July 2, 1984– John Garvin Weir
In February 2014, I was in my fourth month of cancer treatment. I don’t know if you kids are savvy to the ways of chemotherapy. I hope you never have to experience this wonder of the medical world. I did lose 50 pounds on the Amazing Cancer Diet, but it left me without strength, appetite, libido or interest in the subjects I love the most: television, books, films, music, whiskey, and shirtless male film stars. I was on a morphine drip and I initially I thought the drugs were making me hallucinate because each day I would turn on the television to catch the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia because I have always have had a grade A Olympic fever. There on the screen were Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski all dressed up in the craziest outfits, giggling their way through some sort of skating commentary. I felt like I was off my rocker. It could not possibly be real.
The two-time Olympian Weir spent each day of those Winter Olympics in Russia hurling fairy dust and sequins in Vladimir Putin’s homophobic face while announcing the figure skating for NBC Sports. I really did think that I might be hallucinating as this transcendent couple babbled on about flutzes, death spirals and camel-toes while providing the very best possible fashion show.
It seems nutty to me, but Figure Skating’s gay angle is rarely publically discussed in the sports world or its commentary. It has been complicated long before Weir came on the scene. Who would have guessed that there were homo skaters? Weir didn’t come out of the closet until he had left the sport. So when Weir, who, at the time, was married to a man of Russian descent, was on television behaving as flamboyantly gay as he pleased in Sochi, his implied political message was as brave as it was fun.
When Weir competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver BC, he was made to endure many derogatory comments about his implied gayness and even the question of his gender. Some sports writers speculated that Weir did not receive a medal that year, even with excellent technical scores, because of his crazy costume and music choices, and his on the ice attitude. Weir responded:
“I’ve heard worse in bathrooms. I don’t want 50 years from now more young boys and girls to have to go through this sort of thing.”
But he wasn’t always so forthright. In 2006, Weir stated:
“I don’t feel the need to express my sexual being because it’s not part of my sport & it’s private. I can sleep with whomever I choose and it doesn’t affect what I’m doing on the ice.”
In January 2011, he changed his position:
“With people killing themselves and being scared into the closet, I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story. In a sexual way, I’m gay.”
In his memoir Welcome To My World (2011) Weir writes:
“I’m not ashamed to be me. More than anyone else I know, I love my life & accept myself. What’s wrong with being unique? I am proud of everything that I am and will become.”
About the controversy over his decision to work at the Sochi Games rather than join a boycott:
“I risk jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement. I’m not a politician and I don’t really talk about politics. You don’t have to agree with the politics, but you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.”
“It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been gay my whole life. I don’t need to break any laws or wear a rainbow pin to show people that I support gay rights. I think I’ll do that just by being in Sochi and supporting our people there & letting them know they are not alone.”
“The gay community has not reacted well to me because some people think it’s my responsibility to be an activist. They’re expecting me to hate Russia because I haven’t been given equal rights in Russia. If it’s good enough for Elton John, it’s good enough for me. Every country’s going to have its issues.”
Weir has provided some of his own choreography for his routines and designed his own skating costumes, plus he has designed Ice Dancing costumes for Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, along with costumes for skaters Oksana Baiul and Yuzuru Hanyu.
In 2010 Weir started his own fashion label, Be Unique. He has appeared in fashion spreads for Vanity Fair and Vogue, and he has walked the runway in shows for the fashion label Heatherette. He has been a terrific, smart and entertaining guest judge on World Of Wonder’s own RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Weir and Lipinski have continued on as NBC Sports correspondents, and perhaps most importantly, they continue with the over-the-top fashion that you just have to see to believe. The last time I saw the fun couple was at the 142nd Kentucky Derby in May. I was off the morphine, but it still felt like a drug trip. I hope, beyond all hopes, that they will be offering commentary from the men’s shower at the Rio Summer Olympic Games in August.
Weir is a World Competition medalist and three-time USA National Champion. I enjoyed getting to know him from his television series show Be Good Johnny Weir (2010-12). If you are still a bit icy about him, check out the documentary Pop Star On Ice (2008).