Tonya Harding and Doris Biscoe Walk Into a Laundry-mat

Deep in the winter of 1993 and 1994 I had my 15 minutes of fame in a laundry-mat on Detroit’s north side. It was thrilling. Like my life, it was also embarrassing and possibly worth recording.

In case you weren’t alive in 1994, a leading contender to win the US Skating Finals was brutally clubbed in the legs in Detroit between practices. It was horrible and it was embarrassing. “OF COURSE you get beat up in Motown.”

What did you expect, Nancy Kerrigan? To come, compete in Detroit and leave with both your legs? What a simpleton.

The city was embarrassed. My friends were embarrassed. I was embarrassed. We were in the middle of the millionth “Detroit Renaissance” and crime was supposed to be behind us.  Just one year before this I finally got my aunt Bunny to calm down enough to have dinner in the city. On her first visit to me in college she dove under the table at the Pegasus greek restaurant when the waiter lit Saganaki cheese on fire. Opah, Aunt Bunny. Opah.

College Laundromat Days

In my last few years of college I rented a townhouse with 3 friends near campus. It was a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 80s-build in a development called Hidden Rivers. The joke was, “There’s a reason it’s hidden.”

2 of my roommates took their laundry home on the weekends. My other roommate and I were not that organized. We did our cleaning in random segments and at random times, but managed to coordinate going to the laundromat together.

We got into a rhythm: “Hey you have laundry? Yes let’s go.” We created a routine: Go to laundromat, put clothes in wash, get ice cream from ice cream parlor next door, put clothes in dryers, get more ice cream from next door, throw clothes in baskets, stop at Taco Bell on the way home.

It was a routine I came to love. By this time Eric and I had been roommates for years and we’d sit silently reading magazines like an old couple, nothing left to say to each other.

One mid-week night, right in the middle of the Nancy Kerrigan-gate, Eric elbowed me and nodded to the front door. Doris Biscoe, a local television reporter and a cameraman were coming in…lights ablaze. Sqweee!

Doris had to duck to enter the building.

Breaking News: Tonya Harding Accused of Hiring Hit Man To Knock Nancy Kerrigan Out Of The Competition.

Earlier this day, news broke that a friend of Tonya Harding had been arrested for assaulting Nancy Kerrigan. Speculation was swirling that it was a conspiracy, and rightly so. Harding was, by any account, clearly white trash and jealous of Kerrigan. Harding grew up in a trailer. Kerrigan looked like she grew up on Lake Shore in Grosse Pointe.

Best of all: if it was true, then Detroit was saved from embarrassment. “See everyone? It’s safe here. Unless you mess with someone’s white-trash dreams.”

Doris Biscoe, the Queen Of Evening News

In Detroit, in the 90’s, there were two rival stations in Detroit that mattered. ABC Channel 7 and NBC Channel 4. Doris Biscoe was the Grand Dame of Channel 7. She was a strong and confident, gorgeous and gigantic, 6’6″ African American.

I knew these details of her because the news station for Channel 7 was next to our college campus. I regularly saw Doris pulling into the station in her Lincoln Continental, head slightly bent over because of her height. She was a God. And fabulous.

You can imagine my delight when she walked into that laundromat looking to interview people about Nancy-Gate. Also, image me eager to be interviewed and scrambling to come up with a premise that would assure I get on the evening news.

I Thew Out My Morals To Be On TV With Doris Biscoe

I’m not sure what came over me. I blame my mother.

I knew Tonya Harding was guilty. But as Doris Biscoe walked through that dirty, cheap laundromat I scrambled for an angle that would make me stand out; to get her attention. And most importantly, to get on air.

Somewhere between a lick of Superman ice cream from my waffle cone and some woman named Chanel being interviewed just 5 feet away, I came up with the idea that could separate me from the masses. In my mind I thought, “what Doris needs is conflict.”

I’ll be pro Tonya.

As the klieg light of the camera shifted my way and Doris walked towards me, I sat up a little straighter. I acted coy, and smiled an innocent “oh-hey-what-are-you-talking-about-I’ll-give-you-the-quote-you’re-looking-for-smile.” I imagined my “take” being so unique and my performance so stellar that I would be invited to join Doris and crew in the Channel 7 WXYZ newsroom. I saw a future as the anchor of Entertainment Tonight and on a yacht. Any yacht.

I glanced quickly at Eric as if to say, “Watch the magic, bitch.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Hi young man, we’re talking to Detroiters about the charges against Tonya Harding. What are your thoughts?”

“Me? Oh well… I definitely think Nancy Kerrigan is trying to set up Tonya Harding to look like a fool.”

Small pause, “Interesting. So you think Nancy Kerrigan had Tonya Harding beat up?”

“Oh no, I think she’s playing a really coy game. I bet what actually happened was Nancy Kerrigan hired the hit men in order to frame Tonya Harding. I just love Tonya, she’s so talented.”

“Let me get this straight, you think that Nancy Kerrigan would hire thugs to beat her own legs? Why would you think that?”

I knew why I said that. But I couldn’t say it.

“That’s definitely the most bizarre theory I’ve heard…what about you over here?”

The light turned. Doris turned. It was shorter than I planned, but I thought I was unique enough to be guaranteed a spot on the news. I turned to Eric, proud.

Deadpan, Eric says, “Look down, dumbass.”

Somewhere between that last lick of ice cream and the end of the interview, my waffle cone had cracked open at the bottom. Red, blue and yellow cream from my Superman had flooded out all over my stomach and shorts. I felt cold. Cold as the realization flooding over me. “I’m going to be on TV with ice cream all over me.”

Carl’s Chop House

Years later, my mom took a small crew out to Carl’s Chop House to celebrate my graduation. Carl’s is downtown but far away from restaurants that light cheese on fire.

Aunt Bunny came. She hadn’t been back to Detroit since the beating, but was still semi-obsessed with the idea that the city wasn’t safe to visit.

To my irritation, Bunny had to mention she was worried about getting beaten or mugged “like Nancy Kerrigan.”

“Shut the fuck up Aunt Bunny,” I thought.

“It was staged, Bunny. It was a staged beating by Nancy for attention. Nobody is going to beat you or mug you,” I said.

Bunny replied, “You’re trying to hide the fact that people get beat up in Detroit.”

Touché, Aunt Bunny. Touché. Two people can play at this game.

PS. I love you Aunt Bunny.

This story is part of a series about my college years that will be published in its entirety at some point.  This story is also published on Medium here. If anyone is interested, the segment never aired.