Dorothy Hamill is an Olympic gold medalist, a former star of the famed Ice Capades, a breast cancer survivor and a role model to a generation of female athletes.
And in a few weeks, she’ll add a stint on the hit TV show “Dancing with the Stars” to her already stellar resume.
Still, the one thing people seem to want to talk about with Hamill — the burning topic that almost inevitably comes up — is her hair. More specifically, the mythic “wedge” cut she wore in the 1976 winter Olympics.
Never mind that she hasn’t worn the cut herself in years. There was something about that particular hairstyle that captured the imagination of millions of girls and women. It was short and easy to care for, stylish for the times (was anything in the ’70s really stylish?), and symbolized freedom to do what you wanted and be who you wanted.
“I was surprised then how much people talked about it, and I’m really surprised now that it is by far the No. 1 thing people remember about me or ask me about,” said Hamill, 56, who was raised in southern Connecticut. “I myself have not gone back to that style. It’s very ’70s. Plus, my hair is graying now, and the texture is completely different.”
Hamill and her still short (yet contemporary) hairstyle will be gliding over the ice at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland Sunday as part of “Stars on Ice.”
The traveling show was founded in 1986 by Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton as a touring vehicle for champions beyond competitions. As the name indicates, it’s a show featuring lots of other well-known competitive skaters from the past, including four-time world champion Kurt Browning, two-time Olympic gold medalist Ekaterina Gordeeva and Olympic gold medalist Ilia Kulik.
But Hamill is the best-known of the lot. She came along at a time when figure skating was nowhere near as popular as it is now, and she helped elevate it toward the status it currently enjoys.
For you hair buffs out there, here is the quick story behind the famed wedge.
“I had short hair my whole life and I had never really liked it, so I saw this style in a magazine and researched the hairdresser (New York-based celebrity stylist Yusuke Suga). It took me two years to get an appointment,” said Hamill. “I also wanted it for practical reasons. It was easy to wash and wear, and it wouldn’t be in my face while skating.”
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the scoop on Sunday’s show:
This is Hamill’s first time on a skating tour in about seven years, and her first since she began treatment for breast cancer five years ago. (She’s now cancer-free.)
The tour has brought Hamill back into the public eye, attracting the attention of the producers of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” In February, they asked Hamill to be on the show, which pairs celebrities with pro dancers in a competition. The new season begins March 18.
Hamill will be competing against a varied celebrity field, including country music star Wynonna Judd, comedian/actor D.L. Hughley and gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman.
But wait, isn’t figure skating sort of like dancing, what with all the gliding to music and choreographed moves? Will she have an unfair advantage?
“I’m really not a dancer, though I’ve had some ballet lessons,” said Hamill. “I guess because ice skating combines music and movement, that might help me. But it will probably help Aly even more. So I might have some little advantage, but there are so many other parts of dancing I’ll have absolutely no advantage at.”
Ice skaters have done well on “Dancing with the Stars” in the past, and Hamill said she’s planning to talk to 1992 Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, who was on the show a few years ago and won the whole thing.
As for being in shape for dancing, you’d think skating would help. But Hamill says it has not been easy for her to get back in skating shape for this tour.
It’s not like riding a bicycle –she can’t just lace up the skates and fly into a “Hamill Camel” or some other mesmerizing move at the drop of the hat.
“I’m older now, so it takes a while. The core strength you need does not stick with you over the years, and I am older now,” said Hamill.
Still, she was thrilled to be asked to join the “Stars” tour.
“I’m really fascinated to see how much the sport has changed, to see the physical capability of these young people on the tour,” she said.
Those younger skaters may have the moves. But do they have the hair?
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: