I'm approaching that mystical golden age in my career, and my life, I suppose. I'm working less and less, not because I don't receive offers but because I've earned the right to be picky. And the pickier I am, the more "legendary" I become. I tell ya'...it's a good position to be in. Of course, my acting career has never been typical.
My parents always wanted me to have a back-up plan to skating, and that's why I went to Brown University. Of course, looking back, I think I was really only at Brown to meet John. And by the time John graduated from Brown in 1983, I had long ago dropped out and John and I had long ago broken up. But the need for a back-up plan had also gone away. Chris and I were national and world champions, and we'd add Olympic champions to that list within the year. And, of course, the year after the Olympics came Out of Africa, and I suppose acting became the back-up plan. Or was it the other way around?
Ah. Maybe that's the problem. "Back in the day." Movies are eternal, but figure skating? Yes, certain routines are eternal. Though I say it myself, I believe Bolero fits into that category. But others just appear dated - out-of-style costumes combined with now-regrettable music choices. But my Annie Hall-ish ties and blazers in When Harry Met Sally? Vintage! Charming! Retro! Timeless!
Sometimes I miss skating, but mostly I miss skating with Sergei. So today for Throwback Thursday, I give you memories of my skating partnership with Sergei, through the eyes of others.
I worked on a couple of different routines for them. The first one, Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” sung by Ella Fitzgerald, was my gift to Abigail. It was my admission, not that it was necessary, that even I knew Sergei was the love of her life. She and I were in such a good place then - she was my best friend, married to my other best friend. And in spite of the past that she and I shared, or maybe because of it, I really was their biggest fan. The other routine was to a song called “Out of Tears” by The Rolling Stones. That was for both of them, I suppose. It was meant to be joyful. After all they had been through and everything they had survived to get where they were, the rough times were behind them. There wouldn’t be any more tears.
When I saw them run through “Out of Tears” for the first time in its entirety, it just killed me. It was so powerful to them. I didn’t know then, in fact hardly anyone knew, the real story behind so much of their journey, but it didn’t matter. You looked at them on the ice and you just knew that this couple had fought for every happiness they had and they didn’t take any of it for granted.
Actually, my first thought when I saw them perform “Out of Tears” was, “They can’t retire!” There was just something magical about Abby and Sergei on the ice, as Phelps and Grinkov. It was different even from what Chris and Abby had on the ice. Chris and Abby were all passion and conflict and tension and sex and drama, and that worked for them! They were the best at what they did. But Sergei and Abby were the best at what they did, too. When they were on the ice together, they just skated as one. In the skating community, people used to say that even their hearts beat in rhythm with each other. I know that sounds schmaltzy, but all you had to do was watch them, and you couldn’t help but wonder if it was true.
My first thought when I saw them perform “Out of Tears”? Actually, I had two of them kind of simultaneously, I think. One was that I wanted to be back on the ice with Abigail. I thought that every time I ever saw them on the ice, because I knew her so well out there. I would watch her skate, even when she would be out there by herself just having a good time, and I was jealous. I felt like I was missing out every moment that I wasn’t on the ice with her - she was just that good. But the other thought I had was, “When did Sergei become an adult?” That sounds patronizing, but you have to understand that when Abigail and I met him, he was just a kid who called me Mr. Dean - through an interpreter! I watched him out there with her for this number, and I remember they were wearing these fantastic, bold red costumes, and he was a man. I remember that.
AS OF 7/15/14, THE ABIGAIL PHELPS SERIES WILL BE A TRILOGY IN ALL FORMATS.