Mar 15, 2021
This Groovy Ice Dancing Scene From Peggy Fleming’s 1968 TV Special Is Our Everything
I am sorry that this video clip is not in better shape. Sorry for you, and sorry for me, because that is a clip of Peggy Fleming ice skating/dancing/grooving to Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “I Dig Rock and Roll Music.” Yes, she is wearing an outfit that exactly matches the background. Yes, the set is enormous, the better for Peggy Fleming to twirl and jump her way into your hearts.
Long before Kristi Yamaguchi, well before Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming was the original America’s Beloved Lady Figure Skater. She won the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics and people simply could not get enough of her. So much so that she had her first variety show special before 1968 was done. That is some fast scheduling, people.
The show also featured Gene Kelly and Sir Richard Harris, though he was not yet a Sir. Striking a note that genteel teevee lady reviewers did not like oh no they did not, Spanky and Our Gang was also inexplicably on there. The reviewer harumphs that they sang a “grim antiwar song” which seems odd since the only Spanky and Our Gang song I could think of was “Sunday Will Always be the Same” and they weren’t particularly known for having any anti-war songs. My best guess is that they sang “Give a Damn” which is actually about poverty and racism, but hey, mistakes by genteel reviewers happen.
Fleming went on to do a fistful of one-off specials, including visiting the Soviet Union in 1973 (!!) and doing Holiday on Ice at Madison Square Garden with the Muppets in 1976 (!!!!) I would give almost anything to see footage of the latter, but there doesn’t seem to be any in existence on the internet. There is, however, a grainy yet still delightful version of a commercial for the Ice Follies in 1978 that featured both Fleming and Sesame Street characters.
Someday, someone will find all of these shows in a disused broom closet somewhere and will lovingly restore them and put them all on the internet or on HBO Go or something, and I will be the happiest girl in the whole USA.
[This is the fourth installment in The Golden Age of Variety Shows, which will last as long as we feel like it.]