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Drop Till You Shop

The 1,000-euro rhinestone shades? A bit much. Besides, they might clash with the rabbit fur hand warmers or beaver-and-python coat.
The 1,000-euro rhinestone shades? A bit much. Besides, they might clash with the rabbit fur hand warmers or beaver-and-python coat. (By Libby Copeland -- The Washington Post)

The Olympics may be the only time America pays any attention to figure skating, but in truth the Olympics are not how someone like Johnny Weir pays for his expensive children. He says he makes six figures a year through exhibition skates. He's promised to pay his 17-year-old brother's college tuition. He buys his mother handbags. He grew up somewhere between working and middle class in rural Pennsylvania, the son of a secretary and a nuclear power plant technician, and sometimes he wonders if he buys so much because he grew up with not so much. Even when he goes to the supermarket, he says, he buys more yogurt than he needs, "just in case it goes away."

In any case, he's got these great sunglasses now. He steps outside the store.

Next, he tries on a pair of $450 Dior jeans, which, he decides, do not make him look "bootylicious," desires but restrains himself from buying a $1,225 handbag, and compliments a salesman who, he notes, has been to the tanning salon since the last time Johnny saw him.

He buys three candles for $160. He feels these will liven up his dreary Olympic quarters.

Next, Johnny makes a trip to the ATM because he fears he may be nearing the limit on his credit card. He proceeds to "Louie," where the salesman -- who waits on Johnny every time he comes in -- goes down to the stockroom to retrieve a bag he thinks Johnny will like.

"You want try, Johnny?" he asks.

Johnny does want try. Johnny like. It is a messenger bag, remarkably similar to the Louis Vuitton messenger bag Johnny happens to be carrying on his shoulder today, but Johnny says this one is slightly different and he wants it. What else does he want? He thumbs though the store catalogue with the expertise of a radiologist looking at X-rays.

"The squash?" asks the salesman, pointing to something called a squash bag, listed at $1,400.

"No, I have the squash," Johnny says.

He also has: nearly 40 pieces of Louis Vuitton luggage. A Louis Vuitton hatbox and a Louis Vuitton mini steamer trunk, and a Louis Vuitton doggy carrying case, which his dog did not like ("he peed in it"), so Johnny returned it and got another bag for himself. He has all the beautiful things a young man who believes in beauty could want. Someday, he says, he wants to go to college, become a fashion designer. There is so much he wants to do, he says, he doesn't know how to get it all done.

In the meantime, he says, he will skate till his body gives out, probably by the time he's 25, and he won't get so down about not doing better in the Olympics. There will be another, and besides, "it's just the Olympics," and besides, it was fate. Maybe he did poorly because he was mean to someone at some point in the past, he says. He tries hard to be nice to everyone.

The Louis Vuitton bag costs about $845, or 710 euros.

Johnny pulls out the sum total of what he took from the ATM: 800 euros, just enough to pay for the bag. This is a sign.

"I guess I was subconsciously supposed to get this one," he says. "See how that works?"

He lines the money up next to him in piles.

After he pays, he asks the salesman to give him a phone number so he can call and find out when the store gets something new in. After all, he is leaving Turin on Saturday, and there is so much he has yet to buy.

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© 2006 The Washington Post Company