Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic figure skating gold medalist, will defend his title tonight as men's champion in the World Professional Figure Skating Championships at Capital Centre.
So where has this dashing star of the Ice Capades been keeping himself? Paris? Innsbruck? New York? Hawaii?
"Actually, I'm on the small cities tour this year," he said. "Let's see, there was Binghamton, N.Y.; Green Bay, Wis.; Toledo; Cleveland; Salt Lake City; Springfield, Mass.; Omaha; Rochester; Duluth, Minn. All the garden spots."
Last weekend it was Worcester, Mass., where he was wondering what to do with himself when a cabdriver took him under his wing and showed him El Morocco, Worcester's wonderful down-home Middle Eastern restaurant overlooking the railroad yards. Hamilton ended up spending two nights at the club, including a good long stretch in the kitchen, jawing with the cook and pondering an offer of a nice dishwashing job.
So it isn't all glitter on the glamorous, big-time skating entertainment circuit, and when he arrived in Washington on Wednesday, Hamilton seemed delighted to renew acquaintances with colleagues from his glory days as an amateur.
Particularly, he seemed delighted to see the women, who adore him. At 5 feet 3 and 110 pounds, Hamilton hardly looks the part of a Lothario, but ask women skaters what they think of him and you hear enough variations on the cuddly/cute/adorable theme to make a full-sized fellow ill.
Just what does this guy have?
"Well, he's so normal," said bejeweled Elaine Zayak, "and he loves to have a good time. But you really ought to ask Kitty (Carruthers). She should know."
Tonight, along with fellow big-name pros Dorothy Hamill, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Toller Cranston, Robin Cousins, Linda Fratianne, Rosalynn Sumners, Kitty and Peter Carruthers and red-hot ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Hamilton will tackle competition one more time.
By most accounts, the Capital Centre show, first of its kind for graduates of the grueling amateur scene, is a fine spectacle. The Washington production is now in its sixth year and has spawned some copies, including one in Paris next weekend to which Hamilton and some of the others will go.
But Hamilton says the Landover operation, with prize money of $210,000, plus appearance fees to the big-name stars, remains the No. 1 professional competition in the world. "Nobody else gets this many names," he said. "This is the only event Torvill and Dean will compete in all year."
The show is made for TV, to be aired on NBC's "SportsWorld" Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, but that has not diminished its appeal as a live event, according to those who saw past performances, and it has consistently been sold out or close to it. Capital Centre officials said some tickets for tonight's show remain available.
For his part, Hamilton said he intended to give his performance everything he gave it at the Olympics in Sarajevo almost two years ago -- and more. He said that though he is in not quite the same shape as he was for Sarajevo, he feels confident enough to perform the same long program, with the addition of a startling back flip early in the routine.
He said he learned the flip "by asking a couple of the clowns in the Ice Capades to show me how. Then I just did it."