Ice cubes frozen in the tray of memory. Who could forget Dorothy Hamill skating an Innsbruck in 1976, so light and airy that she hardly left even a bladeprint as she glided by? Who could forget the short and sassy Hamill Wedgecut? Who could forget the Hamill Squint as she received her Olympic gold medal? Or the Hamill Glasses? Or the unmistakable Hamill Camel, which is sort of a double axel sitspin with a step-over toe hold, special sauce and an order of fries?
Almost five years now. Only photographs stand still.
The Wedge is dead. She's letting her trademark grow.
"That's it," she said last night. "I've had short hair all my life."
She made a bored face.
"I'm sick of short hair."
There's an impending marriage, oh yes, a diamond ring on her finger about the size of Dayton, and the intended is Dean Martin Jr., son of Dean Martin Sr. Remember Dino as a professional singer, professional football player, professional tennis player, professional actor? Now he's in the Air National Guard studying to be a professional pilot, so their marriage is a year away, "'cause it's stupid to get married and say, 'Bye,'" Hamill said.
And a career change. Oh, she'll still skate, but she'll no longer skate in Ice Capades. She's putting together a nightclub ice act for the Vegas/Tahoe/Reno circuit with eight male skaters-dancers. She'll do some singing and dancing. She's taking lessons.
Vegas. Flashy costumes. Hot-cha-cha, huh?
Well, not exactly.
"I've always been a big fan of Julie Andrews, 'Sounds of Music' and 'Mary Poppins'" Hamill said, pulling down the white cuffs that matched the white Peter Pan collar of her blue plaid dress. "That's still my image, and that's still what I believe in. I'd never want to play a sexy part.I'd be uncomfortable doing that. Walt Disney is my first priority in films, but even he isn't making many movies now."
Prim, proper, pretty, polite and proud of it.
But, Dorothy, even Marie Osmond is turning on the heat.
"Yeah. She wants that. You know, it's unfortunate that she's Mormon because her religion doesn't allow it. It holds her back."
Can you believe it? Dorothy Hamill is the real Marie Osmond.
She came to Washington last night, bringing a touch of the flu with her, for Monday night's Super Bowl (Free World Division) of Professional Ice Skating at the Capital Centre. Peggy Fleming. Linda Fratianne. Robin Cousins. Toller Cranston. Tai and Randy. All champions. All stars. But with the exception of Fleming, none was or is as big a star as Hamill. When ABC turned those cameras on her something magical happened. It wasn't just the clean line of her skating, or the fresh-scrubbed, apple-cheeked tone of her looks. It was the whole, wholesome package. And "package" is exactly the right word.
They bought Dorothy Hamill and sold her like soap. Ice Capades. Clairol. American Optical. A package deal said to be valued at $2 million including the ice shows, personal appearances and commercials. Before the contracts expired last year, you couldn't turn on a television set without seeing her. What the camera didn't show was the inside. Inside, was a bleeding ulcer. Inside, was a frightened young woman who couldn't sleep nights. Inside, was wreckage. Inside, was an emotional Slinky toy. She began to eat a lot. While Clairol was selling her "short and sassy look," writers who spent time with her on the road were profiling her as short and fat and sad.
These are some of the words she used to describe the years between 1976 and 1978: "Awful." "Terrible." "Horrible."
"After the Olympics I thought it'd get easier, I thought I wouldn't have to work anymore," she said after pushing away what remained of a small dinner salad and leaving a glass of white wine almost unsipped. "It gets harder. I wasn't ready for it. Amateur skaters -- they know how to skate; that's all they're supposed to know. I didn't know how to manage my money. I didn't know how to take care of myself on the road. A lot of the kids in the show really resented me because I was just out of amateurs and billed as the star. I took a bad rap. You see, I'm very shy. I couldn't go up to the kids and say, 'Hi.' I waited for people to come to me."
She had been part of the Jerry Weintraub umbrella, along with stars such as Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond. Weintraub likes to protect his stars, sometimes to the point of shelter. "That's not the way I want it," Hamill said. "I'm not Frank Sinatra. I'm the girl next door." She and Weintraub recently parted amicably, after what the trades might call, "philosophical differences." Now, after a test-the-waters personal appearance blitz that proved she can still do boffo in Peoria, Atlanta, Colorado Springs and Green Bay, she and her new manager, Michael Rosenberg, are going after the big one -- Vegas.
"It's no risk at all," Rosenberg said. "I don't care what he says -- it's a risk," she said. "I know it's a risk. I thought about opening in the spring, but I knew I wouldn't be ready.If I'm prepared, I know it'll be all right."
She'd probably outgrown Ice Capades anyway. She was 19 when she started; she's 24 now. She always hated the traveling. But after six weeks with the troupe this fall she noticed how old she felt. "It was scary," she said. "It was like I was the only one who was getting older."
And she's had a hard time adjusting to stardom. One of the nicest qualities about Hamill, even nicer than her politeness and her vulnerability, is her absolute lack of self-importance. ("I don't see that I'm any big deal that people would want my autograph." . . . "I don't know what the camera sees in me. It's crazy. I don't look like Bo Derek or Farrah Fawcett. I might like to, but beggars can't be choosy.") After so many years of doing what other people wanted her to do because the money was so good how could she refuse, she's finally doing what she wants -- not because she craves the limelight, just because, for the first time in years, she actually wants to do something.
"It's a funny thing about being a star," she said. "I know Dean's has a tough time with his dad. That's why he went into athletics, so no one could say his father's name got him there. But at the premiere of 'Players' [the critical and box office bomb-ola of a tennis movie with Ali McGraw] for the first time I didn't have all the attention. Dean did. He was the Star. You know what? It was different. It was hard. Seeing him with all those women around him was dreadful. Watching him play those love scenes was torture. I was jealous. And I realized what it must be like for him around me in Ice Capades when I'm the star . . . We talk about it sometimes. He's really helped me through these last few years. He grew up in the business. He understands that the only one who cares about you is you. You've got to stand up for what you want."
What she wants now is the nightclub act, and the marriage, and sometime in the future the chance to act with her husband. Blind ambition has nothing to do with it; she dreams in whispers, and she makes these sound like such simple goals. She seems the opposite of the stereotypical Driven-Hollywood-Starlet. In fact, the thing that scares her most about the Vegas trip is that she isn't sure she can succeed in the part of the act that's off the ice. You see, she has spent 16 of her 24 years more or less gliding in circles, when the optimum sound is no sound at all. If she had to fill out a college application form, and it asked for a brief description of who she was, all she could come up with would be: "A figure skater. At least I was . . . And, let's see . . . I've traveled a lot . . . That's about it."
She shrugged her shoulders and softly laughed.