Has anyone read this book: Skating on Air: The Broadcast History of an Olympic Marque

Discussion in 'The Trash Can' started by aliceanne, May 31, 2011.

  1. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I just received an ad from Amazon for this and was curious if any FSUers were familiar with this book or author.

    I prefer anecdotal histories written by people involved with skating over dry scholarly works trying to attach some sociolgical significance to skating. OK, I just like gossip! Toller's books are my favorite. :eek:
  2. Sylvia

    Sylvia Whee, summer club comps!

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  3. madm

    madm Active Member

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    It's available from Amazon for $40, but the screen says they only have 3 copies in stock.
  4. geena

    geena New Member

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    Hi Aliceanne,

    I'm the author of "Skating on Air" (Kelli)... I don't know that the book is particularly gossipy :), but I interviewed over 30 folks involved either as skaters, on-air broadcasters, behind-the-scenes TV folk, or some combination of all three. I can assure you that it is DEEP in anecdotes! (And while it isn't exactly a coffee table book, it has over 70 photos too.)

    In addition to the thing I did with Lifeskate, you can read a longer interview I did with Vlad at World Figure Skating...

    http://worldskating.blogspot.com/2011/03/skating-on-air-broadcast-history-of.html

    If you (or any other FSU readers/posters) decide to get "Skating on Air," thanks so much... and if you like it, please tell your friends :-D
    Lanna and (deleted member) like this.
  5. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

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    geena, I'm ordering it, now.
  6. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    Lots of photos = good. I'll buy it.
  7. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    Just got my copy a few days ago, so I'm looking forward to reading it!
  8. geena

    geena New Member

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    Yea Manleywoman! I'm finding out when the preview copies go out from my "previewers" rather than my publisher :) Same thing happened with Laura at Required Elements.

    I should add that most of the photos (except for maybe 10-12 of the older ones) are from the collections of people that have worked behind the scenes for the different networks (ABC, CBS, etc)... in the past 20-30 years... I don't think they've been published before.

    Big THANKS to anyone who's so inclined to get the book. I think you'll like it!
  9. snoopysnake

    snoopysnake Well-Known Member

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    I got it and am enjoying it very much.
  10. geena

    geena New Member

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    So glad to hear it, Snoopysnake! :)
  11. taf2002

    taf2002 Well-Known Member

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    geena, I was going to welcome you to the board but I see you've been a member for awhile. I'm glad you decided to join the discussion. I am looking forward to reading this book and I really hope it is well received.
  12. geena

    geena New Member

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    Thank you Taf! Yeah, I'm essentially a lurker that's chimed in maybe 3 times in 5 years :) The last time I posted might have been to announce the debut of my "State of the Skate" blog in 2008.
  13. geena

    geena New Member

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  14. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I just finished reading the book. It is not light reading (you won't read it in 1 or 2 days) but it is a very comprehensive study of figure skating marketing in the U.S. As promised it has lots of pictures. My only disappointment was that it didn't have any interviews or information about other countries, but I guess the author didn't have access to that information or maybe it would have been too long?

    What was interesting was how the network people had their favorites to win (we always hear about the judges) and I can imagine that the degree or type of exposure a skater (especially a teenager) gets could affect them competitively. It makes you realize how important a coach is at the international level is in terms of helping the skater filter information and feedback about their skating.

    There is also a lot of technical information relating to filming and producing skating shows and competitions for those interested in skating photograpy and journalism.
  15. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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  16. geena

    geena New Member

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    My only disappointment was that it didn't have any interviews or information about other countries, but I guess the author didn't have access to that information or maybe it would have been too long?

    What was interesting was how the network people had their favorites to win (we always hear about the judges) and I can imagine that the degree or type of exposure a skater (especially a teenager) gets could affect them competitively. It makes you realize how important a coach is at the international level is in terms of helping the skater filter information and feedback about their skating.

    You're kind of correct on both counts, Aliceanne, w/regards to why I didn't open up the discussion (in the book) to other countries. The content of the book is definitely PACKED as is (as you noted, not a light read!), so the idea of going beyond the US coverage with perhaps another 30+ interview subjects was fleeting for me at best, at least this time around. Secondly, as someone who is only familiar with US coverage I wasn't sure I was the best one to discuss coverage in other countries.

    Sounded like you liked the book otherwise--? I hope so!
  17. geena

    geena New Member

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    And Manleywoman... aw, rats! I'd have loved to see you there. You need to "like" my Facebook page for "Skating on Air"...

    (The rest of the FSU readers too!)

    But you bring up a good point. I'll try to mention future signings here, if possible.

    I'll likely be up in the Chicago area again for a signing later this year.
  18. geena

    geena New Member

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    Sorry I goofed the quote from Aliceanne on my earliest post today! The first two paragraphs were supposed to be listed as a quote (with my comments below them) but I clearly didn't do it right! :yikes:
  19. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    That's OK, I struggle with quotes when I'm on my cell.

    Yes, I liked the book.

    What surprised me was the way that Rick Gentile the head at ABC (which was covering Nagano) said point blank that "we felt the wrong skater won" (referring to the ladies competition at the 1998 Olympics). It's one thing for him to have a personal opinion, but ABC was picking skaters to back?

    Then at Salt Lake in 2002 Meg Streeter (ABC director) said that "maybe Michelle has stayed in the game too long, she is no longer fresh". I was thinking wow imagine the skaters hearing that. She's only 21 and they make her sound over-the-hill. Four years ago she was their skater.

    It makes me wonder if hearing comments like that was part of the reason Michelle left Lori and Frank a few months before the Olympics. I had heard her say that she was getting comments that she needed to spice things up.
  20. geena

    geena New Member

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    Quick correction-- Rick Gentile (and the Nagano Olympics) were part of CBS' coverage, not ABC.

    In that particular case, what I think he was saying was that the CBS crew had invested more time in Michelle (as the gold medal favorite) than Tara-- via fluff pieces, research, etc.-- so the natural inclination was for the CBS crew to root the one they felt they "knew" better. But at the end of the day, the producer's job is to tell the story that unfolded-- whatever it happens to be. I think Gentile feels they he did that successfully. And the director's job is to present each skater's program in the best light, regardless of who it is (I should add that Bob Fishman, who directed in '98, made no mention of having a favorite. To be honest, he directs SO many different sporting things in a year I don't think he has time to pick favorites!)

    As for Meg Streeter-- while she clearly formed opinions of certain skaters as she went along, I think she by and large she kept those opinions to herself (at least at the time). The one she was more concerned with was Dick Button-- remember that she once talked to him about toning down his comments so as not to hurt the skaters' feelings... even though she later felt that she'd made a mistake!

    You make a really good point about the whole idea of broadcasters getting so invested in the skaters! With so many of them admittedly in love with this sport, I guess it's fair to call it a job hazard at times :)
  21. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    Sorry Rick! I guess the point everyone was trying to make is that it is very much an "insider" sport. Controlled by a relatively small group of people who know each other.

    Television and media on the other hand need to be constantly re-inventing themselves to stay relevant. Skating can't change that fast.
  22. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    Skaters are always being criticized for "not thinking outside the box" when it comes to programs. Maybe the television producers should follow their own advice. How about having skaters audition for skating shows?
  23. geena

    geena New Member

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    Which sort of skating shows did you mean... the Disson-types? Kind of the only "shows" remaining for now (in the U.S. anyway), as "Skating w/the Stars" was cancelled...
  24. LilJen

    LilJen Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like manleywoman's skatecast interview with Doug Wilson would tie in nicely with this book. Congrats!
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  25. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking more along the lines of the shows Toller Cranston and John Curry used to do. They didn't pick the skaters for their competition credentials but rather for their performing ability.

    Stephanie Rosenthal was quite innovative with her hip-hop numbers, or in the more classic mode Denis Petchukov's Fallen Angels with Johnny and Melissa...

    I would think if you auditioned people you could find more skaters like that out there and you wouldn't have to pay them six figure salaries.
  26. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    In case anyone wants a direct link to the Doug Wilson podcast, SkateCast #16. ;)
  27. geena

    geena New Member

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    Manleywoman, do you remember the date of your Doug Wilson interview? I did the first of several with him in spring 2008, and I think I remember him saying at the start of one of them that he'd just been on the phone with you...
  28. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    It was posted June 2008, so it wouldn't have been too long before then. It usually say in the interview the exact date, but can't listen right now to get it for you.
  29. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

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    manleywoman, I checked for you:
    Mr Wilson was interviewed on May 16, 2008.
  30. geena

    geena New Member

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    Yep, that was right around the time I started talking to him for Skating on Air. Mr. Wilson had just retired a couple months ahead of that (with Worlds 2008, the last Worlds shown on ABC/ESPN).

    Such a great guy with a wealth of stories!
  31. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    Thanks. :)
  32. nashvilledancer

    nashvilledancer New Member

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    This book is for anyone whose heart used to beat faster at the words, "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport...the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat". Some of my favorite parts were learning about the innovations the ABC, CBS, and NBC broadcast teams invented to cover figure skating, why the coverage of annual skating at Nationals and Worlds and the Olympics changed from one network to another, and how various broadcasters began their jobs. This book also really clarifies why skating coverage has waned on television. The many tidbits from Susie Wynne, Traci Wilson, Janet Lynn, Terry Gannon (just a few of a huge cast of characters) were great, as well as all the Dick Button anecdotes. This book isn't overly gossipy and certainly is about broadcasting as much as skating. It is exceptionally well written and I found it fascinating.
  33. geena

    geena New Member

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    Oh Nashville Dancer, you make me so happy :D

    If you ever feel like copying/pasting what you wrote here to SOA's Amazon page, you have my blessing! (It is still looking for its first review last time I checked.)

    Thanks for sharing!!

    geena, AKA Kelli Lawrence (the author)
  34. Frau Muller

    Frau Muller President of Dick Button Appreciation Club

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    I received my copy and read it. It's an extraordinarily well-written and fascinating tome, especially for us 'old timers' who were glued to our TV sets watching ABC WWS skating coverage since the Peggy Fleming/Kauffmans/Tim Wood era. Thank you, Ms Lawrence!
  35. geena

    geena New Member

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    Thank YOU Frau Muller!

    By the way, enormous credit goes to those who agreed to be interviewed for Skating on Air... every one of them had interesting stories to share!
  36. nashvilledancer

    nashvilledancer New Member

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    Done! (last night) :)

  37. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

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    I've tried several times to get Terry Gannon on my podcast. I even was given his cell phone number, and it was him o the VM. But he has never returned a call or email. So kudos to you for getting him!
  38. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

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    I'm awaiting delivery of the book; and am looking forward to reading it,
  39. geena

    geena New Member

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    Nashville Dancer: Saw it!! Thank you!!

    Manleywoman: Terry was not easy to pin down for an interview, and in fact we were supposed to do a follow-up that never materialized. He was very nice and easy to talk to when it DID work out, though...
  40. geena

    geena New Member

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    Hi all--

    For anyone that is attending the Indy Challenge tomorrow (Saturday)... just wanted to let you know that I will have a table there on behalf of this book, and will sign copies if you like. Please drop by and say hello!

    And let me know how the pairs are doing out on the ice; I was hoping to cover the event for my State of the Skate blog but seems unlikely now :-(

    Thanks!

    Kelli Lawrence
    Author of "Skating on Air"