It’s my own fault. You don’t read an interview titled "Elizabeth Searle Why Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan makes a perfect rock opera” and keep the right to not have a bad taste in your mouth.
Let’s get it over with. In 2008 the only interesting thing about that tabloid exhausted affair is what can it tell us about the sordid figure skating industry. Jeff Gillooly is rightly seen as a sleaze who exploited his wife who he clearly saw as his ticket to the good life but the figure skating industry chews up innumerable children, especially girls, and spits all but a few of them onto the floor. You don’t get the idea from the interview that this is what Searle has planned.
IDEAS: When did you realize that this material would become such an artistic bonanza for you?
SEARLE: Right from the start. It was such a girl scandal. The ice skating was so ballerina-like and then the clubbing was so brutal.
IDEAS: What is the most operatic moment of the story, aside from the obvious?
SEARLE: My first thought, when I wanted to expand this story into a full-length show, was "hairbrush."
SEARLE: It haunted me that Tonya's mother - allegedly - would beat Tonya with a hairbrush if she lost a meet.
Forgive me for believing that John Waters’ might make more artistic use of this material.
Maybe there’s a rock opera to be written about the use of Tonya Harding by what passes as our high culture and academe in this over-ripe empire. Seems that before Searle was done with these people, her niece borrowed them.
And Searle knew she had to transform the event into a grand opus.
In fact, the novelist would revisit the material for the next 14 years - and not just in her literary fiction. On Easter 2004, Searle learned that her niece planned to compose a one-act opera as part of her graduate work at Tufts.
Tufts graduate school? And then there’s the Boston Globes’ “Ideas” section.
If you can stomach it, you might look at the list of how Tonya has been used in the Wikipedia bio of her tragic life. I’m not going to link, you know how to find it.
Is there anything redeemable about this slummy interview in “Ideas” today? Maybe.
IDEAS: Did Tonya Harding make any kind of statement when she learned that an opera was in the works?
SEARLE: Yeah, she said she couldn't care less, because she has bigger fish to fry.
IDEAS: Literally? Because I know she's been doing car shows and celebrity boxing matches, so I could see how frying big fish might be her new big thing.
SEARLE: I think she was talking at that point about a reality TV show.
You wonder why Tonya Harding might not be interested in going over this subject again for the entertainment of, well, whoever else wants to go over it again. My hope is that she realizes that she’s more likely to walk away with more to show from a few car shows and has a better chance at being treated with some dignity if she’s the one to choose how she’s presented. I hope she gives up some of the more sordid spectacles. She's had too much taken from her already.
Note: I have nothing against Nancy Kerrigan. I’ve had good feelings about her ever since she got into trouble for apparently dissing Mickey Mouse.