Sports: Johnny Drama
His 2002 Newark High School yearbook lists his likes as techno and pop music, French and Russian, *NSYNC and Versace. But unlike his classmates, Johnny was headed for fame. The trips, the accolades, the stardom — and all the accompanying travel and show costs — came fast. “It was rapid mentally, it was rapid talent-wise, it was like ‘Holy shit, what are we doing here? We’re broke. We’re not prepared for this,’” Patti says. Johnny’s family isn’t from money. Not poor, but not from money. His mom adds, “I gave him two years of just going butt-whoopie-wild.” Once he was out on tour, making money, Johnny indeed went butt-whoopie-wild, accruing more than 100 pairs of designer sunglasses, a Lexus, and more Louis Vuitton than Kanye. (“When I’m 40 and can’t fit into the clothes I have now, I’m going to make a fortune selling them as vintage,” he tells me.) He also accrued the headlines and the shushing by the federation. More recently, his outings on the ice have been tumultuous and unsuccessful, only feeding the Greek chorus writing him off as ice-skating’s Jessica Simpson. After he placed fifth at the ’06 Olympics and rival Evan Lysacek beat him out for what would have been his fourth consecutive national title, Johnny found his career, and confidence, on thin ice.
So in June he chucked all those years of nurturing from Hill, switching coaches, rinks, choreography and programs. “I’m old now, so I don’t need someone to teach me basics and techniques. I need someone to push me,” he says. “I think once you’ve been at the international level for a certain amount of time, people start expecting you to phase out, and that’s completely natural, because there are young kids coming up that everyone wants, because they want to see the young hot-shot kid.” In other words, the kid Johnny was not too long ago. He slides a bag of ice down his pants, inching toward his sore hip. “I’m getting to the point where I know I only have three more years to really make my mark.”
It’s 11 o’clock on a Thursday morning, and Russian techno thumps through the ice rink. A vision in a red CCCP half-zip nears the entrance doors to the ice, parading by the spectator side of the glass. His dark hair flies around his eyes as his white-gloved hands wave to a dozen little girls watching from upstairs. In their midst is a middle-aged woman from Japan who has flown in for a week just to watch Johnny practice. Even the usually raucous and trash-talking teens passing through for hockey camp wait, leaning against the boards. Because all of them — the little girls, the disaffected teens, the crazy lady from Japan — have come to gaze, to gape. To do what people have been doing for years: see what Johnny Weir is going to do next.
Johnny steps onto the ice, skates a few quick laps, then glides to the center. He stops, shimmies, and hikes up his black Lycra pants. He looks over to his coach.
Cue program music.