Johnny Weir: “One hoof out the door”

Honestly, the Kentucky Derby will never be the same, not after Johnny Weir and his sidekick Tara Lipinski are through with it.

The skating twosome have been called in to comment on fashion at the 140th running of the iconic race in Louisville, Ky., shown on NBC from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST on Saturday. It means that my two worlds are colliding: my horse racing world pre-dated my figure skating world. I’ve seen 49 Kentucky Derbies, been to Churchill Downs 10 times to cover it as a journalist.  Some consider it an odd combination: horse racing and figure skating. But then, Weir came along to fuse them into…..I’m not sure what.

Weir plans to wear a hat, of course. The hat is the thing. But Weir, being Weir, hints that he’ll wear a designer piece suggesting Pegasus, the winged horse. On Wednesday night, he tweeted, as he was packing for the trip: “One hoof out the door” and with it he showed a teaser of his design: it will involve a white horse’s hoof bedazzled with sequins. Feathers are involved. Not exactly sure how that will look on his head. Is he spoofing? We’ll see.

And we’re not quite sure what the Weir-Lipinski express expects to see when they hit Churchill on May 3. They say they are not going to be catty, although they are aware there is a huge audience for “bitchy fashion reporting.”

“I’m sure we will have some very outspoken moments,” Lipinski says. But nasty? Not so much. “We appreciate the artwork and the hours and the money that it cost for these designers to put out their creations every year,” Weir says. “We appreciate what they are trying to do and if something is a little bit off, then it’s a little bit off.

“I mean, I have made so many mistakes in my life, I’m not above critiquing somebody and saying what I would like to have seen better. But I’m also totally aware that I look like a loon most of the time.”

Do you get the impression that Lipinski and Weir expect to see the fashionista sort of hat? The wide sweeping brims with a few roses or feathers sweeping majestically around?  The utterly artistic beautiful creations?  (The Derby is the Run for the Roses, after all). Weir mentioned that the gentlemen will “wear a straw hat or fedora.” Without a doubt, the figure skating types will see these.

Weir is not a first-timer at the Derby. He came in May of 2010, after the Vancouver Olympics, and there is a photo of him out there somewhere, showing his outrageous chic: big, wide-brimmed black hat with wild black-and-white-and grey tweed jacket and not-so-outrageous black pants and grey shirt and tie. Definitely a statement, but tame by Derby standards, really.

Well, Johnny and Tara, I have news for you. Look away from the gold-encrusted dining rooms. Look into the infield, the backstage, that apron where people really can’t even see the race. You might see the man with the cheesehead hat, adorned with a couple of plastic race horses (jockeys aboard) running around the top over a bed of lilies.

Yup, there is a man wearing a straw fedora, but he might have four roses around the brim, interspersed with what looks like four finish-line posts, with flags, all topped off by a full-size, old fashioned bellows camera, with of course, a long-stemmed rose on top of that. Weir doesn’t really know what excess is, until he goes to a Derby.

And my personal favourite: the orange baseball cap, with a horse’s hind end sticking out over the brim. I could go on.

But this is Johnny and Tara’s show.

Strangely enough, Weir advises women to wear sensible shoes, if they have to walk across the grass to the winner’s circle. He’s seen too many a female sucked into the turf, hobbled by stilettos. But at Weir’s footwear suggestion, Lipinski screams: “Absolutely not!” until Weir promises to carry her “in my papoose” over the mud. He calls her his “little blond munchkin.” She’s enjoying it all.

But are they up to snuff on any of these 20 steeds from across the country? They may not know it, but this year’s Derby is a handicapping nightmare and they are stepping into this mire. “I have a few girlfriends coming over and we are going to do some homework, and hope to possibly bet a little bit,” Lipinski says. “I definitely want to be up to speed.” She’ll have some work ahead of her to figure this one out.

Weir is going on a tip. Somebody has told him that an elegant coppery-coated steed called Danza has the goods. “That’s where my loyalty lies a little bit,” he said. “I don’t know why. I just feel it.” That tactic will work as well as anything.

But really, are Weir and Lipinski the odd ones at this event? Maybe not. “I think Tara and I are based very much in reality,” Weir says. “”While some of our clothing and our confections [speak for yourself, Johnny] can lead you to think otherwise, we are very real down-to-earth people.”

The trick on Derby day is to wear something comfortable, Weir says. He’s learned his lesson. Last time, in 2010, it threatened to be cold and wet. Weir’s tweed caused him to “sweat through my foundation.

“It was not a good scene. I was not cute” he sighs.
Well, it’s supposed to be chilly this time, too. “I’ll bring a sensible shawl,” he replies, but he doesn’t believe it.

His mother will try to suggest he wear a linen pant, but Weir hates linen. “It wrinkles so terribly that by the end of the day, your butt looks like a walnut,” he says.

This is going to be one fun Kentucky Derby show.


Moore-Towers, Moscovitch no more

So the talk is all true: the dynamic pair team of Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch has parted ways.

So sad. They had a wonderful chemistry, playing off each other’s personalities perfectly. They skated like the wind. You knew, whenever they took to the ice, it was going to be fun, playful.

But they are going in different directions. Is it surprising? Not when you think about it. He’s 29, she 21. That age difference is a lifetime.

He’s not quitting, though. “My future includes embracing new opportunities within the sport that I love, finding a new partner and competing in the 2014-1015 season, and expanding my horizons for life after skating,” he said in a prepared release.

Perhaps he just doesn’t want to do one or more Olympics, as Moore-Towers easily could. “I’m so proud of what Dylan and I achieved in our five years together and I do want to thank him for everything we accomplished,” Moore-Towers said in a prepared release. “We are just at different points in our lives right now.”

She feels an opportunity to skate for at least one, maybe two more Olympic cycles. “My plan is to look for the partner who will share in that dream.” If Moscovitch stayed with her for one more cycle, he’d be 33, for two more cycles, he’d be 37.

Better to figure this out now, than later. It gives Moore-Towers a chance to continue her dream.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch joined forces in 2009, and finished fifth at their first Canadian championship in 2010. But the next year, they won gold nationally, and for the past two years have finished second, while pushing archrivals and friends Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford to their utmost.

In 2013 and 2014, they finished fourth at the world championships, but finished highest of all Canadian teams at the Sochi Olympics with a fifth place finish. At the 2014 worlds, they defeated Duhamel and Radford in the free skate.

The pair trained under coaches Kristy Wirtz and Kris Wirtz for five years together at the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club.


“It was such an honour to represent Canada on the world and Olympic stage,” Moscovitch said. They were also part of the silver medal-winning team in Sochi. “I’m glad that Kirsten and I accomplished that together,” he said. “I wish her the best of luck going forward.”