“Girl. girrrllll. Girrrrllllll!” It’s evening time on West 37th Street, and Johnny Weir is getting his face on. He’s at the apartment of his agent, Tara Modlin, over on Tenth Avenue, on the way to an AIDS fund-raiser downtown. He’s drinking a tumbler of Champagne into which he’s dumped some other kind of pale-yellow liquor. “My favorite,” he says, peering coyly through his thick eyelashes. And then he says it again: “Girl!” The apartment is small and decorated with photocollages starring Modlin, Weir, and their friends at parties and ice shows and in hotel suites. There’s some pink chiffon stuck up on the windows, some decorations welded into place with a hot-glue gun.
In the snapshots, Weir’s expression doesn’t vary: He knows how to angle his chin, how to look up at the camera, how to (a) purse his lips or (b) flash a charming, two-layered grin.
A wall has been put up to create a second bedroom, and so the living room is tiny: two overstuffed couches and a small table onto which Joey Camasta, his makeup artist, has spread a selection of false eyelashes. Joey is in thick cargo shorts and a tight Harley-Davidson T-shirt against which his stomach strains.
“Girrrrrrrl!” Weir says, fingering a pair that are long and brown. “Gurl,” he grumbles when Camasta shows him photos of guys on the gay-hookup app Grindr, and he says it when his best friend Paris (“or Justin, or whatever”) changes the radio station in an endless stream of dance hits, most of them twenty years old, several of them by Paula Abdul. The apartment is a flurry of getting ready: Modlin’s in a tatty terry robe with curlers in her hair. Her roommate is looking for help with her hair, her eye makeup, her what-to-wear. The conversation is a tumble of nicknames: Marshmallow, for example, is Modlin’s boyfriend, who has apparently just been hit by a car; Tater Tot is someone called Taylor, who is going to freak when he learns he’s called that; and Little Man is someone else entirely.
Weir drinks his Champagne concoction, holding the tumbler with two hands.
“This guy sent me a picture of his dick,” he says.
“Enough,” says Modlin. “Enough, enough, enough. We don’t talk like that.”
“Cocaine!” shouts Weir. “On my show”—that would be Be Good Johnny Weir, Weir’s Sundance Channel reality show—“whenever we say something that shouldn’t be on, we say cocaine right after it so they can’t use it. Cocaine, cocaine, cocaine!”
“I went on a date last night,” says Camasta.
“Oh really,” says Weir. “I thought you said you had a facial.”
They burst out laughing, the bronzer goes on in a cloud of synthetic golden fluff, and then Weir disappears into the bathroom to do Modlin’s roommate’s hair.
He reappears: “Is my car here?” he asks grandly.
“You’re a car,” Paris answers, and then he rolls his eyes.
What, exactly, is Johnny Weir doing? He came in sixth in the men’s ice-skating competition at the Olympics in February, an outcome that is not typically a springboard to stardom. But somehow, it just made Weir all the more certain of his membership in the fraternity, or sorority, or whatever orientation he may eventually choose, of American celebrity. But the achievement of major fame is often a bit of a riddle, and although Weir is talented and clever and beautiful, it’s not yet obvious how he can turn any of it into any sort of sustainable life.
“In spite of all the skills that I do have, to relate to the normal world I have no applicable skills,” he says one afternoon in New York. He’s invited me to Modlin’s office in midtown in order to have a serious talk. When he talks seriously, he sits with perfect posture and enunciates his words extra-super-clearly. The effect is very My Fair Lady. “I can speak Russian,” he says, “I can speak French. I know about Chanel. Especially vintage Chanel. I know what Halston is. All of these things, but they can’t really be applied to a nine-to-five.”
Which is not to say he hasn’t had options.
“I was offered to do a porno movie. It was a masturbation movie. I looked at it and said no. It’s dirty. So I won’t do porn, I won’t do anything where I have to wear a big fuzzy animal costume, like no Disney On Ice or anything, and that’s basically it. I’ll try pretty much anything else. I mean, I don’t want to drive a Zamboni.”
Since the Olympics, he has recorded a single with Lucian Piane, who most famously worked with RuPaul. It’s called “Dirty Love.” He has begun to discuss a fashion collaboration with the Home Shopping Network, among others, and he was a judge at the Miss USA pageant (“I’d do anything Mr. Trump asked,” he explained) while wearing a marabou-feather coat selected by Rachel Zoe. He’s walked dozens of red carpets and done a significant hunk of work on a tell-all autobiography that will be released by Gallery Books in February. He went to the Kentucky Derby and had his hair and makeup done by total amateurs, but never mind, he read the betting pamphlet, totally understood how it all worked, and promptly won 500 bucks, which he spent on three pairs of jeggings (women’s size 28) at Intermix on Prince Street once he’d been assured they didn’t make him look fat.