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Their success prompted them to return to St. Paul and launch an even bigger show. In 1936, the Ice Follies were born, the first touring ice show.
Holiday on Ice, produced by Morris Chalfen, later started in Minneapolis. Tom Collins produced the global Champions on Ice from the Twin Cities for years before partnering with Stars on Ice in 2008.
Pickett’s documentary tells these stories, along with other strands of skating history, through interviews with skaters whom Blakey befriended over the years, particularly Scott Hamilton and Dick Button, Olympic champions and longtime skating commentators. (The documentary is available for streaming on Netflix, and also for sale online, as well at the open house.)
In search of a home
Blakey turns 84 in July, yet appears years younger. Trim and charming, you get the impression that he could tell a story about each item in his sprawling collection.
There are the obvious treasures such as Sonja Henie’s costumes which, given that she skated in the 1930s and ’40s, are surprisingly provocative.
“She’d wear a flesh-colored body suit with sequins covering the naughty bits,” Blakey said, arching an eyebrow.
There are the unexpected treasures, such as a working pinball machine with a skating theme. “I love the cling-clangs and the boom-booms,” he said, fingers twitching.
But what makes his collection most unusual are the less flashy treasures: matchbooks, programs, ticket stubs.
“I know that no one else would have these things because they are ephemera,” items with a limited purpose.
“It’s difficult to find things that I don’t have — but I still do!” he said. His collection is so well-known within the skating world that heirs of past skating stars ask if they can send him memorabilia, “so it’s bittersweet.”
Finding a home for the IceStage Archive is more difficult than either he or Pickett imagined. The state historical society is most interested in the Minnesota items. The Smithsonian Institution wants only the national pieces, he said.
But the archive represents an international history of ice skating that shouldn’t be carved up, Pickett said. With mock frustration, she explained her vested interest in finding a suitable destination. She’s Blakey’s niece, and credits his fine arts photography career for inspiring her own pursuit. So when Uncle Roy asked to store some stuff at her business, she said yes.
That was thousands of items ago.
“This used to be my photo studio,” she said, laughing. “Now it’s become a museum.”
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185