PSA: Those of you who remember John Curry might be interesting in seeing The Ice King, the lovely and sad documentary on him currently on Netflix. If you’re around my age you might remember the impact of his skating – the gracefulness arising out of extraordinary athleticism; how his performances made him clearly one of ‘us’ even before he ‘came out’ in the late 70s, one of the first celebrities to do so. The documentary is very good at contextualising his struggle to skate and to be – they were one to him. We’re shown how his style, so admirable in a boy, became too feminine, too graceful, when he grew into a young man. There’s great archival footage of how the state, the church and the culture made it extraordinarily difficult for young men like John Curry to simply be. Many didn’t survive the process. Curry himself was prone to depression and there’s always an aura of sadness around him. It was only when his father died and he left the country that things turned around for him and he began winning major competitions. After his Olympic win, he formed his own troupe and performed with great success internationally and at legendary theatres like the Met and the Albert Hall. We see brief moments of sunlit, sunbathed happiness on the beach, at the Pines on Fire Island. Also the era’s erupting gay culture in NYC of disco and sex which he participated in fully and loved so. Then the decline, too too young, with a Daily Mail headline – ‘All My Friends Have Died of AIDS. Now It’s My Turn.’ His story condenses that of so many – all those soft-spoken sweet young men not allowed too simply be who fought bravely, enjoyed a brief moment of happiness only to meet a horrible death all too soon, the only difference being that John Curry changed a sport and made a lasting contribution to an art form. A slice of gay history as much as a biography or an account of the politics and aesthetics of a form….one can’t help welling up a bit at the end: it’s ‘our’ story too.
Freddie Fox gives voice to John Curry’s letters.