Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Twenty years ago yesterday...

...was the "Whack Heard 'Round the World."

I had moved to Oregon barely three years earlier, at a time when Tonyamania was nearly at its height.

The muscular little woman from southeast Portland was Oregon's best known resident at that time, I recall, so as it unfolded the whole appalling saga of Tonya, her porn-star-wannabe husband, the security guard with the bizarre fantasites, the strange little man with the club who did the actual whacking, and the toothy ice princess who was suddenly the Maiden in Distress for the popular press made for fascinating viewing.

It was like a bloody freeway collision; horrible but almost impossible to look away from.

Twenty years on Tonya is still an odd sort of demi-celebrity out here in her home state; many Oregonians feel a sort of schadenfreude about her.

Yes, she's awful, but awful in the same way as the uncle who turned out to be a flashy, high-rolling embezzler, or the aunt who turned out to be a shameless and brazen grand horizontal; awful, yes, but sort of...our awful, an awful so close that it becomes almost loveable in its awfulness.

She and her little gang of fellow idiots turned out to be the spokesmodels for "Keep Oregon Weird".

What I recall thinking then, and still think now when I bother to think about her, was how completely and utterly she reminded me of all the other people I knew who came from the same parts of Clackamas County she came from.

These were people who were just brutally...marginal; sad, hardscrabble fuckups who were often just one mishap away from being human trainwrecks, deadly combinations of barely-bright, poorly-educated, undisciplined-to-the-point-of-undisciplinable.

In the Army we called these sorts of people "shit magnets". “Bad stuff” just “happened” to them; car wrecks, arrests...lost time, lost jobs, lost husbands and wives, lost lives.

Tonya was a kind of patron saint for those people, and I think that's where a lot of the love came from.

She WAS them, just a little bigger, a little sparklier, a little more famous. Lots of people really wanted to love her because she seemed to be the little comet-that-could-escape the merciless gravitational pull of the trailer-park-stop-n-rob-highschool-doper-and-hootchie-mama Death Star. By her existence, by her celebrity, she gave those poor fuckers hope that they, too, could escape the nightmare that was their Fate.

Of course, she didn't.

The odd thing is that Nancy Kerrigan, the elegant and slender antithesis of the muscular little backstreet tough girl, got dragged into TonyaWorld and it had the nasty effect of showing her worst qualities, as well.

The little hints of self-pity we saw as she held her leg and moaned "Why me?" became a full-blown hissyfit after the gold medal loss to Baiul, herself something of a gawdawful wreck and I agree with Nancy Nall; you've gotta watch all the way through the banner at her site; it's perfect in the unspeakably perfect way it fits into this whole fucking perfect-head-on-collision of egomaniacs.

I think the final nail in Nancy's PR coffin was when she was caught pissing and moaning about the indignity of having to appear at some event at Disneyland. I have to agree I would have loathed having to caper around with a costumed mouse, but, hey, that's the price of fame.

The revelation some time later that she had been screwing around with her then-married-then-manager wasn't exactly a deal-breaker; she had been pretty well exposed as someone whose sense of entitlement was larger than her overbite.

The anniversary of this sordid little business yesterday was very strange. No one seemed to want to revisit the events of 1994 with any real zest, or re-examine the robust awfulness of the whole tacky little conspiracy and the unpleasant revelations it brought about a whole bunch of different people we had hoped to celebrate.

There was a certain amount of domestic pleasantry surrounding Kerrigan, who does seem to have matured into a nice woman with a nice family.

Poor Tonya, still the fallen star, was barely visible; she appears to be back down where she started, married to an itinerant carpenter and living with her husband and son somewhere in the hinterlands of the eastern part of the state. The World's Worst Newspaper quotes her third husband's description of her: "She's kind, she's loving, she's a little rough around the edges. She's a redneck, but she's my redneck."

The bulk of the local stories made no mention of Tonya's other classic Clackamas County shit magnet escapades: the arrests, or the bizarre shenanigans like the putative kidnappings and hubcap (or was is an ashtray) assaults, no mention of the sad little wedding-night-porn-video, of the freakish foxy boxing "career". I got the sense that the public, and the public press, was trying to quietly apologize for making this poor sad little woman into a public freak show for a decade or more.

So. Myself? I kind of hope that Tonya finds something like happiness. Wherever and however she can.

We all deserve a little mercy before the end, don't we?

Down in southeast Portland her old skating rink in the Clackamas Town Center mall has gone, like Tonya, victim of hard times, bad choices, and bad luck.

So in their perfect, blandly awful mundaneity, perhaps the best last words on The Tonya and Nancy Story could be those of a nameless "Yahoo Contributor", who advised:

"So, don't come to skate but, the new 2 story Barnes & Noble and Macaroni Grill are worth the visit."

Yes, indeedy.

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