks for your view of post-Olympic Johnny. He looked so gaunt and haunted after the Olympics. I revel in how happy and healthy he looks now. He's met with such love from people he meets personally and professionally, it makes my heart happy. It's long overdue and I'm glad it's finally happening.

I don't understand the mindset that equates a step out of a very small area of interest with a slide into oblivion. And I don't understand who the people shocked and appalled by his 'behavior' thought they were fans of.

I hope Johnny keeps skating for a long time, because the world needs all the beauty it can get. I really believe that Johnny can come back and compete and win big, on his terms, if that's what he wants. But there's the key term: if that's what he wants. If it's not, then I can't wait to see where his brains and talent and drive take us.

In keeping with a penny saved is a penny to be spent on Johnny, I'm going to go order the mook now. Big thanks in advance to Akiko Nakata for the translations!

Wendy S said...

Happy Birthday, Bink!! Much love to you today!

I've been trying to write down my own memories from the week, before every bit is lost to the cobwebs. Some of the important parts were blurry to begin with, LOL! I do clearly remember that Johnny was kind and generous with *everyone*. The details of my moments with him are fuzzy, but the feeling of "welcome" that he exudes is not. Thank you for that, Johnny, and for giving up so much of your free time to meet with us.

It seems clear that all the grouchy LP locals work at the Oly Center -- because every other human I met in LP was as friendly as they could be.

I had no internet access, and was tweet-boohooing over not being able to get to Leah's website. So Tatiana very sweetly twitpic'd my photo w/JWe so that I could see -- LOL, pic had to round trip from Lake Placid to St Pete Russia and back to Lake Placid in order for me to see it! Gotta love that.

I already downloaded my personal free pic, but when Leah has posted show pics I will absolutely make a purchase from her. I think it was very generous that the fan pics were free to us and I want to add my support, though I'm not sure who ate the cost of Leah's time, etc. I thanked Leah in person, but money is good too. :)

Binky, thanks for helping me relive all the little moments. And for the epilogue, too -- you know I feel just as you do, but am far less eloquent.


Beth (twitter-Bsontwit) said...

I totally LOVE this blog! Especially the end with your comments about Johnny!!!! LOVE LOVE it!
I am so glad I met you and your children are wonderful! so glad you could make the LONG trip!

Also, on a personal note, I am so glad that this time I was able to tell Johnny how I felt about him-alittle at least. I told him how I have been a fan since he started nationals and how I love his skating and a few other comments. At ITNY - I
couldnt speak at all and it was so nice to be more comfortable with him (or at least alittle less shy-depending on how you look at it). Oh, and I got a great hug! And he signed my skates!!!

I also got to tell Patti how much I admire her for how she has let Johnny be who he is. She remembered me from ITNY-I was the one who kept staring at her but never got the guts to approach!
Loved LP! Hardly noticed the storm troopers but knew they were there-my focus was elsewhere! So glad I went!!!

Beth (twitter- Bsontwit)

Beth (twitter-Bsontwit) said...

Oh, and One last comment

I love, admire and support Johnny Weir always, whatever he choses to do! I always have and always will! ♥♥♥

Beth (twitter-Bsontwit)

Debora Walsh said...

Brava, Binky! Thanks especially for the Epilogue. You’ve spoken for all of us who wish nothing but personal and professional happiness for Johnny! I have read some pretty ugly dissertations on the directions of his career moves, and frankly I wonder where these folks get off. It is good for everyone to remind themselves that none of us live Johnny's life nor do we witness the world through his eyes, and so all are ill equipped to pass judgment on his choices.
I am confident that his intelligence and ambition can really take him anywhere he can envision himself. That he remains so open and personable, with people all around the globe, speaks volumes about his character, and his family support structure appears to be unconditional… so, I for one, am excited to see where he goes, and wherever that is, hope that he has joy!

Anonymous said...

For me, the glittery good of Lake Placid more than outweighed the not-so-great moments.

The not-so-great-moments:

The parking, traffic, and restaurant gridlock on Sunday; waiting a long time in way too warm arena hallways in very long lines--twice; the we-have-no-desire-to-be-nice-to-our-paying-customers-we-just-want-to-go-home and having-so-many-Johnny-fans-here-is-really-annoying staff at the arena.

Just some of the glittery good:

Lake Placid was stunningly beautiful!

The staff at the Big Mountain Deli and Creperie, who somehow managed to remain polite and efficient, despite the long lines of hungry customers and the uncomfortably warm temperature in the restaurant which I am sure was much worse for those doing the cooking. And OMG, the crepes were to die for!

The kind staff people at the Olympic sites other than the arena, who were so kind to the almost-senior citizen with the disability who, among other issues, can't jump off a moving ski lift (that's me).

The low cost to see the ice show ($10?!!), the free! meet and greet, the free! photos from Leah Adams (Thank you so much to whoever arranged this.) I don't know how Leah was compensated for her services, but I am so appreciative for this gift to us fans.

Meeting many of the other Johnny Weir fans from Facebook. Johnny attracts the greatest people!

Meeting and talking with Patti who was gracious, funny, and sweet to everyone who wanted to talk to her and have a photo taken with her.

And, then there was Patti's son. Not Boz--the one who skates. (Gosh she did a fab job of raising him!) I can't say often enough how kind, patient, and generous with his time and spirit Johnny was.

As for the USFSA: the unflattering adjective I most often use to describe it is "short sighted." And because of that short sightedness, perhaps, "self-destructive."

And, finally, WRT Johnny, present and future:
The "fans" who are complaining about his current and future activities and adventures really think it's all about them and what they want for Johnny, which may not be what he wants, but they know what's best for him, and he doesn't.

I look forward to Johnny's taking me on many different and always interesting journeys with him, both on and off the ice.

--Nancy K.

PumaJ said...

Every mile that you traveled to see Johnny were totally, fabulously worth it:-) I didn't have to travel so far, but every mile of my trip was worth it to me and to my grandkids:-) Amazing isn't it, that so many of us will travel long distances to see this remarkable young man perform his magic live?

I am so glad that you had a fabulous time:-) Thank you, for your once again fabulous blog ❤

Mimi said...

Dearest Binky...I hope you know how much joy you bring to this wild JGW joyride!!! You touch my heart with every word...this one required a kleenex warning...and I love you for it!!! Have a wonderful Birthday!!!
Your Blog and JGW have changed my life and i'll be indebted to you forever!!!!!

Beth (twitter-Bsontwit) said...

"chooses" not "choses" !!!

I love, admire and support Johnny Weir always, whatever he chooses to do! I always have and always will! ♥♥♥

MM I need a copywriter to follow me around. I just type as I think and dont check it!

Beth (twitter-bsontwit)
aka-notorious bad speller on the internet

Anonymous said...

Binky, you ARE amazing! You go from a laugh out loud funny description of your experiences at the Meet and Greet to a profound description of the difference betweent the JOhnny of early April and the Johnny of now, but also mention he never forgets about his fans. I love how you addressed and answered many of the criticisms that have been leveled as of late. Wonderful job, but when are your Blogs ever NOT wonderful?

One of my favorite sentences (there are so many good ones):

And my kids are standing stiffly behind us, so he turns and smiles at them, "Come on, people, we're not bookends here. Get in the picture!"

I love it!

akiko said...

Thanks very much for the Epilogue. Deeply insightful and really beautiful. As Johnny has moved on to the next stage, you seem to have come to a new place as well. I'm not there yet, but I'll somehow follow you, and Johnny.

Congratulations!!! Johnny celebrated your birthday and thanked you!!! Happy, happy, happy birthday again, Binky!!!

As you wrote before, God let you know through Johnny that you are blessed. And I know through you that I am blessed too. Thank you.

Maggie St. said...

Happy Birthday +1 Lynn ♥
All Hail the First Family of Weirlandia!!

and all hail that guy who skates, What's His Name ♥ (and his family too). and Tara!

Anonymous said...

MM, so glad you had a great trip! Bet that car was real happy! And so happy for you for the birthday shout out! ♥

Loved the 3-part blog post, the letter to the asshats at the stadium (you should really send it! bwa ha ha ha!), and every single small detail about meeting Johnny . . . but the best part was the epilogue.

Can we get that printed up and ready to just hand out to people? As in, STFU and just let him enjoy him life already! Grrrr! Sorry, but people who don't appreciate the beauty of Johnny just being Johnny really annoy me!

There's more to him than his skating: that beautiful soul of his just shines out for anyone to see.

If anyone doesn't want to watch him do whatever he wants to do, then just get out of the way already and let me have your front row seat, k?


Princess Johnny-Love

Anonymous said...

I abslutely love hearing about the details of your makes me feel like I was there too. Thanks so much!