|30 Mar 2007 23:17:20|
|"The Portlandian" - March 30, 2007 edition|
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The Portlandian, the Internet's premier source of Tonya News
March 30, 2007 Edition
(C) 2007 Portland Ice Skating Society
INCIDENT IN CLARK COUNTY
It was Sunday at 0453 hours when the call came in to the 911
operator in Clark County, Washington. The seeming calmness in the
voice of the female caller betrayed a hint of anxiety: she was at
the premises of Yacolt Towing, a local tow truck shop, and was
concerned about prowlers on her property, whom she had seen
stashing guns and tampering with her car. She was also worried
that she may have been followed to the tow yard. Her name?
"Tonya". Her last name? "I'd like to leave that anonymous...".
Had that last name been "Smith", "Jones" or any of numerous other
surnames in the United States, the call would have been a non-
event, one of many thousands of similar incidents that law
enforcement officers across the U.S. deal with every week.
Certainly nothing that would have been considered newsworthy. But
it wasn't "Smith" or "Jones", it was "Harding". And that made all
Suddenly the Tonya-bashing machinery was switched into hyperdrive
mode at news outlets all over the country. Within a few days the
story would travel across the globe, being reported in media from
Austria to Antigua to Alaska. Juicy details from the report by the
deputy who attended were gleefully quoted, describing her as
"very agitated" and "glancing everywhere." He noted that the
former skating star was "frustrated others can't see the people
she sees." Then details of a second call emerged, made some four
hours later, this time by one of Tonya's friends, who said she
was "tweaking out", "seeing animals" and "scaring her kids". The
good news, Jay Leno later joked, was that Tonya had passed her
NASA test and was eligible to become an astronaut.
Other outlets went further, dropping not terribly subtle hints
that Tonya was on illegal drugs. In the absolute height of
irresponsibility, a few days later the recording of the original
911 call from the tow shop, which featured Tonya's home address,
was released, uncut (which several media uploaded unedited). If
Tonya didn't have prowlers on her property at the time, she
certainly will now, given that every loser in the Pacific
Northwest with an internet connection now knows where she lives.
So what REALLY happened that night in Clark County? We have been
in contact with Tonya's agent, Linda Lewis. She has told us that
two nights earlier Tonya was having severe breathing problems,
which were later apparently made worse by a pharmacist giving
her faulty advice about the safety of mixing two medications. The
next evening, Linda received a call from Tonya's father, Al, at
1:00AM local time, who was very concerned about her. When Linda
phoned Tonya, she could hardly understand her, as she sounded so
hoarse. She was coughing so hard and wheezing, and upset because
her inhalers weren't working. Her breathing capacity had declined
to 51, which is very low. By all descriptions it sounded like it
could have been potentially life threatening.
She also tells us:
Dear Tonya fans:
I wanted to let you know that no matter what you read in the
media, Tonya was very ill with pneumonia symptoms. Naturally
they donít report anything that would make her look good, so
they have to make up stories and innuendo.
I can tell you first hand that I was on the phone with her
(even though I now live in Texas). She was so ill and has no
health insurance. So like so many of us, she has to try to
help herself with over the counter cough syrups and allergy
medication. It didnít mix well and caused an adverse reaction.
This is not an uncommon problem. There were no police arrests,
only concern for her health. Much ado about nothing, except
she was so ill. I was very worried about her, as her breathing
capacity had dropped so low. Please remember, she is an
asthmatic, so her breathing capacity can drop dangerously low
when sick. She finally got medical help and a was put on
antibiotics and given a breathing treatment. As the police
officer said, this is a non incident that would have gotten NO
press, had it not been Tonya.
She sends her thanks to everyone for the caring emails she has
been receiving. I have read them to her.
My best to you all,
After the deputies arrived, Tonya was taken to the house of a
friend, Linda Wilmot, who was the person who placed the second
call. "I just want people to know the truth, that she was not on
illegal drugs," Wilmot later told the Oregonian. The officers
then took Tonya home and checked her property to put her at ease.
Later that day (Sunday) Tonya was taken to Legacy Salmon Creek
Hospital and spent the night before going home on Monday.
Thankfully Tonya has since received the correct medications and a
breathing treatment, and Linda Lewis assures us she is now much
better. I'm sure that we are glad to hear that Tonya is improving
and all wish her a speedy recovery.
NOTHING TO SEE HERE FOLKS, MOVE ALONG.
Of all the coverage of this incident, however, one of the most
enlightening articles appeared in one of the newspapers closest
to where Tonya lives, "The Columbian". And it reveals far more
about the media than it does about Tonya.
The article consists mainly of comments by Sgt. Tim Bieber,
spokesman for the Clark County Sheriff's Office, who said he was
surprised by all the interest in what he described as a
"nonevent." In addition to local inquiries, Bieber said he
received calls from Inside Edition, Access Hollywood, Good
Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, the Associated Press,
The Insider and Greta Van Susteren of Fox News Channel. And those
were just the ones he wrote down.
"The questions were fairly straight forward," according to
Bieber. "Mostly asking about what happened, if there were laws in
Washington regarding mental holds, if Tonya was placed on a hold,
if the sheriff's office has regular contact with her, what type
of area does she live in."
"This 'non-event' was very educational for me," Bieber wrote in
his e-mail to "The Columbian". "It was amazing to see how this
type of call, which we deal with every day and goes unreported,
can become such a media frenzy when it involves someone of such
notoriety. Several journalists I spoke with stated,
'Whenever Tonya has contact with the police, we want to know.' "
Sgt. Bieber's comments pretty much sum up exactly what's going on
quite nicely. There is nothing interesting about this event per
se, it's only because it involves Tonya, in particular an
opportunity to portray her in a negative light. Notice the
questions asked: about her mental state and where she lives, i.e.
is she a loony or on drugs, and is she living in a trailer park
(so that they can get the "trailer trash" jibe in one more time)?
Anything to get an anti-Tonya angle into the story. Much is also
made of the word "tweaking", which in addition to many other
meanings also has one related to drugs, in particular meth users,
a common problem in that area of the country.
This appears to be a clear case of the media poking its nose into
people's private business for no good reason. Although the police
were called, no-one has been charged or arrested, and no crime
has apparently been committed. There is no public interest factor
that justifies overriding Tonya's privacy in her medical affairs
in this case. The local cops deal with dozens of similar
incidents every week, few of which are considered newsworthy.
Let's face it, the only reason why this one was is because it
involves somebody called "Tonya Harding". And naturally the media
have tried to take the most negative line possible, implying that
Tonya was deranged, drunk, or even in some cases, under the
influence of illegal drugs, rather than a sympathetic line
towards someone who is ill. Because Tonya-bashing gets ratings
and sells papers and it's a lazy way to fill up space on a slow
This whole incident reminds us of Tonya's short program from the
1993/94 season - "Much Ado About Nothing". Obviously the media
are short of muck to rake now that Anna-Nicole's dead. A
collective "Jayson" to all of the so-called "news" outlets who
wasted a drop of ink or a byte of data on this Tonyaphobic
tripe. And an extra Jayson to all those that published Tonya's
address (including the "Oregonian") - something that can't
possibly be seen as having any justification in the public
In the wake of Sgt. Bieber's evidence there can not now be any
doubt that the media is out to "get" Tonya. No longer can such
theories be idly brushed off as the paranoid rantings of the
tinfoil-hat brigade as the skating establishment would have
TONYA AT HOLLYWOOD COLLECTORS CONVENTION
Tonya appeared at the Hollywood Collectors show in Burbank back
in February. Two photos of Tonya at that event have become
available on the net:
The other girl is Paulina James, who is apparently some sort of
porn star. Exactly why she posed with Tonya seems to be a
SHAWN GETS SOME FLOWER POWER
We have also uploaded some more of the photos that Joe Haran
supplied to us a few years back. They can be accessed at:
Click on the thumbnails for larger images. The descriptions are
in Joe's own words.
This latest batch mostly shows rare behind the scenes shots of
Elaine Stamm's original Tonya Harding fan club that operated in
Portland in 1993/94 and its various pro-Tonya activities (in case
you're wondering, photo No. 27 is till undergoing restoration
work, which is why it's missing). Particularly interesting is No.
20, which is possibly the only photo in existence of Shawn
Eckardt doing flower arranging - obviously he didn't have any
hostage rescue missions in Iran scheduled for that week.
Once again we thank Joe for his generosity in supplying these.
AND MORE PHOTOS
We are also pleased to announce that Tonya is once again selling
autographed photos. Linda says that all of the skating photos are
still available along with the "black dress" and "interview"
photos. You can view them at these sites:
Orders can be sent to:
PO Box 376
Manor, TX 78653
The cost is $US25, as before. Payment should preferably be in the
form of Postal Money Orders made payable to Tonya.
Linda has also sent us a couple of new photos. The first is the
Jeep photo that Tonya has decided it's okay to publish. The
second is a new glamor shot that hasn't been seen before. As you
can see, Tonya seems to have lost even more weight and is looking
better than ever! You can see them on our "photos" page below:
TONYA OPERA WEB SITE
The Tonya/Nancy opera that we reported upon a few months back now
has its own website:
There's also another site for a documentary being made about the
The latter site has a short clip from the opera, which confirms
one thing we've always suspected - opera only works when it's in
some language you can't understand, and just sounds dead silly in
English. Let's face it, "You f...ed up your triple lutz!" just
somehow lacks something compared with "vesti la giubba" or "la
donna e mobile".
THE T-FILES: PART 5 - TAPES & DVDS
In the era of broadband internet, the idea of searching for Tonya
footage on physical media may seem a bit 20th Century. Certainly
it seems that the vast majority of Tonya's performances are now
available on line, and it's alot more convenient than waiting
weeks for tapes and disks to arrive through the post. But there
are good reasons not to rule this more traditional option out.
For a start, there are many people who are still on dial-up for
whom on-line file sharing is simply not practical: a 40 meg
Windows media file can take over two hours to download on a 56k
line - assuming the link doesn't cut out and you have to start
again. Secondly, the quality of files on-line is still nowhere
near as good as even VHS, let alone DVD. In the case of footage
from Tonya's era, most of it looks like it's sourced from VHS
dubs several generations away from the original. Some are
indescribably poor - Tonya is barely recognizable. In addition,
some of the sources, such as the P2P systems, require special
software that is unstable, "geeky" and requires quite alot of
work to configure properly. Not to mention the potential security
hazard of allowing people access to your computer.
If you're after the very highest quality, the best sources are
still commercial tapes and DVDs. One particularly useful set is
"Skating Through Time" a three-volume compilation of great US
Nationals performances, including Tonya's 1991 triple axel
landing. Available in both VHS and DVD, some retailers also offer
the individual volumes, which is useful if you are only after
Volume 3, which is the one with Tonya on it:
SkateTape.com also has a number of other tapes and DVDs of Tonya
available - 22 at the time of writing - though some are quite
costly, particularly if you're only after Tonya's performance:
Unfortunately there don't appear to be any retailers that
currently offer the facility for people to legally order their
own customized DVD compilations of skating routines, so the
possibility of being able to order a "Tonya's Greatest Hits"
package remains just a dream - at least for the moment, though
hopefully not for too much longer.
Viewers outside the U.S. should be aware that the vast majority
of these tapes and discs are recorded in the NTSC TV system used
in the U.S., which may cause playback difficulties if you live in
a country which uses another system like PAL or SECAM and you
only have an older (pre-mid 90's era) VCR. Most newer VCRs and
DVD players sold in PAL/SECAM countries are to some extent multi-
system, however, so this probably won't be a problem in practice.
COMPULSORY FIGURES: THE FILTH AND THE FURY
Back a few months ago we commented on a strange oversight in the
official publicity materials for the 2007 US Figure Skating
Nationals, namely the total, utter omission of the reigning men's
champion, Johnny Weir. We speculated as to whether this was just
an error (albeit a pretty big one), or part of something more
sinister, like a plan to do a "Tonya" on Johnny by skating's
powers that be.
Now another incident has occurred that has to again raise the
question. This time, the source is failed skater and washed-up
has-been magazine publisher Mark Lund, who launched into a
totally needless and unprovoked vitriolic attack on Johnny on
"Nancy Kerrigan's World of Skating" TV show a few weeks ago. Lund
viciously castigated Johnny for his effeminate skating style,
saying that he preferred the traditional classic masculinity of
his main rival Evan Lysacek, and that he didn't want Johnny
"representing his community". He also denounced Johnny as a
"prima ballerina" and accused him of comparing himself to Jesus
Christ because of one of his programs. All of which is not only
ridiculous but doubly bizarre as Lund is not a fundamentalist
Christian, but is openly gay.
His co-hosts, Nancy Kerrigan and Lou Tilley, then joined in this
exercise of kicking a man when he's down, with Nancy saying that
Johnny was "a bit out there", and Tilley joking that everybody
agreed that Johnny's "swan" program was a bad idea.
In a followup email later sent to the numerous disgusted people
(including many gays) who deluged him with complaints over his
on-air regurgitation of hateful filth, Lund then seemed to shift
tack: now it seemed that he no longer objected to Johnny's
effeminate programs per se, but rather the fact that Weir, who is
widely perceived by most fans to be gay, is not properly
acknowledging his debt to the gay community by refusing to "come
We believe that as a top-level skater Johnny deserves more
respect than this. He's a three-time national champion - that's
two more that Nancy Kerrigan and three more than Lund, the apex
of whose skating career was getting rejected for the Ice Capades.
He persistently tops polls among skating fans - so much for the
idea that his innovative style is driving people away from
skating. His outspoken honesty is a refreshing blast of fresh air
in an era where too much of what sportspeople say to the public
consists of bland and insincere cliches. Johnny has, as far as we
are aware, never asked for support from the gay community so we
at The Portlandian don't see that he's under any obligation to
"come out" just because Mark Lund - the classic example of
someone who's a legend in his own mind - thinks he should.
Assuming, of course, that Johnny actually is gay, which is just
speculation and none of our business anyway.
More importantly, though, is what conclusions can be drawn from
the fact that Lund's comment's ever made it on air at all.
Remember that this show is pre-recorded - this was not something
like Bill Grundy's infamous Sex Pistols interview or Janet
Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" that went out live. "NK's world
of skating" is supposed to be about exactly that - viewers don't
tune in for rants about gay politics, so Lund's comments had no
place in this show anyway.
So the question is, even if the outburst was spontaneous, why did
the production company choose to leave in comments that were not
only offensive but totally irrelevant, given they could have been
easily removed? And why did Nancy and her co-host essentially not
disagree with Lund? We must assume that at best that they didn't
see anything terribly offensive in his statements - something that
they obviously will now realize was a serious misjudgement.
But there is a worse possibility, as articulated by Brian
Juergens, writing on gay blog site afterelton.com, who described
it as "obviously a planned character attack by 3 people who
recognize this performerís athletic skill and technical acuity
but canít stand his flashy personality".
It is a fact that the show is produced by Nancy and her husband
Jerry Solomon's StarGames company. It's her name that's in the
show's title. Johnny has made pro-Tonya comments in the past. Is
this an attempt by Club Nancy at revenge on a known Tonyaphile?
Or is it another brick in the wall from the skating
establishment? After the website fiasco earlier last year, you
have to wonder. And was there a plan to rip off Johnny at
Nationals this year? Unfortunately, due to his relatively poor
free skate we'll never know.
At a time when skating's popularity is in the doldrums, Weir is
precisely the sort of unconventional and colorful character
that's needed to pique the public's interest. The USFSA should be
bending over backwards to make him a star and give him all the
support he needs. Yet US figure skating seems to have developed
the unenviable knack for whacking itself on the knee with a
seemingly deliberate policy of trying to get rid of anyone with
talent and popularity who doesn't conform to their narrow-minded,
dated ideas of what an ideal skater should be. They did it with
Tonya because she didn't fit the stereotype of a female figure
skater. Ironically, with Johnny it seems it's because he fits the
stereotype of a male figure skater TOO well!
Unfortunately for the skating establishment, they've overlooked a
couple of major differences between the situation now and in the
early 1990's when they did their treacherous hatchet job on
Tonya. The first is that people have woken up and are wise to
their dirty tricks. In the wake of numerous corrupt judging
scandals and tell-all books like "Cracked Ice" and "On Edge",
only a total simpleton still believes that skating is clean and
non-political. The second, of course, is that we've now got the
Internet, so Johnny's fans are far more connected, organized and
vocal than Tonya's ever could be. Blogs, web boards and social
networking sites now give the ordinary fan a voice they didn't
have in Tonya's day. And like Howard Beale from the film
"Network", they're shouting loud and clear that they're as mad as
hell and not going to take this anymore.
As for Mark Lund, we think that this quote from a poster on FSU
pretty much sums up most people's opinion of him:
My sources tell me that there is actually a skating element
named after him, called the Lund. It is so difficult that he
is the only one to ever perform this nearly impossible feat.
The Lund consists of the skater doing a spiral with the
skater's head planted firmly up his ass.
My sources also tell me that this element has been banned from
formal competition as being too dangerous since the skater
cannot see where he is going.
BREAKFAST AT TONYA'S - SLIGHT RETURN
So, what is the connection between Tonya & Audrey Hepburn (apart
from the obvious one of them both being classy dames)?
The answer is that Tonya skated a program to "Moon River", the
theme song from "Breakfast At Tiffany's". She performed it at the
1992 Worlds and at the 1992 Olympics gala.
VISIT THESE GREAT TONYA WEB SITES:
PortIce - http://www.geocities.com/portice
David House - http://www.tonyaharding.org
Charlie Main - http://www.charliesweb.com/tonya/tonya.html
Puppetboy - http://www.tonyaharding.us/tonya/
Valerie Smith - http://www.olywa.net/radu/valerie/LilHam.html
Swan Lake - http://members.tripod.com/~TonyaHarding/index.html
Blades of Gold - http://members.tripod.com/tmhfan/index.html