Tonya, Nancy practice lines, but soap opera is off-key

February 18, 1994|By JOHN EISENBERG

HAMAR, Norway -- For the first time since the whack heard 'round the world, Nancy and Tonya skated together yesterday. It'll be more exciting in the TV movie.

Tonya will wear a "Darn, I'm Good" sweat shirt and skate to "The Lady is a Tramp." Nancy will "accidentally" swerve and cause Tonya to spin out to avoid a collision. One of them will burst into tears and rush from the rink sobbing, "Rosebud!" Or something like that.

That'll be much preferable to yesterday's benign affair at the Olympic skating venue, which was delicious only because Nancy wore white and Tonya wore black (tights), lending credence to the theory that CBS is orchestrating the whole deal. Tonya and Nancy couldn't come up with that one themselves, could they?

Tonya did make a grand entrance to their ballyhooed first session at the practice hall next to the arena. She entered a few studied minutes late, after Nancy and the other skaters were on the ice.

The stage was all hers. She was coughing madly and trailing an entourage of security cops, Olympic officials, coaches and rap singers. OK, no rap singers. But Bette Davis couldn't have done it better.

After that things went downhill, though. Tonya wore a brightly flowered leotard that looked like bad wallpaper. Nancy wore the same outfit she was wearing on whack day (a ploy?). They shared the ice for half an hour without exchanging a word. They just skated around and around. They didn't get close enough for a near miss even by FAA standards. They fell a few times. Another skater practicing with them, Korea's Lily Lyoonjung Lee, hugged Tonya on the ice.

"How'd you skate, Tonya?" a reporter shouted as she left.

Thumbs-up, she signaled.

Their second session -- in the main arena several hours later -- was more of the same, newsworthy only because Tonya dinged her ankle on a fall. But she got up and shook it off. (As she rose with a four-star scowl on her face, it was suggested on press row that someone somewhere would pay for that.)

The highlight of the day was watching 500 journalists throw away all self-respect and cram into the practice hall three hours ahead of time, afraid of getting shut out of a skating practice. Some were there at dawn. The entire fourth estate is blushing today.

Also notable was the presence of Dr. Harvey Schiller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee. He had previously admonished the media for disdaining the rest of the Olympics in lieu of Skategate, then showed up with the rest of the professional oglers yesterday while Tommy Moe was winning another skiing medal.

Is this a great job or what?

Anyway, it was all pretty standard stuff for the most part. A good docu-dramatist wouldn't begin to settle for such ordinary tripe. You can almost already hear the jowly bellow of the purple-faced network exec: "I don't care what really happened, I've got sponsors to satisfy!

Give me some heat, babe!"

Fact is, that is precisely what Skategate needs as it careens toward the showdown on ice next week. A fiction writer. Someone to make up, you know, some good stuff. In person, alas, it's kind of boring. Nancy and Tonya surface only for skating practice, which isn't exactly high drama. Even if they were hanging around, neither is prone to speaking great truths.

Otherwise, it's just a matter of skulking around asking chambermaids what they found in the trash.

That can't compare with the Halloween video on "A Current Affair."

Or Page 3 of The (London) Sun. (If you don't know, don't ask.)

Or whatever personal artifact Jeff Gillooly decides to sell next.

So, as much as you would like to be here to see your favorite characters from your favorite soap opera come to life before your eyes, sort of like the soldiers in "Babes in Toyland," please understand: Skategate is more fun where you are.

They don't get the tabloid shows over here. Juan Antonio Samaranch has never heard of digitally generated pasties.

True, Tonya is giving a news conference this afternoon, after saying she wouldn't. That should be interesting.

But otherwise, for those of us walking the Skategate beat, there isn't a lot of mustard.

Do you want to know what I did in between skating practices yesterday? I will tell you what I did in between skating practices yesterday.

I cast the TV movie.

Julia Roberts as Nancy.

John Candy as the bodyguard.

Charlie Sheen as Gillooly (dressed in a cheap pencil mustache).

Wayne and Garth as the hit men.

A club as "the club." (Sort of like Toto as "Toto.")

And -- drum roll, please -- Drew Barrymore, Hollywood's troublemaking teen, as Tonya.

Her opening line: "Gotta light, babe?"

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