They could have vamped all night. And still . . . have vamped some more.
In the first World Professional Figure Skating Championship held last night at Capital Centre, a team of freshly minted millionaires from the 1980 Olympics defeated a team of establishment millionaires by four one-hundreths of a point. A standing-room only crowd of 18,130, saw the upstarts -- including 1980 Olympic champion Robin Cousins, silver medalist Linda Fratianne and American heat-throbs Tai and Randy -- win $20,000 apiece for the night's work.
"It was fixed," said Dorothy Hamill, making like a bad loser, after earning only $10,000. "That's a joke," she added quickly. "We shoulda won, though."
It was a night of many blown kisses and some blown jumps; of sequins, and rhinestones and beads. It was a night when Dick Button, the producer of the competition, announced that the judges wanted to applaud the competitors before announcing the final score. It was a night of show-biz on ice.
Hamill proved conclusively that four years in Ice Capades has made her the most gifted waver in America. She waved with one hand; she waved with two hands; she waved with everything she had. And anyone who did not remember why she became America's sweetheart in the 1976 Olympics went home knowing why. This crowd would have gone over the rainbow with Dorothy and anywhere else she wanted to take it.
Peggy Fleming proved conclusively that once you become America's sweetheart, even if it was 12 years ago, you better not mess with that imgage. Fleming took the ice in a costume that looked like it had been shredded by a Watergate conspirator -- a flesh-colored tunic flecked with purple sequins. A woman in the crowd gasped; "That's not our Peggy, is it?"
Everyone, of course, took it very seriously. "It was the difference between $20,000 and $10,000,' said Randy Gardner. "That's a lot of money to most of the people in the show. As serious as the Olympics? You don't take anything as serious as that."
The competition was broken into three parts, a compulsory program with required moves that resembled the competition programs most skaters use in amateur competition; a freestyle program judged largely for its artistic merit, and a group number using the eight members of each team, that night have been called vaudeville on ice.
The program began with each member of both teams performing a compulsory program, with certain required moves, much like the compulsory programs used in amateur competition. After the compulsory scores had beed added, averaged, divided, and recombined, the newly minted superstars lead by 29.26 to 29.04.
It is difficult to say exactly how much of a lead this was because the rules were created especially for this made-for-TV event to be broadcast on NBC, and bear little relation to the rules that govern amateur skating.
The first ever profesional skating championship started late and slowly. Linda Fratianne, the 1980 Olympic silver-medalist, skated first for the 1980 team, and skated lethargically. Neither her music from the Firebird Suite, nor her bright red-sequined costume could electrify the 18,130 people in the crowd. They wanted Tai and Randy.
They were next. The crowd cheered the cheers they had beed saving for Lake Placid, when the pair never got a chance to perform because of Gardner's torn groin muscle. The pair, who have been performing for the Ice Capades this fall, appeared slightly out of sync. They got a standing ovation nonetheless.
The averaged score for the pair and Fratianne was 9.66.
The oldsters counted with Dorothy Hamill, then JoJo Starbuck and Ken Shelly.