Werner Groebli, half of the famed skating team "Frick and Frack," died the other day in Zurich at 92 years old.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Mr. Groebli - Frick - and his skating partner, Hans-Rudi "Frack" Mauch, were Swiss-born figure skaters who turned successfully to goofing around. Life magazine dubbed them the "Clown Kings of the Ice," but they were praised for their grace as much as their comic timing and off-balance acrobatics.
The New York Times once described Mr. Groebli as "a master skater whose knack for comedy and instinct for effect make the technical know-how of brilliant skating a tool for greater artistry." Olympic figure skating champion Debi Thomas was among his admirers.
When Mr. Groebli and Mauch began performing in the early 1930s, their motivation was to make fun of what they called the pomposity of professional skaters.
They donned lederhosen - traditional Alpine clothing - and incorporated spoofs of ballet and other traditional styles in their act. They became a mainstay of Shipstads and Johnson's much-praised Ice Follies show from 1939 to 1954 and also appeared in films and on television.
I have to admit, I had no idea that this was where the term "frick and frack" came from, even after hearing it all my life. You have to think that Frick and Frack must also have been a sort of inspiration to Scott Hamilton and the Stars on Ice folks, because the shows I've seen were never afraid to poke fun of the occasional pomposity of figure skaters. I'm sure Groebli inspired and entertained many others as well.