Stage Fright

LENNON-McCARTNEY IT WASN’T. When disgraced Olympic skater Tonya Harding took to the stage in Portland, Ore., earlier this month under her new guise as a pop singer, she showed none of the biker-girl swagger that once so unsettled the skating world. Harding started out singing the words to an original song: “Feel the beat,” went the lyrics, “feel the heat.” Mostly what she and the other members of the Golden Blades felt was the derision of 10,000 raucous music festival fans, who jeered and tossed soda bottles onto the stage, forcing the Blades to beat a retreat. Harding’s agent, Merrill Eichenberger, concedes his client could use a little more practice than the two nights a week she’s put in for the past six months. “Singing is like skating,” he says. “You can’t just lace up a pair of skates and go out there and do a triple axel.” Al Harding, Tonya’s father, tried to strike a philosophical note. “You can’t please all the people all of the time,” he says.

Harding, it seems, has trouble pleasing anyone these days. The former ice queen, who received three years’ probation for covering up her and her husband’s involvement in the 1994 attack on figure-skating rival Nancy Kerrigan, was back in court in August trying—and failing—to be released from the last 100 of her 500 hours of community service. The judge also refused to allow her to redirect $25,000 of her $100,000 fine from the Special Olympics to Loaves and Fishes, the soup kitchen for the elderly in which she volunteers. Still banned from international skating competition, Harding continues to rehearse her routines, but the only performance date on her calendar is a tentative appearance in Japan this fall.

Divorced since 1993 from ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (who served six months in prison for the Kerrigan attack and recently changed his surname to Stone), Harding seems to be searching for solace in religion and in the embrace of the substitute family that makes up her quartet—voice teacher Linda Lewis, 49, her husband, Greg, 36, and the couple’s 21-year-old niece Shannon Kuratli. “She calls my mother Mom and she calls us sisters,” said Kuratli’s sister Leslie Davis. Harding and the extended Lewis clan are fellow parishioners at the fundamentalist East Hill Four Square Church in Gresham, Ore. “We have given her the family life she never had,” said Davis. “She’s a nice person. She just looked for love in all the wrong places.”

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