A silver cutlass knifes through the air. Kiddies squeal, for the Pirate King has come. As personified by Bruno Jerry in the Walt Disney ice show, Magic Kingdom on Ice, the dashing buccaneer is a slashing, swashbuckler on skates. Decked out in magenta satin with a skull and crossbones on his chest, Jerry, 24, glides across the ice, turning backflips, as Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirate King booms out.
One of the few black skaters, the diminutive (5’6¾”, 132 pounds) Jerry has perfected what he calls “jazz skating.” His sinuous style was learned at Alvin Ailey’s New York dance school, among others. Now in his fourth year as a show skater, Jerry blew his first audition. While his jumps were excellent, he was told he lacked “showmanship.” A gold-medal winner in the 1978 South Atlantic Junior Men’s Regionals, Jerry had considered remaining an amateur until next year’s Olympics, but deemed the personal sacrifice too high. With his coach’s encouragement, Bruno auditioned again. Watching All That Jazz had given him inspiration, and this time he got the job.
Jerry’s fascination with skating started when he attended an Ice Follies show with his fourth-grade class. His father, a now-retired Army officer, and his mother, a medical librarian, gave him a pair of skates for Christmas. Then came the group lessons, followed by private lessons, the 6:00 a.m. drives to the rink and, eventually, travel around the country to compete. Inevitably the only black at the rink, Bruno says simply, “I never really thought about it when I was young.” He attributes the scarcity of blacks in the sport to the high cost of equipment and the lack of role models for kids.
Jerry recently purchased a town-house in Maryland, about 15 miles from his parents’ home, but he considers it strictly an investment. After all, his 600-performance schedule means he’s on the road 11 months a year—no hardship for an Army brat who grew up on bases in New Mexico, Alaska and Germany. “I love staying in hotels, eating in restaurants,” he says, adding, “I just like to move.” As Gilbert and Sullivan put it, “And it is, it is a glorious thing, to be a Pirate King!”