Last Wednesday my executive producer notified me that I would be interviewing JoJo Starbuck on Friday at the Rockefeller Center skating rink in New York City. Many of you will remember JoJo with her partner Kenneth Shelley, as a three-time United States pair skating champion (1970-1972) and two-time Olympian (1968 and 1972). Imagine how happy I was – thinking to myself “Me, Mar Jennings, former regional and sectional figure skating champion and, yes, once a pair skater on the ice, skating with and interviewing JoJo Starbuck!”
I must say that interviewing JoJo Starbuck was not only one of the most memorable interviews I have done, but the most rewarding, too. Add the fact I got to lace my skates and take to the ice with her – trust me when I say that for me it was magical and a little surreal: “Is it really happening?”
But first, what would I wear? Regular skating attire? Or perhaps I should take one of my old skating costumes out of retirement. I decided to go with a classic brown cashmere jacket, a wool cable knit turtleneck sweater and crisp white corduroys. But let’s face it, you’re not reading this for my wardrobe, are you? The fact remains I was excited and I wanted to look just right for JoJo. This is how I stress and focus when I take the time to pick the right outfit. Oh, the shoes great too, but enough said.
With two cups of Starbucks coffee in my system, it was time to meet Starbuck. I was dress to kill, wired – literally – still wearing my mic from a segment I co-hosted with Audra Lowe. They say that the holiday season can make dreams come true and with all the good cheer in the air, New York City was the perfect backdrop to make this childhood dream a reality.
After a brief introduction, JoJo and I went through my talking points and had a chance to get to know each other. I learned she loves peonies and gardening, and that made her my new best friend. We laced up our skates and entered the ice. It was not long ago I was on Broadway with Carrie Fisher, and now I’m interviewing JoJo Starbuck.
As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the first time I was on the Rockefeller Center ice with JoJo. In 1992 I was a skater in the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and show, and JoJo was the choreographer. However, this time I had her all to myself. And at a much more decent hour of the day – those rehearsals started at 5 am to keep the show a secret from the passers-by who would have been around later in the day.
We started skating just to stay warm, but before you knew it, we were in synch and skating beautifully together. We were the perfect size for each other, as later I learned that I was just about the same size as Ken, her former partner. Okay Ken, I have never met you (yet) but I like you already.
We skated together and I of course, wanted to show her off. That said, I had time to throw her into a couple of throw-waltz jumps, spins, and lunges. I was living a childhood fantasy. She is as beautiful on the ice as she is inside her soul. So much talent, both as a skater and a world-class choreographer; I discovered that she is such an amazing person, and it only lifted my admiration for her.
JoJo, you were beautiful to look at, skate with, and interview. Talking to you, holding your hand and skating with you will be one of those memorable life experiences that I will forever cherish in my heart. I suspect our meeting was not just so an interview could take place, but to permit the beginning of a wonderful new friendship.
Can you tell I love what I do? Working with Better TV has been an amazing experience in itself, and not a moment goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars. I feel blessed that I’m doing something that I’m both passionate about, and which makes my heart tick and, yes, once in a while lets me lace up my skates.