The Gay Judge from Skating With Celebrities!
By Bryan Buss
Openly gay Mark Lund, CNN figure skating analyst for the 2002 winter Olympics, author of Frozen Assets: The New Order of Figure Skating, and former publisher of International Figure Skating magazine, sat down with us to dish on Fox's hit reality series Skating With Celebrities.
So how'd you get the job as judge on Skating With Celebrities?
Randy Gardner, who's a choreographer on the show, was brought in to provide some information as a choreographer to the producers, and they were looking for judges. Randy's been a very good friend of mine for many years, and we worked together on some shows ourselves. So he put my name in to the producers. A few weeks after that, I got an email from the producers. I sent them my reel, and I didn't even have to interview, which was great.
So you were far and away what they wanted.
Well, I think they were looking for someone to balance out [the other judges,] Dorothy [Hamill], who has been billed as the Paula Abdul, and John [Nicks], who has been clearly billed the Simon Cowell. I've been classified as Randy Jackson. Which is fine, because I've always respected Randy's comments. He's got a funny little comedy twist to them as well, but he also offers insight on what someone might want to think about doing with their career. Also, there was a lot of camaraderie on the set, which was good. I hadn't seen some of these skaters in a couple of years, but Randy and a couple of others were good friends of mine. I actually skated with Nancy Kerrigan, trained for the '92 Olympics, so I'd known Nancy for a million years. And she's hysterical. She was a great choice for the show. [Unfortunately,] she and [her partner] Dave Coulier were voted off. But here's Dave, who did a drag number. He looked like Varla Jean Merman coming out.
I was thinking the lead in Hairspray.
Yes, the lead in Hairspray. He obviously did his homework on drag queens on all that. He brought a nice comedic touch to the whole thing. And take Bruce Jenner, here's a guy, 1976 Olympic decathlon champion, 55 years old. Every single week, he kept moving up, moving up, moving up. He's not going to go to the U.S. Nationals to compete, but it's entertainment, it's fun. You see someone like him, at 55, jump up a half revolution, I mean that's exciting and fun to watch! But the skaters themselves had it just as hard as the celebrities. They have to downshift everything they've learned and learn a new way of skating. So while the celebrities need to be given credit, you have to also give credit to the skaters.
I had a crush on Kristy Swanson when I was growing up. But I hear she's difficult to work with.
She is. She was very difficult to work with on the set. I myself never had any problems with her, but she wasn't going to give me or John or Dorothy any problems. But I heard from many people that worked on the set that she made people cry, she was always complaining. And then it hit the Internet just a few days ago that she and Lloyd [Eisler, her skating partner] are having an affair. Now, I heard rumblings about that as the show was going on, but it wasn't any of my business. From what I understand from talking to one of the skaters, Lloyd was thrown out of his house. He had a conversation with his wife, and they may get back together, but by last report, they weren't. So Kristy, you know, she's a single girl, it doesn't matter, but Lloyd should have thought twice about it because his wife is pregnant. The producers kept us very separate from any sort of backstage goings-on with the skaters. They obviously didn't want us to be involved in any of the drama that was going on.
After the first production we did, [Kristy and Lloyd] were dead last, and deservedly so. Apparently they complained quite a bit to the producers and everyone and threatened to not skate. But this is a reality entertainment show. If you can't handle the criticism, you can't be part of the show. It's as simple as that. They were last, because they weren't good. They obviously took the instruction of the producers well and just skated better. When you're doing a show like this, no one cares if you're Lloyd Eisler and Kristy Swanson if you're not going to try. It's as simple as that. You have to try. And they did. They listened and they're getting better. I have to give them both credit.
How hot is Jillian Barberie's skating partner, John Zimmerman?
I've known John for about six or seven years. I went to his wedding in Rome. He's married to Silvia Fontana, who's competing in the Olympics right now.
Is she gorgeous too?
She's beautiful. And John is one of the sweetest people I've ever met. He's just a nice guy from Alabama. He did some modeling with IMG models a few years ago. He's just beautiful. He even did an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy!
I will say this, this is a funny story. I was coming back from dinner with Dorothy Hamill, and I bumped into John in the hallway at the hotel. They had us all staying in the same hotel. And John said to me, 'I'm gonna go up to the hot tub. Do you wanna join me?' I was like, 'Sure!' So being in a hot tub with John Zimmerman, and he's talking about his wife and all that, and I was saying to myself, You know, I could be his wife for a moment. But seeing him shirtless, in a hot tub, he has the perfect body. But everything else on him is perfect too. I believe as Jillian said on The Tonight Show, he's a tasty treat.
So what's next for you?
I've been very lucky with the show. Very, very lucky. There are people who have tried for this for years that just can't get it. It's timing and who you know. Talent is just one thing. You've got to either know someone, or you have to have something special, something unique to offer. But I don't have an agent yet, I got this job without an agent. When I tell people I got the job then moved to L.A., they can't believe it. I give anyone credit who packs their bags, comes to this town, doesn't know anybody, and says, I'm going to move to Los Angeles and make it as an actor, as a singer, as an entertainer, as anything. Because this is a very competitive town. And for every one of them, there are 10 others who look just like them, but no one looks just like Mark Lund. [Laughs]