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American Idol's Adam Lambert's ties to figure skating

<i>American Idol's</i> Adam Lambert (left) with friend Terrance Spencer (middle) and skater Nicholas LaRoche (right) in L.A. recently.
American Idol's Adam Lambert (left) with friend Terrance Spencer (middle) and skater Nicholas LaRoche (right) in L.A. recently. (courtesy of Nicholas Laroche)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(05/27/2009) - icenetwork.com's intrepid reporters Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins spend some time talking about American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert's ties to the figure skating universe, gelato and a Skating Club of Boston outing to Milan.

Wicked Adam
We were glued to the finale of American Idol, along with the rest of the country and most of the skating world. As it happens, Drew met runner-up Adam Lambert in Los Angeles last year; Adam and Drew are both friends with retired skater Nicholas LaRoche. We got the whole story from Nick this week.

"I met Adam when he was performing in Wicked with my partner Eric," Nick told us. "He was in the ensemble, and he was also the understudy for Fiyero [the prince]. Eric was also in the ensemble."

Wicked ran at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood for two years, and Nick, Eric and Adam became good friends. In the 2007-08 season, Nick was looking for music for a new exhibition program.

"I heard the song 'I Just Love You' by Five for Fighting on the radio, but didn't necessarily like the arrangement of it," he said. "I teamed up with Adam and the music conductor from Wicked, Brian Perry, who played the piano. We went into a private studio and recorded it. They only did the song three full times; it was amazing. Adam was thrilled when I asked him to record the song and it was so much fun to stand in the recording studio with the headphones on and listen to his wide range. I heard the 'belts and screams' first-hand. It was incredible!"

Nick has performed the program twice, and Adam came to one of the shows to see it.

"After seeing the performance, he couldn't thank me enough for giving him the opportunity to do this," said Nick.

So what is the glam rocker like in person?

"He is great -- very humble," said Nick. "I watched him do endless performances here in L.A., all for charities and benefits."

Nick watched every episode of American Idol, of course.

"It was odd to see him without his fun makeup on and the glam look he carries," said Nick. "When he would come out each week and be so conservative, it was weird. I'm used to seeing him in the glam stage like he was in the finale, when he had the crystals around his eyes, extravagant clothing, and belting those high notes that you would never think would come out of his mouth."

Because Nick is in Los Angeles, he couldn't wait until the show aired to find out what happened. He had a cousin on the East Coast text him the final result.

"When my cousin told me Kris has won, my initial reaction was 'I will NEVER watch Idol again!' Then I headed off to the gym," joked Nick.

"I don't know how this whole Idol thing works but I know Adam will be huge, and probably more so now than if he had won. I'm honored to have gotten to not only work with him on this exhibition piece, but to have seen him perform so many times."

Apart from the Idol excitement, Nick is busy coaching at the Toyota Sports Center in L.A., and getting ready to skate in a Los Angeles Ice Theater benefit show on June 12 in Burbank, Calif. Yes, he'll be performing to his exclusive, Adam Lambert version of "I Just Love You."

Nick is also working hard on the new foundation he and his sister Tricia have started, the U.S. Athletic Foundation. They are putting together a skating benefit show, An Evening on Ice, which will take place on September 19 in Ontario, Calif. There is more information on the foundation Web site, and we'll be reporting further about the show this summer. All proceeds from the show will go to the foundation on behalf of Nick and Tricia's mother, Bunny, who was murdered in July 2008.

Gelato
It seemed like half the skating world was in Italy in May, and a lovely time of year it was to visit Bella Italia. On May 15 and 16, the ISU Ice Dance Technical Committee held a test event in Milan for proposed new competition formats. The plan is for the compulsory dance to be dropped in the 2010-11 season and for the original dance to be replaced by one of three possibilities: a pattern dance, a rhythm dance or a combination of the compulsory and original dance.

Several teams made the trip to Milan, including Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles, Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov, Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer, Andrea Chong and Guillaume Gfeller, Tanja Kolbe and Sascha Rabe, and Terra Findlay and Benoit Richaud.

"It was a lot of fun to be involved in," Madison wrote to us afterward. "I like feeling that we were a part of the future. But I'm sure it will take a while to decide what will happen since all the skaters did their job very well presenting great material. Personally, I think the two front-runners were the combination dance and the rhythm Waltz. It was fun to create our program because we got to see how it would work to have compulsories mixed with a normal original dance."

All the teams we heard from said they had time to tour beautiful Milano, and of course to get in some shopping on the Via Montenapoleone.

"We saw the Duomo and the Castello Sforzesco," said Madison, "And the Galleria and all the shops! We ate at a small restaurant by the castle and it was amazingly delicious! There was also a gelato place directly across the street from our hotel at which we made a stop at least twice a day. Jane and I had tons of cappuccinos and other coffee drinks."

Raphael
Meanwhile, some of our friends from the Skating Club of Boston also made a trip to Milan in early May. Coaches Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson taught a seminar there and invited their students Stephen Carriere, Ross Miner, Katrina Hacker and Dana Zhalko-Tytarenko to go with them.

"Italy was fabulous," said Katrina, who recently announced that she will take next season off to attend Princeton. "Even though I'm not training for any competitions, I still am skating and want to keep up my jumps. We had group stroking and edge lessons [I think it was the first time I actually enjoyed having a stroking lesson] and helped each other out on new spin positions, etc."

The Boston skaters got a warm welcome from the Italians at the Forum rink, who included Francesca Rio, Fabio Mascarello, Paolo Bacchini, Alice Garlisi, Deborah Sacchi, coach Cristina Mauri and choreographer Raffaela Cazzaniga.

"The skaters and coaches were so welcoming!" said Katrina. "I can't even tell you how nice everyone was. The rink is beautiful -- it had a gym, a bowling alley, pool, squash courts, 'jorky ball' [some kind of two-person indoor soccer] courts, a dance studio and more."

Katrina, befitting her Ivy League future, took in a lot of Italian culture instead of shopping.

"I loved the Pinacoteca di Brera, the art museum -- with Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Raphael [one can watch paintings being restored inside a glass cube in the exhibition space!] -- walking to the top of the Duomo and of course, the shopping!"

Well, of course she went shopping. Be serious. It was Milan!

"On Friday night we went to Venice," added Katrina. "I absolutely love the Peggy Guggenheim collection!" That's an art collection, by the way. Good girl.

Ciao for now,
Sarah and Drew
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