Drop Till You Shop
For Skater Johnny Weir, the Gold Is in the Bag. A Louis Vuitton, That Is.

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

TURIN, Italy -- Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir has been out shopping every day, shopping so much that the Louis Vuitton store here, which he affectionately calls "Louie" and which he's visited six or seven times since arriving two weeks ago, paid for his cab recently when he was leaving.

" 'Cause I'm nice," he explains.

Because he's nice, or because he drops a lot of money?

"Well, both," he says.

He is nice. And charming. And so thin he buys children's sizes when he shops at Lacoste. And loaded down with money from skating shows like "Champions on Ice." And great at getting discounts. And capable of spending $1,330 in two hours, which is what he did Monday on his daily shopping trip.

He knows the staff in the high-end stores of central Turin. He knows who's having sales and who moved around their merchandise in the few days since he was last in the store. It's a rush to watch him spend -- reckless and freeing, like shooting tequila in the morning.

"I like to shop," Johnny says.

So far, Weir, 21, who came in fifth in the men's figure skating competition for the U.S. team last week (but first in matters of beauty and brashness), has bought the following items here: five pairs of shoes, a pair of rabbit fur hand warmers, a Dolce & Gabbana hoodie he says reads "Sex trainer: Best to practice seven days a week," and a sable scarf that was supposed to be $715 but was instead $415 because he spoke French with the saleslady.

Ah, the fabulousness that is Johnny Weir! The fur collars! The special deals! His absolute favorite item of clothing is a Roberto Cavalli beaver-and-python coat. He is also proud that the "Louie" in Boston "pre-sold me a bag before it was allowed to be released," he says. "I'm the first person in the entire world to have this bag."

Before starting the day's shopping, he meets us for cappuccino at a cafe near the Olympic Village wearing the aforementioned rabbit hand warmers, a Fendi scarf, True Religion jeans, which are his favorite brand ("I like how my butt looks in them"), a black leather coat with some sort of fur collar, and recently purchased red John Galliano sneakers, "new for this season," which were supposed to be $416 but which he got for about $120 because the store's credit card machine was broken, and "I made a scene because I had to walk to an ATM."

He compliments our earrings and orders a biscuit, which is all -- aside from an orange -- that he will eat today, at least until 6 p.m.

Johnny Weir says he is very spiritual. It is true that he adores the celebrity rag Us Weekly and that he's currently reading a book by too-thin, too-blond starlet Nicole Richie. But he also has a deeper side. He says he's been obsessed with the Holocaust since he was little and considers himself "a little bit" Jewish, although he isn't, not technically. He says he's had his past lives read and found out that most recently he was a Jewish girl from Poland during World War II.

"I mean, it makes sense if you think about it," he says. "Like, what 4-year-old gets into learning about how 6 million people were exterminated?"

Around his neck, Johnny wears three chains with a knotted mess of pendants, including two Stars of David, an Israeli army dog tag, an Italian horn to protect him from the mal occhio , or evil eye, a miraculous medal of Mary, and the letter D, which stands for the Christina Aguilera song "Dirrty," because Christina Aguilera is his role model.

"I don't take them off ever and I don't untangle them because, like, their powers are all hidden in this knot," he says.

He is beautiful in what he calls an "androgynous" way; dark-lipped and hazel-eyed, with long lashes that curl perfectly up. He is 5 feet 9 and 125 pounds, with body fat "in the death levels," at 5.5 percent. His skin is pale and lovely.

"I'm breaking out really bad," he says, and points to one tiny little almost-zit.

He finishes his biscuit and we take the tram to the high-end shopping district around Via Roma. He heads into a eyewear store and tries on a pair of Dior sunglasses encrusted with rhinestones that, at nearly $1,200, he decides are too expensive. Besides, he already has this pair without the rhinestones, he says. Besides, he already has 45 pairs of Dior sunglasses.

He wanders around inside. "They have the Dior ski goggles," he says with awe.

Sitting down to arrange the laces on his new sneakers (whose laces he refuses to tie but instead carefully wraps and tucks in elaborate fashion), Johnny spots a pair of $320 Roberto Cavalli shades. He gives them to the saleslady to ring up. This, he says, will bring his sunglasses collection to 103 pairs, which he keeps arranged in drawers according to designer.

"I take care of them all," he says. "I have to polish them."

Weir considers clothes and handbags and sunglasses his children. In his closet, "certain designers get a black hanger and certain designers get a white hanger, and they're hung in order of designer and then color." He believes in buying real designer stuff; when he sees someone with a knockoff handbag, "it hurts my feelings," he says.

He opens his Louis Vuitton bag, which has inside it the following items: a Louis Vuitton camera bag and a cell phone with three fur tails hanging off it (one beaver, two mink). There is also a Gucci change purse, inside of which he keeps a spoon that has been twisted three times, of which Johnny will only speak mysteriously: "It's mystical," he says. "There are powers in it."

He takes out a baby blue Balenciaga wallet and removes a MasterCard, which he hands to the saleslady. "My bank always thinks that my card's stolen so they'll put a block on it sometimes," he says. "Drives me crazy."

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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