The Ice King Cometh

John Curry

As it’s LGBT History Month and the Winter Olympics are being held in South Korea it’s timely that The Ice King, based on the life of Olympic medal ice-skater John Curry, will have its UK release on the 23rd of this month. There will be a premiere of the film tomorrow, the 22nd at Brighton’s Duke’s at Komedia, followed by a Q&A session with Tony Fenwick, CEO of Schools OUT UK, who brought you LGBT History Month.

The film goes on general release the day after and should be in a cinema near you. Click here to see the trailer. Tony Fenwick’s review of the film can be see here:

I was 16 and pretty much in denial of what I already knew when John Curry won Gold in the Olympics. When he was ‘outed’ by the press (he told a journalist: “This is strictly off the record, but…”) he became a figure of derision and innuendo in the UK and, although he had adoring fan mail from his fans on this side of the pond, he found solace and freedom in New York. If I’d known then what he’d been through and subsequently went through, I really can’t say whether I’d have come out on the spot in support or have locked myself in the closet and dissolved the key.

This timely film uses footage of Curry’s interviews, letters, personal testimonies, letters to friends and family and – of course – his performances (be warned; the picture quality is not what a modern audience is used to) to bring to life what it took him to fuse ballet and ice-skating and become what should have been a legend. Interviews with his surviving first love (maybe) from Czechoslovakia add authenticity. Almost from the outset we learn that this was partially an accident of history; he desperately wanted to learn to be a dancer but his father would only allow him to learn to become an ice-skater on the grounds that it okay because it was a sport. His mother, who outlived them both, appears more supportive.

What this film shows is a gay man who had to break through barrier after barrier after barrier to achieve success: from negotiating his way past his father’s homophobia to chase his ambition; from realising he had to become an Olympic champion to make a name for himself as an artist; and then to challenge the Cold War’s impact and the Eastern Bloc’s dominance of the management and scoring of the skaters who reach the top, we see his determination to succeed and show the world what he is able to do. Robin Cousins, Torville and Dean and Dancing on Ice owe a huge debt to John Curry’s legacy, although I can’t help wondering if he’d approve of the last on the list.

Like so many thousands of others, Curry was killed by AIDS and the The Ice King makes reference to that, including a vile statement by the then president Ronald Reagan that AIDS proved that medicine and morality were in unison, but it doesn’t dwell on this. It acknowledges that he had varied and (at least one) troublesome relationships in his life, as well as bouts of depression, self-doubt and mood swings. But his total honesty rings true throughout and above all, the film asserts that he has given us an enormous legacy.