Many years ago, I had the privilege and pleasure of working with some of the most talented, ice skating professionals in the world. It was truly an honor. Plus, it was a lot of fun. I worked with notables such as Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia, Robin Cousins, Viktor Petrenko, Oksana Bauil, and Linda Fratianne. I was directing and choreographing ice skating tours and shows. In some ways, I was the industry joke because I had never ice skated a day in my life…But as my late friend and Canadian champion Brian Pockar said to me, “ Don’t worry about whether you ever ice skated or not…I skate well enough for both of us. Just keep choreographing.”
This was the Nancy Kerrigan-Tanya Harding time. Big stories, big press, lots of ice shows.
During this time, one of the husbands of one of the champions came to see me in Las Vegas to talk about putting an ice show in one of the casinos. He was pompous and arrogant, and his ego entered the room before he did, but he was not a bad guy. He brought with him one of his partners from Palm Springs. A thin sundried tomato looking gentlemen who obviously played a lot of golf and had the suntan to prove it. He was equally as supercilious and dismissive. They both acted as though their entrance into a room demanded a celebratory response for those awaiting them. Seeing and feeling the assemblage of pomposity stacked against me, I brought along my secret weapon; my friend Neil.
Neil’s resume reads like a who’s who in the entertainment world. He’s been the entertainment director and VP of entertainment for properties all over the US. I figured I’d stack the deck. Plus, he’s a great guy and could probably get their attention. Wrong. They were so self-consumed that they never asked him any questions…just assumed they knew everything. Neil and I tried to speak to them about how different the Las Vegas market was. Having an Olympic champion in a show in Vegas was not a big enough draw to sustain eight shows a week; fifty-two weeks a year. The show needed lots of pops and whistles to compete in this market at that time.
Neil and I, and my terrific pal Phil, who had done the initial introduction, spent lots of time with these know-it-all guys, working through creative concepts and introducing them to a number of hotel directors who might be interested in their project.
Original Creative ideas don’t come along that often, so when they do, you hold them near and dear to your heart. I had one of those concepts on this project. It doesn’t happen that often, so I felt really good showing them the concept. The Puffed Ones seemed not to understand the importance of a good solid creative concept. To say they were dismissive would be a kind way of phrasing it. My pals Neil and Phil liked the concept, and their approval meant the world to me.
I kept thinking that I wasn’t giving the Puff Pair the correct overview of the Las Vegas show scene. They didn’t seem to be connecting to how competitive the show market was in Las Vegas, and that it would take more than a couple of famous ice skaters to keep people buying tickets. There would have to be some theater spectacle.
Knowing this, I decided to spend a shit-load of money and take everyone to see “O” the exquisite Cirque du Soleil show. I figured that Puffy Plus One could see the competition and have an AHA moment of how important the creative aspects of the show would need to be. So off we went; moi, my pal Phil and the two puffed pastries.
To say that the two puffed pastries did not like the show would be accurate. They didn’t marvel at the show, like most do. Prior to the Covid epidemic; “O” was the most sought after show in Las Vegas, with sold out tickets months in advance. It is extraordinary theater. Theater at its best.
Not for Puffy 1 and Puffy 2. They did not see the value of the show nor understand that this show would be one of their competitors. Holy Fu--in Moly.
Obviously this wasn’t going to work, but we gave it our all.
On their last night in town, we all went to dinner. To say I felt marginalized would be an understatement. But I have learned to show up in life...no matter what, no matter what.
Sooooooooooooooo there we are at dinner. Puffy 1 (apparently deciding to come off the throne) starts asking me about my life. How long have you lived in Vegas?? Are you married? Blah, Blah, Blah. Somehow I have become a person to him, or he knows that he is required to enact that theme. Probably something his mother taught him…act like you give a shit…might be helpful in your life.
So he then he turns to me after asking about my husband and says, “Where did you guys meet?” I explain that we were introduced by mutual friends and in my relentless effort to connect…said laughingly, “My husband thought I was a tall blonde.” (I’m actually a short person with very very short black hair and this has always been a running joke with my husband and me.) My husband usually refers to me as a tall blonde.
Dripping with disdain Puff 1 says, “Well what was HE ON? “
So without missing a beat I looked at him smilingly and said, “Me.”
“That’s good,” he says.
“I know,” I said.
And in one moment, it happened. The very thing that most of wish for in an uncomfortable situation…The great comeback.