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Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir to be in town for St. Pete Pride

Johnny Weir was calling from his car, somewhere in northern New Jersey, recovering. • "I had a late night out with my friends," he said. "I rarely drink and rarely go out." • He'd just come off an airtight schedule of grand marshaling the Los Angeles gay pride parade, of appearing at Macy's stores to "spread pride around and make America sparkle." The day before, the former Olympian officially announced that he won't be ice skating competitively this year. It was a decision rife with tension, a cocktail of excitement for his future and fear of letting people down. • So after the announcement, he slipped in a night of drinking in the city with friends. It's a side of life he's trying to embrace, living authentically outside labels.

Weir, 26, just came out as gay in his new autobiography, Welcome to My World. On the hot pink cover, Weir poses beneath a disco ball, stiletto heels on his feet and a smirk on his face. If the whole thing felt anticlimatic, so be it.

"People say I came out," he said. "I was never really in the closet. I just finally said the words. I felt a huge responsibility to the gay community, who has supported me for so long, and they were all sort of waiting for me to say it. It's funny. The gay community waits for you to say it so they can say, 'He's ours.' I had a lot of pressure, even when I was younger, to come out. Figure skating is a very conservative sport. You don't run around screaming it from the rooftop, even though I did through costumes and how I spoke."

Weir has been called the "Lady Gaga of skating." He shocked puritanical skating advocates with his outlandish outfits, Spandex suits trimmed with fox fur, glittering eye makeup, blown kisses to the crowd. He has criticized some judges and endured thinly veiled homophobia from commentators. One said he should be forced to take a gender test.

"As a figure skater, you have to understand that it's a subjective sport," he said. "Your whole chance at a medal can be taken away because you choose the wrong music and wear the wrong costume. You have to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone likes the same thing. I always like to march to my own beat. I'd say I got a lot of respect for that in the skating community just because there are so few people who will stand up and be themselves. They all want the inside track and to know how they can be assured a gold medal. Of course it was a goal, but it wasn't the only thing I was worried about."

Weir was born in Pennsylvania and taught himself to skate on the frozen cornfields of Amish country. At 16, he won a gold medal at the 2001 World Junior Championships. He finished fifth overall at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. He again made the Olympic team in 2010 and competed in Vancouver, Canada, finishing sixth.

He has fashioned a second career out of celebrity. He runs around with the kids from Glee, PR executives from Louis Vuitton, fashion designers. He recorded a pop song called Dirty Love. He launched a line of dresses. He starred in a reality show on the Sundance Channel, Be Good Johnny Weir. The book, he said, encapsulates all his experiences.

"I'm performing all over the world. I am sought after by companies to give my opinion, whether it's design or marketing. I have a lot of things that I have learned through being a two-time Olympian and representing my country all over the world. . . . The amount of people who love me is incredible, but there is also a large amount of people who hate me. You can love me, you can hate me. This is who I am, and this is my story."

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

Meet Weir at Macy's

Meet Johnny Weir and RuPaul's Drag Race star Alexis Mateo at 6 p.m. Friday at Macy's at Tyrone Square Mall, 6901 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Georgie's Alibi will provide snacks and champagne. With any purchase of $50 or more from Papi Underwear, receive a free matching T-shirt or hat, and with any purchase of $75 or more during the event, you'll get to meet Weir and receive an autographed copy of Welcome to My World (right).

n Weir-speak

Johnny Weir was once called the most quotable athlete at the Olympics. He doesn't disappoint. Some outtakes:

summer style:

"I hate shorts in general because

I have big ice skater thighs and a big booty, but it has been so hot. I love tank tops. I love really flowy long cardigans. I love Japanese street fashion. Anything Japanese or very preppy with the plaid shorts."

advice for people struggling:

"I tell them to grow a thick skin. Everything can always be worse and everything can always be better. That's not just for gay people. That's for everyone. Life can throw a curveball at you. You have to grow a thick skin, you have to deal with people and you have to know who you are."

favorite color:

"I really like gold. I would love a gold medal. I think gold is beautiful. It stands for power, it stands for wealth, it stands for longevity."

Rainbow connection nSt.

St. Pete Pride Promenade Parade

and Street Festival

On Saturday, St. Petersburg will put on one of the biggest gay pride parades in the country as more than 100 floats join the St. Pete Pride Promenade Parade and Street Festival. The grand marshal is Steve Kornell (right), the city's first openly gay City Council member. Parade begins at 9 a.m. at Georgie's Alibi, moves to Central Avenue and runs east to about 21st Street. Afterward at the street festival, nearly 200 vendors from across the state will line Central Avenue between 21st and 28th streets. Free. (727) 388-9435.

Parties

Pride Parties at Postcard Inn: The Fire Party, with dancing and lights, begins at 6 p.m. Friday. $10. Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday (after the parade) is the Ice Party, where you can escape the heat in the pool, where buckets of ice will be dumped on you to help you cool down. The day includes drinks, dance music and fireworks. $25. The Heatwave Party, a giant disco for women only, kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday. $25. All at the Postcard Inn, 6300 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 367-2711. .

Pre-Pride Party: Pull together a fabulous costume and play in the foam Friday. Free beer, while it lasts, for everyone in costume. The party starts at 5:30 p.m., but the courtyard doesn't fill with foam until 7 p.m. Nitally's Thai-Mex Cuisine, 2462 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 321-8424.

Jagermeister Pre-Party: With secret entertainment, drink specials, DJ dancing and giveaways. No cover. Georgie's Alibi, 3100 Third Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 321-2112. 9 p.m. Friday.

Tropical T-Dance: Celebrate the end of St. Pete Pride weekend with a poolside party with drink specials, drag queens, male strippers and swimming. No cover. Flamingo Resort, 4601 34th St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 321-5000. 2 p.m. Sunday.

Other events

PRIDE (and Prejudice): A Photo Essay Opening Reception: Photographer Lamar Marchese presents this display of large-format color photographs that document the 2009 and 2010 gay pride parade in St. Petersburg. Marchese will be at the reception. Exhibit runs through July 16. Free. Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 895-6620. 6-9 p.m. Saturday.

Pride at Clay Day: Live clay artist demonstrations and kiln openings during the day of pride parade. Free. St. Petersburg Clay Company, 420 22nd St. S. (727) 896-2529. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir to be in town for St. Pete Pride 06/22/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 5:30am]

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