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Cinderella Story
Steve Wulf
March 07, 1994
Former Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill has found a perfect fit as owner and star of the Ice Capades
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March 07, 1994

Cinderella Story

Former Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill has found a perfect fit as owner and star of the Ice Capades

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Her two biggest enemies are public perception (both Roseanne and Coach used Ice Capades jokes in the same hour one Tuesday night on TV last fall) and Walt Disney's World on Ice.

"I try not to think of the Disney shows as competition," says Hamill. "They're different from us. We don't have skaters in big suits. Besides, the Walt Disney people have been very nice to us. When we were out in Anaheim to perform at The Pond, they gave me the keys to Toontown."

The Forsythes are already deep into plans for next year's production of Hansel and Gretel. (Which, if you think about it, even has a part for Tonya Harding.) It's possible, however, that Hamill won't be lacing 'em up with the Ice Capades next year. Packy starts kindergarten, and Mom doesn't want to be away from her. Hamill can still skate, but as she has found out, the show can go on without her.

It might be said that she has already left the Ice Capades a legacy. In a way Hamill and her company are turning the individual sport of figure skating into a team sport. Over the last few weeks, the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan news has followed the Ice Capades around like the bad weather in the Northeast, and Hamill has had to spend an inordinate amount of time talking to the media about Tonya and Nancy. (She recalled her own fright, at the Olympic Village in Innsbruck, when a rival's coach nearly ran her over with his car. Although she believes the incident was intentional, she has refrained from naming names.)

But all Hamill really had to do in response to recent events was point to her troupe, in their black class togs, and say, This is the antidote to the image of the cutthroat world of figure skating. This isn't every skater looking out for No. 1. This is 30 people skating as one.

Between shows on the last evening in Syracuse, a courtly man comes up to Dorothy and embraces her. "This is Gary Jones," she explains to a visitor. "He was my first partner in the Ice Capades, 18 years ago."

Jones, who is now a skating coach in Syracuse, later says, "Dorothy was always very nice to me. She was in a number with me and three other guys—I was the one who lifted her up with one hand—and she always made sure to introduce us to the audience.

"I was with the Capades from '70 to '80, and until Dorothy's show, I would have said, 'If you've seen one, you've seen them all.' But not this one. The story is marvelous, the choreography is brilliant, and I've never seen better skating in a show. I can't tell you how proud I am of the girl I used to hold up with one hand."

The last show in Syracuse has already started. On the backstage ice behind the curtain, in a space no larger than the area behind a hockey goal net, skaters are warming up. Packy is also skating, oblivious to the grown-ups doing double Axels around her. The whole tableau, bathed in the blue light coming through the curtain, makes you feel as if you're inside a snow globe. Then Cinderella appears, and they're all skating, Dorothy and her daughter and her fairy godchildren.

May they live happily ever after.

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