- Delven Shaw
THE ICE KING reclaims a gay athlete and hero
I grew up In a family full of ice skating fans, and we were aware of John Curry’s work, and delighted when he won the gold Olympic medal. However, the figure skating powers were determined to celebrate only the ‘straight’ stars, rewarding people like married Michael Weiss (who trotted his wife and kids to the competitions) over the Quad King (still single hint hint) Timothy Goebel. All the sparkles on the ice could not cover that homophobia.
Much of that has changed now, with Adam Rippon and Johnny Weir all over the cultural dials. But their successes are a direct result of John Curry’s journey as an artist who was also an athlete, superstar, nd accidental activist.
KING OF ICE combines wonderful archival footage – much of it marked ‘only known copy’ - of Curry’s development. Ballet classes – no way! Ice skating (because it was a sport) – OK! He became the British champ in his early 20’s, and won the European, Olympic, and World Gold Medals in 1976.
His style and vision were so singular that he developed several artistic skating companies in this professional career – skating with symphony orchestras at The Met in New York and around the world. But these project featured large groups of skaters, extravagant lights, and costumes, meant that even sold out runs could not recoup expenses. Unlike today’s athlete/millionaires, his business successes were nil.
Just as important to the story in KING OF ICE is the personal journey of a demanding athlete coming out, and enjoying his personal freedoms, while simultaneously craving love.
That part of the story – including a wonderful reconciliation with his mother long after his father’s death KING OF ICE an important segment of queer history, athletic triumph, and powerful artistry which changed his sport forever. John Curry died in 1994.
If you are a figure skating fan, or looking for gay heroes, don't miss it. It is currently on the Dekkoo channel of Amazon.
James Erskine is the writer and director, and kudos for those who pulled the archival tapes.