“Whatever greatness you think I have there are demons of equal value that are inside of my soul.”
TRQ: John Curry, Born September 9, 1949
Olympic and World Champion figure skater John Curry was born on September 9, 1949, in Birmingham, England. At a young age he wanted to be a dancer, but his father only permitted him to pursue figure skating. Curry’s unenthusiastic father only saw his son skate twice.
Curry won his first competition only a year after starting figure skating training. He won the British junior title in 1967, before the age of 20. That year he also moved to London after his father’s death and took dance lessons.
Arnold Gerschwiler coached Curry towards placing second in the British championships in 1968 and 1969. In 1970, he won his first national title. Early on, competition judges criticized Curry’s skating style, which joined a physical mastery and a sense of grace that some considered feminine. Toller Cranston faced a similar prejudice against his skating style.
1976 proved to be an important year for Curry. First, a German tabloid outed Curry as gay. Just before the Olympics, he met with journalist John Vicour for a series of interviews about his homosexuality.
Curry told Vicour, “I’m not a promiscuous person, but I’ve got friends and I like to go out. I talk, I look. If I need to explode, I can go on a three-day binge in Greenwich village. I’ve had a lover, and it was OK, but now I have friends, it’s nice too.”
In the biography The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry, Bill Jones described Curry’s approach to the interviews. “Curry was lonely and liked to talk about himself; an attention seeker who craved privacy. He was also alarmingly frank. Over several cups of coffee, their talk drifted naturally from skating to Curry’s sexual orientation.”
Looking back on his interviews with Vicour, Curry said, “I found myself telling him things I had kept deliberately suppressed for years. He asked me if I was happy and I said no; I didn’t think so. I lived in a homophobic world and I was a homosexual which made it very difficult.”
Curry’s sexuality caused a minor scandal, mostly in Europe, while the rest of the world ignored it.
Then Curry accomplished what no man had done in one year. He won the British championships and earned gold medals in the European Championships, the Olympic Games, and the World Championships. He carried the British flag at the Olympic opening ceremony and received the Order of the British Empire. For these accomplishments, Curry was England’s sporting personality of the year.
In 1977 Curry founded a touring skating company, and his Ice Dancing show was a hit on Broadway, London, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He acted in the 1980 Broadway production of Brigadoon by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
In 1987, Curry learned that he was HIV positive. He saw AIDS ravage the skating community. “It is hard to watch people in that situation, and it was frightening when people started to become ill,” he once said. “You start to think, ‘When is it going to be my turn?’”
In 1989, Curry gave his final skating performance to benefit AIDS research. In 1991, he returned to England to spend his remaining years with his mother.
In 1992, Curry asserted in an interview that “I never pretended not to be homosexual, ever.” The authorized biography of Alan Bates revealed that the actor had been in a 2-year affair with Curry.
John Curry died on April 15, 1994, in Bates’ arms.
In 2018, Dogwoof Pictures released The Ice King, a documentary of Curry’s life.