He’s also had several meetings with Cher’s director and choreographer, Doriana Sanchez, to discuss what he refers to as “the Spectacular.” “The goal is to do a show at Radio City Music Hall,” he says. “The whole show will be about self-acceptance and self-beauty and what you see in yourself. We’ll have strippers, contortionists, porn stars, singers, athletes. It evokes Berlin at night before the Second World War: painted ladies swinging on birdcage swings, beautiful men dancing and gyrating on each other up on top of buildings, and a gorgeous cabaret singer belting at the piano. That’s what I want. Just add some ice skating.”
The feathers and the sequins of figure skating are, in a way, a child’s-eye view of glamour, just as the contortions are a playacted, kitschified view of sex. The skating tournaments are aired on Sunday afternoons and always seem to have been shot in some kind of soft focus. It’s the world of adults who collect plush toys and Lladró figurines: With its mixed-up and decidedly downscale ideas about style, it’s not a sport that tends to propel one into the mainstream of American celebrity. And for the men it’s worse because … tights?
But Johnny Weir plans to get everywhere from there, and he intends to do it just “by being Johnny Weir.” He has the usual skater’s reticence about his sexuality, but whereas for many male skaters this can mean concealing a truth that’s obvious, for Weir it means something else entirely: Basically, it means being gayer than any public figure ever, but then refusing to disclose his sexuality.
Not that he doesn’t flaunt it. For a year leading up to the Olympics, the Sundance Channel chronicled his training sessions, his conversations with his coach, the epic costume-design sessions involving mountains of netting and tulle and lace over which he presided with an often baffled-looking wardrobe designer named Stephanie Handler. In quite a few episodes, Weir and Paris (who was his roommate at the time) cavort in their tiny underpants alongside Weir’s “Balenciaga tree,” which is a coatrack decorated with the fifteen or so $2,000 bags he’s been sent by devoted, often Japanese fans. Sometimes, he puts on a blond wig and pretends to be a middle-aged Russian journalist named Viacheslav Romanov. (While interviewing his mother, he says, in a heavy Russian accent, “He [Weir] came from her vagina!”) His comic timing in the Romanov videos is astoundingly good, but perhaps this is another skill to toss on the pile of speaks Russian, knows gobs about Chanel.
Once the Olympics started, Weir began getting all sorts of press for his housing situation: Originally, he announced that he wouldn’t stay in the athletes’ village—he hadn’t enjoyed his time there four years before—but after receiving what he described as “very serious threats” from anti-fur activists (beside his Balenciaga tree is a “fur tree” of hats and tippets and wraps), he accepted that the village had appropriate security. He insisted on rooming with Tanith Belbin, a female ice-skater and the supposed ex-girlfriend of his sworn enemy and rival, Evan Lysacek. He told People that Belbin was an ideal roommate because she gave him the space to “run around naked and watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Belbin, for her part, was happy living with Weir because the room “smelled amazing” thanks to all the scented candles, and she liked the Audrey Hepburn posters, too. Lysacek, with his array of athletic jumps and his neat middle-American coif, seems as straight as a skater can be. He easily won the air war—his jumps were objectively far stronger than Weir’s—but Weir gave a career performance in the free skate in its elegance and passion. And as it turned out, the performance wasn’t over.
“You don’t need to have labels. I would marry a woman. I very well could. People laugh at me, but why is that so funny? I love women.”
The day of Weir’s loss, two commentators on a Canadian TV show suggested, “We should make [Weir] pass a gender test.”
A few days later, Weir called a press conference. He wore his bangs brushed over his forehead and a fluffy brown fur cowl. “It wasn’t them criticizing my skating,” he said. “It was them criticizing me as a person, and that was something that frankly pissed me off. I’ve heard worse in bathrooms about me. It’s just that I don’t want other kids to have the same issue. Masculinity is what you believe it to be. I think masculinity and femininity is something that’s very old-fashioned. There’s a whole new generation of people who aren’t defined by their sex or race or who they like to sleep with.”
Weir loves to talk about sex, and sexuality, and boys versus girls, and all of these things (“I do have a penis,” he says one afternoon about a month before a tweet questioning Weir’s gender appeared on Lysacek’s Twitter account). He’ll pose for highly suggestive photographs (like the one on the following page that demands that attention to his sexuality be paid), and then insist on perpetuating a preposterous mystery where these matters are concerned. “I have a very specific philosophy about gay, straight, married, sex, partnership,” he says one summer afternoon. He is in a swivel chair at the Eric Alt hair salon in Saddle River, New Jersey. It’s his “25th birthday for the second time,” and he’s come to have his signature pouf (it’s part John Wayne, part Danny Zuko, but then it’s also shaved along the sides and curiously long in back) tended to by Alt, who is a burly guy often seen tending Danielle Staub’s extensions on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. “I only let bears do my beauty,” Weir says. “I like beauty bears.”