by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

ALBERTVILLE, France — Before I explain why Christopher Bowman is about as real as an Easter egg — and nearly as fragile — let me confess something to you, Michelle:

I’m a man.

And being a man, I will never appreciate figure skating the way women do. Sorry. It’s in the genes. Like hair loss. We’re just different.

WHAT WOMEN WISH: That for one magic moment, they could be like those figure skaters, gliding over the ice as the crowd calls their names.

WHAT MEN WISH: That there was a sequel to “Animal House.”

See? It’s a standoff. Men can’t comprehend how women watch figure skating, and women can’t understand why men watch “The Three Stooges.” As they say over here, vive la difference.

But while I confess a genetic inability to swoon over a triple salchow — although if I knew what it was, it might help — I must say this: I know a fraud when I see one.

And Christopher Bowman is a biggie.

Hey, Michelle, don’t tell me you buy his act. This kid is P.T. Barnum selling tickets to the talking elephants. He’s Hans Brinker from Hell. Yeah. I know he has a fan club. But before you join and get your secret Christopher Bowman decoder ring, don’t forget that this fellow, who unfortunately is America’s best hope for a gold medal in men’s figure skating, began in Hollywood, as a child actor, doing countless commercials and making appearances in shows such as “Little House on the Prairie.”

A child actor? Great. In another life, he’s Danny Bonaduce.

You want Danny Bonaduce on the medal stand?

Not that I have anything against actors. As long as they keep it onstage. But Bowman doesn’t know when to turn it on, because he never turns it off. One minute he’s crying. Next minute he’s playing Joe Cool behind sunglasses. One minute he’s telling you how he never practices, the next minute he’s telling you he’s serious about the Olympics.

One minute he’s confessing to a Los Angeles reporter, “I’m not superhuman. I have insecurities like everyone else.” The next minute, he says this to Dick Button: “At least I have my hair.”

Don’t you get it, Michelle? Bowman has more personalities than Sybil’s birthday party. The one constant is that, sooner or later, no matter where he goes or what he does, he becomes a pain in the butt. Don’t take it from me. Take it from his former coaches. See that long line over there? Men and women with their heads in their hands?

Frank Carroll, his first coach, once asked, “Why do I have the only maniac in figure skating?”

Toller Cranston, a former Olympian, got so sick of Bowman he dumped him.

Ellen Burka, who lasted just over a year with the little devil, recently said, “Christopher needs someone to supervise him 24 hours a day.”


What do baby-sitters get these days?

Now don’t get me wrong. The kid can skate. He can jump. He can spin. And when the heat is on, he cooks. He’s Sammy Davis doing “Mr. Bojangles” on the Jerry Lewis telethon. He’s Mr. Entertainment, all right, but mostly because he’s addicted to the spotlight. Even he admits he has won bronze medals when he should have won golds, finished fifth when he should have been first. But hey. Who has time to practice when you have all these stunts to think up?

It is hard to typecast a guy who, among other things, has dyed his black hair blond, has a tattoo, has fought off drug rumors, refers to himself as
“Bowman the Showman” and, when asked recently how he wanted to be remembered, said this: “He lived it . . . he loved it . . . and if it’s not new and it’s not Mexico, why is it New Mexico?”

Good stuff. Call Jay Leno.

But don’t tell me this a nice, honest kid who is just misunderstood. Bowman is a Valley Boy actor who, like most people in Hollywood, could use a few years on a couch. He is playing the Olympics as a springboard to the BIG TIME. He wants movies. He wants billboards and endorsements. Never mind that most gold medalists get contracts to dance with Snoopy.

The way Bowman sees it, they’ll rename it “The Chris Capades.”

Yes, Michelle, he’s colorful and different. So is a green monkey. But in the end, even if he outskates everybody else, even if wins the gold medal Saturday, what you can count on from Christopher Bowman is that he will be obnoxious, phony, and, in a word, silly, silly, silly.

Take it from me.

And Moe, Larry and Curly.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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