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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Skate of the Union
by Ross Forman

This article shared 21465 times since Wed Sep 13, 2006
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Rohene Ward. Joel Mangs. Burton Powley. Fabiano Fernando. Photos by Ross Forman

SAN FRANCISCO—He's tanned with a chiseled chest. Naturally, he's shirtless, even on the ice, with tight white pants and black skates. Joel Mangs is an amazing, energetic, acrobatic individual who is a former Swedish junior champion and principal skater with Disney On Ice. He also is a two-time Gay Games gold medalist and a two-time silver medalist this summer at the first World OutGames in Montreal.

'I love skating; it's my first passion,' said Mangs, 34, who now lives in Amsterdam.

Mangs' on-ice accolades are, though, overshadowed by his on-camera credits. Mangs, you see, is the real-life Brad Patton, the popular porn star of such titles as Beyond Perfect, Heaven To Hell, Hot Wired 2 and Cross Country, among others. 'Joel is kind of the former me; Brad is kind of the current me,' he said. 'I enjoy [ skating and porn ] . I can't pick one over the other.'

Mangs was one of about 50 skaters here Sept. 2 at the Yerba Buena Ice Center for the annual SkateOut's Cabaret on Ice Series, dubbed One Hit Wonder, a benefit for three charities: the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center, the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund and the TeamSF Fitness Fund. There were two performances, with about 300 fans watching each, which raised an estimated $10,000.

All of the skaters volunteered their time and effort. Many had spent time this summer in Chicago competing in Gay Games VII and/or in Montreal. None had their medals here, but each had lasting, lifelong memories from the gayest sporting summer ever.

'I get goosebumps when I go out there,' on the ice, Mangs said. 'I have to train every day for this, if I want to compete and perform at a high level.'

Mangs resumed skating three months ago after retiring several years ago. He now trains for the ice for about two hours a day.

'I had a great time [ at the Gay Games ] in Sydney four years ago and I would have loved to have gone to Chicago; I know the skating competition in Chicago was great [ and ] probably better organized,' than in Montreal, he said. 'If I'm still skating in 2009 and 2010, I'll probably compete in both.'

In the meantime, he'll spend time in bed, literally. And get paid to do it. 'If someone had told me five years ago that today I'd be a porn star, I'd have laughed at them,' he said. 'I really enjoy porn. I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it. There are others, especially straight boys, who do it for other reasons. But I do it because I enjoy it.'


Josh Figurido won two gold medals this summer in his first-ever Gay Games, but it was the Chicago bars that he remembers most.

'I love Chicago; I had a blast there. The Gay Games were amazing,' said Figurido, 26, of Boston. 'The best part of being in Chicago was Boystown, of course.'

Figurido, who has been skating for 20 years, is gay and single. He wore his medals to the Closing Ceremony, held at Wrigley Field—then went directly to Hydrate.

'I'm very proud of the medals,' he said, then added with a smile: 'I just used [ the medals ] to get free drinks.'

'The Gay Games was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was so much fun, especially getting to meet so many other gay athletes, and not just figure skaters.'


Fabiano Fernando is originally from Brazil and now lives here in the Castro District. But it's Chicago's Boystown that he vividly recalls from his Gay Games experience.

'Boystown … oh my Lord. I wish Boystown was here in San Francisco. Sure, we have Castro, but the quality of bars in Chicago is incredible. Boystown is so much fun,' said Fernando, 30, a waiter. 'I loved Chicago; it was a very welcoming city. It was everything I thought it would be, from the moment I got there. It was an amazing experience.'

Fernando won the gold medal in his division.

'When I finished my program, I looked at the crowd and everyone was standing and clapping; that was a moment I'll never forget. It was awesome,' he said. 'The Gay Games was my first competition in America, so when that gold [ medal ] was placed around my neck, it was the most amazing feeling ever. At that moment, I knew that all I had worked for, for all of those years, had finally paid off.'

Fernando trained for the Games for only six months, two hours a day, after starting to skate only three years ago.

His medal is already framed, he said.


Kris Fidler-Ballard first learned of the Gay Games last November and immediately set his sights on the seventh-annual sports and cultural event. 'I did not have any medal expectations when I went to Chicago,' said Fidler-Ballard, 25, who lives in New York City and works as an investment banker for JP Morgan.

The Games was his first competition in eight years. He finished fourth in his division.

'It was a fun experience. Hopefully next time I'll win a medal,' he said.

The best part of the Chicago Games? 'Oh, 10,000 gay guys,' he said, laughing. 'Seriously, it was just nice to be somewhere that everyone was rooting for you no matter how you did.'

Was he nervous?

'I was dying; I was so nervous I was about to cry,' he said. 'The day of my competition, I thought I was going to pass out. When the music started, I thought I was going to have a heart attack.'

His biggest fan is his husband, Burke Fidler-Ballard, 23.


Ron Fremont claimed he was simply greeting fans as they entered the arena here for the second show, but his real reason was obvious.

'I'm stretching and greeting the crowd,' he said, standing near the entrance to the rink. 'This is my crowd, who I have to play to. OK, sure, I'm checking out the cute boys.'

Fremont, though, is happily taken … thanks to the Gay Games. 'Chicago was the highlight of my summer, followed closely by Montreal. I peaked skating-wise in Chicago and reconnected with my future husband there,' said Fremont, 35, an elementary school teacher from Vancouver who coaches figure skating.

Fremont, you see, met Lance Holman on May 26 during a casual get-together for Team SF. They reconnected during the Gay Games during another Team SF event. They've been dating ever since and Fremont plans to move to San Francisco, where Holman lives.

'I didn't know king-size beds could be so much fun,' joked Fremont, who won a gold and silver medal in Chicago, a silver and bronze in Montreal. 'In Chicago, we were inseparable,' said Holman, who won two bronze medals in cycling. 'The Gay Games were about as close to a true life-changing experience as you could get. I want to spend the rest of my life with Ron. I'm as happy as can be.'

So, Ron, do those skating slip-ups really hurt when you crash onto the ice? 'Yes, without question,' he said. 'It really hurts your ass because that's what you usually fall on,' he said.


Louise Karch won two gold and one silver medal in Chicago, her fifth Gay Games.

'Chicago … what a great city. The atmosphere was incredible,' said Karch, of London, Ont. 'The skating event was really well done in Chicago. The Opening Ceremony in Montreal, though, was just so much better ( than Chicago ) , mostly because they had so much money to play with.'

Karch, 42, is an executive career coach and was the 2004 and 2005 Adult National Junior Bronze & Interpretive Figure Skating champion of Canada.

'The strand that seems to run through all of the Gay Games that I have seen is, how amazing it is to see athletes of all abilities, of all ages do their best. The Games really is all about the spirit of inclusion,' she said. 'I saw the ballroom dancing at the Chicago Hilton; it was amazing. It truly was fairyland, no pun intended. The men were extraordinary, definitely my wow-moment from Chicago.'

She also reflected on the Wyoming woman carrying the sign that said, 'For Matthew Shepard' and for the man who walked into the Opening Ceremony from a country where, 'if they knew he was gay, he'd be persecuted and killed.'


Sanford Smith sang the Gay Games Anthem at the Closing Ceremony, standing among the chorus underneath the Wrigley Field scoreboard in center-field.

'That was a terrific feeling, very cool,' said Smith, 42, a San Francisco native who also served as a Games' cultural manager. 'I really love the Games. It's such a wonderful platform. It's not about being gay or straight or whatever; it's about being competitive and being the best that you can be.'

Smith is the coach for Cheer SF, which had four members performing here at the ice show.

'This is a wonderful skating show that matches music with skating to make a very entertaining night and raise a lot of money for several worthy charities,' said Smith, who co-produced the show with Thom Mullins, also a Gay Games medalist.


He's 49 and nicknamed 'Grandpa' by the fellow skaters, many of whom are half his age. But Burton Powley is nonetheless one accomplished skater, most recently winning two gold in Montreal and two bronze in Chicago.

And, yes, he is gay and really is from Iowa.

'I've won so many medals ( in my career ) ; that's not why I skate. I skate because I enjoy performing in front of a crowd and for the camaraderie among the skaters,' said Powley, who lives in Des Moines, where he is a professional skating coach and graphic designer.

Powley drove his motor home to Chicago for the Games and actually plugged it into the zamboni room of the ice rink where figure skating was held.

'I look at the ice rink as a giant canvas. The music is the color and the skater is the brush. So, every time I'm skating, I'm creating a new picture,' he said. 'I have fun out there, reacting to the crowd.'

Powley wears an electronic belt buckle, with a scrolling message that he programs. It has, at times, said: 'What are you looking at?'


Rohene Ward, who has skated in numerous international events and is a candidate for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, made his second appearance at SkateOut's Cabaret on Ice series.

'I come because it's for a good cause and I get to see my friends,' said Ward, who lives in Minneapolis. 'I just like performing. This is not work; this is pure fun. The best part is skating, especially the rehearsals when we all get let loose and be goofy.'

Ward tried out for the 2006 Olympic team, but did not make it. 'That made me work harder, made me hungrier,' he said. 'My life has changed dramatically since then, for the good. Definitely for the good. A lot of positive people have come into my life, which I needed.'

So what's with Johnny Weir?

'Johnny's Johnny,' Ward said. 'It's not for me to judge ( Weir ) . He is who he is, which is why he is who he is. And I am who I am.'


Mike Dimalanta, 24, of San Francisco, skated shirtless with overalls and a white bandana around his neck. The look was, you see, the same as those in the video for Come On Eileen ( by Dexy's Midnight Runners ) , which he skated to. 'A few ( in the crowd ) knew why I was wearing the outfit and thought it was so cute, that it went with the music,' he said. 'I wasn't cold at all. Actually, I'm really hot, so ( the outfit ) helps.'


Johnny Manzon-Santos started skating five years ago and claimed six medals this summer, including one bronze and three gold in Chicago.

'Chicago has a great gay sports community, and it really supported the sports, especially figure skating,' said Manzon-Santos, 41 of San Francisco.

So which was better, Chicago or Montreal?

'Wow, that's a tough question,' he said. 'Let's just say, it's really important for gay athletes to have as many opportunities as possible to compete. The more ( events ) , the better.

'Personally, I have different warm-and-fuzzy feelings for each event and I encourage athletes to go to both.

'Competing in events with and against amazing athletes from all over the world was priceless.'

This article shared 21465 times since Wed Sep 13, 2006
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