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Some Johnny Weir fans angry at NY Magazine

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New York Magazine recently ran an article about Johnny Weir that has some fans upset. The article followed Weir through one of his fabulous evenings, complete with fake eyelashes, champagne cocktail, his plan on how to become a star, and talks of dick pics. This did not sit well with some fans, including Lynn V. Ingogly of Rock Island, N.Y., who sent a 9-page letter to the magazine's editor-in-chief, Adam Moss (see the complete letter after the jump).

Weir himself wasn't thrilled with the piece either. Via the New York Daily News:

"She said it seemed I wasn't serious and I was just another New York-area person just going to parties," Weir says, before explaining: "Yes, I was getting ready for red-carpet events, but I was going to them to work and network." Weir also grouses that the feature "attacked my people. ... I can be told to be subjected to a gender test, I can have my clothes attacked, but when you attack my people, my army, that's when I get pissed off!"

A spokeswoman for New York magazine responds: "We love Johnny Weir - as Amy [Larocca] writes in the piece, he's ‘talented and clever and beautiful,' and we think that comes through in the profile and photos."

New York Magazine addressed the quasi-controversy in part saying:

A cabal of fiercely protective fans came on to nymag.com to defend their hero against what they perceived to be a condescending take on Weir and his sport of choice.

Here's the full 9-page letter we received, complete with 18 alleged inaccuracies:

Dear Mr. Moss:

I understand that you are Amy Larocca’s boss (and as such, I can only presume that you have been on
some kind of extended vacation, or perhaps in a coma, to have left her so frighteningly unattended, like
a small child playing uncomprehendingly with matches who has now set herself on fire).

I am writing to express my extreme dismay with Ms. Larocca’s New York Magazine piece 1 that first
appeared last Monday, August 16, 2010, on the fierce, fabulous, and multi-talented Johnny Weir. In
accordance with good customer-service practices and as a very unhappy customer, I shall not waste my
time looking for satisfaction from the same lackey who has utterly failed me in her inability to do her
job properly. Instead, I’m seeking redress from you, her manager.

I previously published a version of this letter on my blog 2 and sent it to the general Letters to the
Editor e-mail address at nyletters@nymag.com. I offer here additional comments as well as my
original points.

I would like to be very clear that I am not affiliated with Mr. Weir or his management team at
Fireworks Sports Marketing. I am simply a fan who writes a blog about Mr. Weir for my own
amusement and the enjoyment of other fans. I also am a long-time freelance writer, editor, and degreed
journalist.

As a journalist, I must say it’s a shame that Ms. Larocca apparently did not actually get to meet Mr.
Weir during the course of writing about him. And that NYMag has fallen on such hard times in this
difficult economy that you’ve had to let all your fact-checkers go. Perhaps I can help with both of these
issues, having had the pleasure of Mr. Weir’s company multiple times and also having the gutsy
wherewithal to avail myself of intricate and complicated fact-checking devices such as Google, the
NBC Olympics site, and those two time-honored journalism favorites: context, and the follow-up
question.

There are two major problem areas in Ms. Larocca’s article: her multiple misleading or flatly incorrect
statements, and her constant insertion of herself into the article via her obvious bias as revealed
through her derisive tone. I do understand that this is a feature article, which falls somewhere between
hard news and editorial/opinion on the journalistic spectrum. But even so, it should be anchored by
journalistic integrity—though Ms. Larocca remains blissfully untethered to any such notion.

Let’s start with the blatant factual errors and inaccuracies:

(1) “Dressed in … false eyelashes and heels ...”
Right out of the gate, the drophead is a fabrication. Mr. Weir does not wear false eyelashes (please see
item 3 below), and only wears heels when directed to do so on a photo shoot (please see item 16
below). But this drophead gives the impression that such things are a part of his everyday life.

(2) “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.”
According to her own words, Ms. Larocca only knows that the additive was pale yellow—so how does
she know it was liquor and not just liquid? She doesn’t. But she’s more than eager to presume. In fact,
it was peach juice that he added to the Champagne to create what every other interviewer knows is his
favorite drink, the Bellini. Of course, it’s much more salacious for Ms. Larocca to darkly intimate that
since deciding to take a year off from competing, Mr. Weir has become a hard-core drinker who’s
busily mixing together various kinds of alcohol to go with his chain-smoking of menthol cigarettes
while shrieking “Cocaine!” intermittently like he has Narcotics Tourette’s—without checking to see if
her negative assumption is true by asking him a simple follow-up question: “Hey, what’s that stuff?”

(3) “[There is] a small table onto which Joey Camasta, his makeup artist, has spread a selection of
false eyelashes. … ‘Girrrrrrrl!’ Weir says, fingering a pair that are long and brown.”
Mr. Weir does not wear false eyelashes. From what she hopes is the very clever construction of her
sentences, Ms. Larocca insinuates that Mr. Camasta put false eyelashes on Mr. Weir—though she’s
careful not to actually say that. Because it’s not true. And that’s according to sources who were helping
Mr. Weir get ready, and sources who met and spoke with Mr. Weir at the GLAAD event he attended
that night. The false eyelashes were there to be used by Mr. Camasta’s female clients. Also: This
should read, “… a pair that is long and brown.” “Pair” is always singular.

(4) “... Johnny Weir Be Good, Weir’s Sundance Channel reality show ...”
The name of his reality series is Be Good Johnny Weir. 3 A simple click to
www.SundanceChannel.com 4 or even www.IMDb.com 5 would have been all the fact-checking Ms.
Larocca needed to get it right. And yet she couldn’t be bothered. Someone eventually did correct this
in the online edition of the article, but fortunately this mistake—and all the others detailed here—shall
live on forever in the printed version, a testament to Ms. Larocca’s laziness and ineptitude.

(5) “The skating tournaments are aired …”
Had she attempted to acquire even a modicum of knowledge about competitive figure skating—or
simply asked Mr. Weir about it—Ms. Larocca would know that hockey players have tournaments.
Figure skaters have competitions or championships.

(6) “And for the men it’s worse because … tights?”
Again, Ms. Larocca reveals her complete lack of knowledge about the subject at hand. In fact, it’s
compound ignorance: She doesn’t know, and she doesn’t care that she doesn’t know. But just so you
know: Male figure skaters do not—in fact, are not allowed to—wear tights.

According to the official U.S. Figure Skating Rulebook, available online to anyone with the simple
animal cunning required to press a few keys:

The clothing must be modest, dignified, and appropriate for athletic competitions — not
garish or theatrical in design. … Men must wear full-length trousers. No tights are
allowed. 6

But what is her point anyway? That men in tights couldn’t possibly do something worthy of notice?
Mikhail Baryshnikov might beg to differ.

(7) “In quite a few episodes [of BGJW], Weir and Paris (who was his roommate at the time) cavort in
their tiny underpants alongside Weir’s ‘Balenciaga tree ...’ ”
Has Ms. Larocca actually watched the show? (Of course, I don’t know why I might hope that she
had—we’re still only on page 64 and Ms. Larocca’s clumsy unfamiliarity with virtually every aspect of
Mr. Weir, his career as a figure skater, and his entire life is already glaringly obvious). There are not
“quite a few” episodes that fit this description. In fact, there are no episodes in which Mr. Childers
appears in his underwear. But let’s suppose that there were “quite a few” tiny-underpants episodes: So
what? What is Ms. Larocca’s point? Do gorgeous underwear-clad men standing near Balenciaga bags
upset her in some way? Do tell.

(8) “Weir’s ‘Balenciaga tree’ … is a coatrack decorated with the fifteen or so $2,000 bags he’s been
sent by devoted, often Japanese fans.”
Once again, if Ms. Larocca had bothered to do any research, she might have come across the recent
BlueFly.com video interview 7 with Mr. Weir, in which he displays each of his fifteen—not “fifteen or
so”—Balenciaga bags. And what does she mean by “often Japanese fans”? What point is she trying to
make by calling particular attention to “Japanese”? He’s not as popular in America? (Not true.) It’s
weird to have Japanese fans? (Excuse me?) Research might also have led her to the delightful
Stylecaster video 8 of last month, in which Mr. Weir discusses how he enjoys displaying his fashion
treasures so that he can walk into his closet and say, “Oh, that’s my Balenciaga tree. I had to work so
hard to get that bag, and this bag is from my fans, and this bag is from my mother …” Had she actually
asked Mr. Weir, he could have told her that of the fifteen bags, just three were gifts from Japanese fans
(not that it matters … ? Except that three out of fifteen does not equal “often”). The others were gifts
from his coaches, his agent, his mother, his friends; one was a gift from Korean fans; one a gift from
American fans; and one he bought for himself.

(9) “He insisted on rooming with Tanith Belbin, a female ice-skater and the supposed ex-girlfriend of
his sworn enemy and rival, Evan Lysacek.”
This one is a trifecta of inaccuracy. Let’s go point by point:

(a) “Insisted” makes it sound as though Mr. Weir threw a fit and demanded that he have his
way. Again, had she bothered with research, Ms. Larocca might have come across multiple
articles explaining and offering context—something she apparently wishes to avoid at all
costs—as to how he and Ms. Belbin ended up rooming together, including this particularly
cogent summary:

Belbin, 25, was originally supposed to share lodging with teenagers Mirai
Nagasu (ladies) and Caydee Denney (pairs) but balked, preferring single
accommodations.

Weir at one time planned to stay in a hotel, but said he opted for the greater
security of the Athletes’ Village after receiving threats from anti-fur activists
upset about the trim on one of his costumes, which he has since changed to faux
fur. However, the other male skaters had all made their arrangements and at one
point it appeared Weir’s only option was to room with world champion and U.S.
rival Evan Lysacek—not exactly a pal.

“There was this one [suite] with two single rooms, and if you take Johnny and
myself and Evan and do the math, the only logical answer was me and Johnny,”
said Belbin, who formerly dated Lysacek. 9

If anyone did anything that could loosely be termed “insisting” regarding this arrangement, it
was Ms. Belbin. In addition, Ms. Belbin is more than Mr. Lysacek’s ex-girlfriend. She’s been
Mr. Weir’s friend for ten years. In the finale of BGJW, Ms. Belbin mentions that she doesn’t
know why they never roomed together before, because they know each other so well and are so
comfortable with one another. But of course, Ms. Larocca would have had to actually watch the
episode to know this.

(b) “ … Tanith Belbin, a female ice-skater …”
“Ice skater” needs no hyphen here. Also, the preferred term is “figure skater,” not “ice skater”
(hence the governing body’s name: “U.S. Figure Skating Association” [USFSA]). Unless, of
course, one is referring to Ms. Belbin, in which case the correct term is “ice dancer.”

(c) “ … his sworn enemy and rival Evan Lysacek.”
While it’s true that over the years, the media has overemphasized a Weir-Lysacek “rivalry”
story for readership, both Mr. Lysacek and Mr. Weir have commented multiple times that
there’s far less to this than has been reported. And at no time has Mr. Weir ever said that Mr.
Lysacek was his “sworn enemy.” Once again, Ms. Larocca’s desperate need to insert herself
into the article via her biased word choices creates inaccuracies—as if she didn’t have enough
here already.

(10) “Lysacek, with his array of athletic jumps … “
Sigh. There are only six types of jumps in competitive figure skating: toe loops, flips, lutzes, salchows,
loops, and axels. In order to compete at the elite level at which both Mr. Lysacek and Mr. Weir
perform, both must be able to execute the same “array” of jumps. Ms. Larocca may be implying credit
to Mr. Lysacek for the quad here, but that is an inaccurate implication. Mr. Lysacek did not perform a
quad at the Olympics, and he fell during the one he attempted at U.S. Nationals this year.

(11) “[Lysacek’s] jumps were objectively far stronger than Weir’s.”
Objectively according to whom? Based on what? A simple check of the scores posted at the Vancouver
2010 Olympics site shows that Mr. Weir outscored 10 Mr. Lysacek in the free skate in the execution of
the double axel, the triple axel, the triple axel-double toeloop combination, and the triple lutz-triple
toeloop combination. In addition, the NBC Olympics website used three of Mr. Weir’s jumps to
illustrate what those jumps should look like when well-executed; they chose only one of Mr. Lysacek’s
jumps.

(12) “[Lysacek] skates very, very, very well—and certainly more athletically than Weir.”
This statement is offered without a shred of evidence to back it up—because, as noted above, there
isn’t any. Objectively, their athleticism has been scored similarly, or, if anything—as was the case at
the Olympics—Mr. Weir scored higher than Mr. Lysacek on multiple executed elements.

(13) “He taunts Lysacek (he recently called him a ‘slore,’ which is half-slut, half-whore).”
Bravo! Excellent use of complete lack of context, the mainstay for the prejudiced journalist who has
formed strong, baseless opinions and certainly wouldn’t want to let facts or background info get in her
way. Here’s the context 11 : Mr. Weir blurted out “Evan’s a slore” when he was blindsided on the
Wendy Williams Show with offensive comments 12 that Mr. Lysacek had made the day before, in which
he contended that Mr. Weir—a three-time U.S. national champion, two-time Olympian, and a World
medalist—lacked the talent to be invited to join Stars on Ice. Mr. Lysacek later apologized. 13

(14) “And as it turned out, the performance wasn’t over. … A few days later, Weir called a press
conference.”
To inaccurately term Mr. Weir’s press conference, 14 in which he addressed the truly appalling
“gender-test” remarks made by the Canadian broadcasters, a continuation of his Olympic
“performance” is to undercut everything Mr. Weir said, and the thoughtful and sensitive manner in
which he said it, at that press conference.

(15) “[Eric] Alt … is a burly guy often seen tending Danielle Staub’s extensions on The Real
Housewives of New Jersey.”
The implication is to equate Mr. Weir with Ms. Staub, a reality star enjoying a particularly difficult
time with her image at the moment. Yes, Mr. Alt does do Ms. Staub’s hair, but it was Viktor Petrenko
who recommended Mr. Alt to Mr. Weir. 15 So the connection here isn’t with a New Jersey housewife;
it’s with a skating coach. But including this bit of actual context would, of course, interfere with Ms.
Larocca’s zeal to paint Mr. Weir as a low-level celebrity wannabe. Ms. Larocca also could have simply
asked Mr. Alt how he came to be Mr. Weir’s hair stylist.

(16) “He … wears stiletto heels and women’s clothes, not in a drag way, but in a completely matter-
of-fact, what’s-in-my-closet kind of way.”
This implies that Mr. Weir has women’s dresses and stilettos in his closet and wears both often. While
he does wear both men’s and women’s clothing—though not skirts or dresses—he has never worn
heels other than at the request of a photographer, including Cass Bird, chosen to create the photographs
accompanying this article. In fact, in NYMag’s own June 29, 2010, interview with Mr. Weir—which it
would have behooved Ms. Larocca to read—this very subject is addressed:

Do you wear women's clothing?
I’m lucky because I’m really small so I can wear men's clothes and women’s clothes.

Do you wear women’s shoes, too?
Usually I try not to buy women’s shoes — I have no heels in my collection. I want to
buy a pair of Louboutin patent-leather heels just to fit in the apartment as an art
installation. I have a pair of Chanel women’s boat shoes and a pair of women’s sneakers
from Gucci. And I have a small foot.

How do you feel about man heels?
I don’t like the idea of that look — I think it’s not quite right. But there are those
situations where you’re performing or doing a shoot where, you know, there’s nothing
wrong with a little heel. I think more men should walk in heels and run in heels and see
what women have to deal with every day. 16

(17) “Weir will be nearly 29 when the next Olympics [Sochi 2014] rolls around ... “
No. Mr. Weir will be nearly 30 at the time of the Winter Olympics that year. Oh, I know. Math is hard.
Just ask the USFSA. They still think that 1 brilliant short program + 1 soul-searingly magnificent free
skate = 6th place.

But Ms. Larocca’s complete unfamiliarity with actual facts isn’t even the biggest problem with the
article. It’s her tone, dripping with derision and condescension and snark. And she pours it all over
everyone and everything:

• Stephanie Handler is “baffled.”
• Joey Camasta is wearing a shirt “against which his stomach strains.”
• Tara Modlin is wearing “a tatty terry robe with curlers in her hair.”
• Ms. Modlin’s roommate is clueless, “looking for help with her hair, her eye makeup, her what-to-
wear.”
• Ms. Modlin’s apartment has “pink chiffon stuck up on the windows, some decorations welded into
place with a hot-glue gun.” (By the way, there is not a speck of hot glue anywhere in Ms. Modlin’s
apartment.)
• Ms. Modlin’s apartment is “decorated with photocollages starring Modlin, Weir, and their friends
at parties and ice shows and in hotel suites.” And who, pray tell, appears in the photos Ms. Larocca
has in her home? People she’s never met photographed in places she’s never been?
• Mr. Weir “knows how to … flash a charming, two-layered grin.” What in the world is a “two-
layered grin”? And why is it wrong that Mr. Weir, a man who has been photographed nonstop for
nearly a decade, knows how “to angle his chin” or to “look up at the camera”?
• Mr. Weir “sits with perfect posture and enunciates his words extra-super-clearly. The effect is very
My Fair Lady.” This allusion equates Mr. Weir with Eliza Doolittle—someone desperately pretending
to be something he’s not, masquerading as someone trying to fit into what Ms. Larocca apparently
deems her exclusive domain.
• Mr. Weir is “writing a book ... which ... he hopes [will] sell lots and lots and lots of
copies.” Because most people write books hoping that no one will buy them? That must be Ms.
Larocca’s strategy: Her New York Look Book: A Gallery of Street Fashion is ranked as of this writing
at #95 among Amazon’s Top 100 Fashion books. 17 Interestingly, Mr. Weir’s book, which has not yet
been published, already ranks at #36 in his Top 100 Amazon category. 18

• “Why [Mr. Weir] thinks he only came in sixth-place ...” This online subhead reads as if no one else
shares the view that he was terribly, heartbreakingly underscored. Even NBC’s own commentators—
legend Scott Hamilton among them 19 —agreed that he was. A simple Google search of “Weir
underscored” returns nearly 300,000 results on the subject. Also: “Sixth place” should not be
hyphenated.

Ms. Larocca describes even the most ordinary behaviors in an arched way, such as pointedly
commenting on Mr. Weir looking at himself in the mirror while he’s getting his hair or makeup done.
Why is this unusual? Don’t stylists always seat clients in front of a mirror? Where else, exactly, is one
supposed to look? And is it so odd that Mr. Weir wants to be sure of the final result, especially when
he’s going to an event at which he knows he’s going to be photographed?

And then, of course, there’s Ms. Larocca’s incessant harping on Mr. Weir’s sexuality, a major theme
throughout the article and one in which her snark becomes even more evident—finally revealing the
real issue here: her non-normative gender-expression, or even homophobic, bias.

It’s unfortunate that with the amount of access Ms. Larocca apparently was granted to Mr. Weir, she
couldn’t find something new and fresh to bring to her readers. Instead, all she could do was repeat the
same tired, overused story lines:

Mr. Lysacek “seems as straight as a skater can be,” while Mr. Weir is “gayer than any public figure
ever.” And what exactly does that mean? How is one person “gayer” than another? What is her point?
I’m sure GLAAD would be most interested to know.

“Weir [is] all the more certain of his membership in the fraternity, or sorority, or whatever orientation
he may eventually choose, of American celebrity.” Again: so much scorn. And so much of Ms.
Larocca. Throughout the piece, she becomes more and more representative of one of those classic
“what’s-wrong-with-this-picture” puzzles. What’s wrong with it is that she’s smack-dab in the middle
of it. This piece is not about her, or her discomfort with anyone else’s gender expression, or her latent
homophobia. It’s about Johnny Weir.

“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.” Mr. Weir posed for a photographer who shoots in this style. How does this
make any comment on his sexuality? And he didn’t choose these poses—photographer Cass Bird
chose them on behalf of NY Mag.

Ms. Larocca continues to unleash her venom: Mr. Weir really has no talents that can translate into a
sustainable career. Figure-skating fans are pitiable lovers of plush toys and collectible figurines. And
Mr. Weir himself “looks like a plush toy”—thus apparently explaining his appeal to his fans. Because
it couldn’t possibly be based on the unique artistic genius, grace, and elegance he brings to the ice, or
the intriguing complexity of his views on many subjects, or his wonderfully sly wit and willingness to
say what he thinks. Or the kindness, patience, and care he shows to his fans.

It’s especially telling that Ms. Larocca includes no discussion of the GLAAD event he attended after
readying himself at Ms. Modlin’s apartment—a fundraising event that was packed precisely because
he was there. According to those in attendance, Mr. Weir chose not to spend any time hidden away in
the VIP area. Instead, he spent the entire evening 20 mingling with those who had paid to meet the
celebrities, 21 chatting and autographing charmingly, patiently, endlessly—as he always does.

Nor did she include any information from Patti Weir, Mr. Weir’s warm, witty, and eminently quotable
mother. Ms. Larocca did interview Mrs. Weir for this article. But, of course, anything Mrs. Weir might
have to say would only have served to knock askew the bias Ms. Larocca had so firmly in place from
the outset.

But what I dislike most about the article—and there’s plenty from which to choose—is the false
contrast Ms. Larocca draws between the drinking / smoking / cocaine-referencing / “gurl”-shouting /
over-sexualized / crude / non-bankable / talentless Mr. Weir of the beginning of the article, and the Mr.
Weir at the conclusion, whose “cheeks are pink and clear. His eyes are round. He looks like a plush
toy, or something from a comic book specifically designed to register ‘cute.’ He is sweet and friendly
and earnest. He doesn’t shout ‘gurl’ even once.” Her between-the-lines point is that, in her opinion,
the real Mr. Weir is the first one, and the second one is contrived—“specifically designed”—and thus
she seeks to undercut what he says at the conclusion, about working and training hard and hoping to
keep his fans happy.

Well, then.

I’m sure you now understand what an appallingly sloppy, poorly researched, and outright fabrication
this article is. Ms. Larocca manufactured it of whole cloth—albeit tatty, threadbare cloth, held together
only with fraying strings of ugly innuendo and baste-stitches of petty insinuation—that disintegrates
the moment one examines it even casually.

And you allowed it to go to press as such.

I’m sure you also understand the need for NY Mag to print multiple corrections—if not a complete
retraction—as soon as possible.

I would also recommend limiting Fashion Director Larocca’s journalistic endeavors from here on out
to commenting on hemline lengths or the colors expected in next season’s shoes. It’s so painful for
your readers to watch her stumble, flounder, and eventually drown in her own ignorance and callous
disregard for facts or any sort of journalistic standards. Please spare us from having to witness Ms.
Larocca further embarrass herself with subjects that are so clearly beyond her grasp, and interviewees
who are light-years out of her league.

I read a comment from Mr. Weir in last Thursday’s New York Daily News, 22 in which he noted his
displeasure at Ms. Larocca’s contemptuous—and contemptible—reporting. I was amused by the
response of the nameless NY Mag “spokeswoman”: “We love Johnny Weir—as Amy [Larocca] writes
in the piece, he’s ‘talented and clever and beautiful.’” Ah, the only semi-positive sentence in the entire
article—and even then, Ms. Larocca chose “clever,” with its connotation of “second-class and not
quite enough to fool everybody,” rather than the more genuinely complimentary “intelligent.”

Finally: I noted with interest that Ms. Larocca was promoted only recently—in July 2010—to Fashion
Director at NY Mag. In one of the stories announcing her new position, you commented that your
decision to promote her was a “no-brainer.” 23

I couldn’t agree more. On so many levels.

Again, I’m sorry that Ms. Larocca completely missed out on making the acquaintance of the Johnny
Weir whom thousands around the world know and love—the same one so many other interviewers
have met, including Jim Caple, who shared his Johnny Weir experience so wonderfully on ESPN. 24
Ms. Larocca was granted an extraordinary opportunity to introduce this gifted, engaging, boundary-
breaking, unique young man to a whole new audience, and completely squandered it on a fictionalized
portrait designed to paint him in a most unflattering light—for what can only be considered highly
unprofessional reasons of her own, and apparently with your endorsement.

Should she ever be in a position to interview him again—which I highly doubt—I’d be happy to
handle it for her, girrrrrrrl.

Thank you for your time. I very much look forward to the printed correction/retraction I know you’ll
want to run before Perez Hilton, Greg in Hollywood, The Advocate, EW PopEater, OutSports,
GLAAD, and so many others decide to make this complete NY Mag fail a major talking point. In this
Internet age, it is amazing how easily information leaks and how quickly it can go viral.

Sincerely,

Lynn V. Ingogly