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Behind the scenes of figure skating - May 1

"Lutz Chat" finds new life on YouTube

Miki Yamashita hosted "Lutz Chat" with Peter King-Yuen.
Miki Yamashita hosted "Lutz Chat" with Peter King-Yuen. (courtesy Miki Yamashita)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(05/01/2008) - Back in 2002-04 there was a guilty pleasure that skating fans in New York City got to enjoy, an outlandish cable access show called, Lutz Chat. Well, not everyone enjoyed it -- at least they didn't publicly admit it.

"I was assaulted on the street once," says Peter King-Yuen, who co-created and co-hosted the show with Miki Yamashita. "We said what we felt and took it to a little bit higher level. I felt everything we said about the skaters or the performances were what people were saying in their minds, but just not out loud."

King-Yuen and Yamashita met through mutual friends the night of the ladies short program during the 2002 Winter Olympics. "I would always throw these figure skating parties where I would invite people over and we'd have cocktails and eat and then watch skating on TV," he recalls. "Miki and I just clicked. Everybody was shocked at how much we knew."

"We started making comments as the skaters were performing and everyone busted out laughing," recalls Yamashita.

We should mention that both she and King-Yuen are professionally trained actors, and Yamashita also performs and writes comedy. "I went home thinking, 'That was really cool and special how we were able to play off each other.' I kept thinking, 'How can we put this on TV?' This was prior to YouTube and prior to people being able to put things online. So the only thing I could think of was cable access. I knew that Peter had a camera."

Over the next two years they filmed and aired over 50 half-hour episodes.

"It was a send-up, but it was an homage at the same time," she says. "Now people have finally gotten it and understand what that whole genre is. With YouTube and people being able to see things online, it's a different experience than watching television."

And obviously available to a vastly wider audience than just Manhattan. "Somebody started uploading Lutz Chat videos without our knowledge," says King-Yuen. "I went on YouTube because I wanted to watch some old Michelle Kwan clips. I typed in Michelle Kwan and Lutz Chat came up.

"I called Miki and asked her, 'Did you put some videos on YouTube?'" To which she replied, "I don't even know how to do that."

They tracked down the fan who had gone to the trouble to convert his VHS tapes to digital and then post to tell him they'd gladly provide tapes of any episodes he was missing. They also learned that people who viewed the clips on the Web were quite enjoying them- -- despite the material being several years old.

"There's a snarky vibe to everybody now," says Yamashita. "Back then, it was, 'How can you say that?'"

You can go to www.youtube.com/lutzchat to see the footage.

These days Yamashita lives in Los Angeles, while King-Yuen is still based in New York. Both continue to pursue their acting careers, but with a new and enthusiastic fan base building on YouTube, they promise to reunite for some new episodes that will combine skating with a dose of pop culture. Of course, the two diehard Michelle Kwan fans are hoping their idol will make a comeback, so she provides them with the same inspiration that got them started chatting six years ago.