glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 

   member name
  
   password
  
 
   
   Forgot Your Password?  
   
Not a Member Yet?  
   
JOIN TODAY. IT'S FREE!

 
  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy
  Copyright

 

 

 

 

 
arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Cranston, Toller (b. 1949)  

The subtitle of Zero Tollerance: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Who Revolutionized Figure Skating is only slightly hyperbolic. Cranston's combination of artistry and athleticism delighted the public, confounded the judges, and ushered in a new era in the history of skating.

Although the skating establishment was somewhat slow to appreciate and reward Cranston's innovative and artistic skating, he eventually became a six-time Canadian champion and won bronze medals at the 1974 World Championships and the 1976 Olympic Games.

Sponsor Message.

Cranston's other passion is art. Throughout his life he has devoted himself to painting. His artwork shows the same imagination, exuberance, and flair as his skating.

Cranston was born into the middle-class Hamilton, Ontario family of Montague and Stuart Cranston on April 20, 1949. His father had been a college quarterback, and his mother is an amateur painter of bucolic scenes. Not quite following in their footsteps, Cranston became both an athlete and an artist, but in his typically individualistic way, he chose figure skating as his sport and developed a painting style that favors magical subjects, attenuated figures, and vibrant color and energy.

Cranston began skating at an early age, and was soon participating in inter-club competitions. In 1968 he made his first attempt to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team. Faced with his innovative style in the free program, the judges gave him marks ranging from first (5.9) to last (4.2). As a result, he did not make the team.

The pattern continued throughout his career. As John Malone has noted, "It was common for him to receive very high artistic marks from a few judges and absurdly low ones from others."

The judges may have been befuddled, but audiences were wildly enthusiastic about his performances and regularly booed judges who did not reward him.

A pivotal moment in Cranston's skating career came in 1970, when he began to study with Ellen Burka, a former Dutch champion who had emigrated to Canada and become a highly respected coach. Cranston was unable to pay for lessons, but Burka was so impressed with his painting that she took artwork as compensation.

The following year Cranston won the first of his six consecutive Canadian championships. He also won Skate Canada in 1973 and 1975.

Cranston never won a gold medal in international competition. Eastern European judges in particular consistently penalized him for his creative and dramatic free-skating style. He was, however, awarded bronze medals at the 1974 World Championships and the 1976 Olympics. Two-time Olympic champion Dick Button is among the prominent members of the skating world who feel that Cranston was denied his due.

At its height, Cranston's skating was artistic, athletic, spontaneous, and dramatic. No spectator could fail to be engaged by Cranston's performances. His costumes, many of which he designed himself, complemented his musical selections, which he interpreted in a manner informed by dance--modern dance in particular--even though he had no formal training in that area.

When his amateur career was over, Cranston went on tour with professional skating companies. Some of the venues, lodging, and travel arrangements for skaters on tour were decidedly second-rate, but Cranston's star status--the European press named him the skater of the century--and his flamboyant persona as an artiste as both a skater and a painter brought him opportunities to mingle with the rich and famous.

Cranston's social life was largely devoid of romance, however. In his memoir he mentions only one affair, furtively conducted because the other man was a married diplomat.

Cranston's relative openness about his homosexuality may have been inspired in part by 1976 Olympic gold medalist John Curry's announcement of his homosexuality soon after the competition.

Cranston has worked as a choreographer and also as a sports commentator for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He excelled in the latter capacity. With his extensive knowledge of figure skating, he provided honest and insightful analyses that were very helpful to the television audience.

In a move that he would come to regret, Cranston agreed to coach the virtually uncoachable singles skater Christopher Bowman, whose talent was undermined by his lack of discipline. The ordeal of coping with this difficult pupil plunged Cranston into a severe depression and a period of substance abuse, from which he has now recovered.

Even while he was on the skating tour, Cranston managed to pursue his career in art. He is a prolific and successful painter.

Cranston is a member of both the Sports Hall of Fame and the Olympic Hall of Fame in Canada. He also received the Order of Canada for his achievements in sports.

Contemporary figure skating owes much to Cranston for his bold introduction of elements of modern dance, theatricality, and imaginative costume design. No one who witnessed his innovative performances will forget the excitement of seeing his creative new approach to the sport.

Cranston currently divides his time between homes in Toronto and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Linda Rapp

     

 
zoom in
Toller Cranston performing in 1974. Photograph by Rainer Mittelstädt.
  
 interact  
   
Contact Us
 
Join the Discussion
 
 find 
   
Related Entries
 
More Entries by this contributor
 
A Bibliography on this Topic

 
Citation Information
 
More Entries about The Arts
 
   
spacer
Popular Topics:

Social Sciences

 
Stonewall Riots
Stonewall Riots


Gay Liberation Front


The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980
The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980


Leather Culture


Anthony, Susan B.
Anthony, Susan B.


Africa: Sub-Saharan, Pre-Independence


Androgyny
Androgyny


Russia


Computers, the Internet, and New Media


Radicalesbians

 
 


   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Canadian Art

Since the rise of the homosexual emancipation movement three decades ago, a handful of Canadian artists have confronted issues of gay and lesbian sexuality in their work.

arts >> Overview:  Olympic Equestrians

Gay equestrians are among the most successful and respected athletes in their sport, and a number of them have participated in the Olympic Games.

arts >> Overview:  Sports: Gay Male

While sports, at least on the major competitive level, may be the final closet for gay men, there have nevertheless been a number of gay male elite athletes.

arts >> Boitano, Brian  

Figure skater Brian Boitano, who won a gold medal in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, came out publicly soon after he was named to the American delegation for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. 

arts >> Curry, John

World and Olympic figure skating champion John Curry was one of the first athletes to speak candidly about his sexual orientation while competing.

arts >> Galindo, Rudy

The first openly gay man and the first Mexican-American to win the United States figure skating championship, Rudy Galindo, himself HIV-positive, has worked hard to increase awareness of AIDS, especially in minority communities.

arts >> Mitcham, Matthew

Out gold medal diver Matthew Mitcham earned the highest score in the history of the sport on his final dive in the ten-meter platform event at the 2008 Olympic Games.

arts >> Orser, Brian

Olympian Brian Orser, known for both his athleticism and artistry, led a resurgence of Canada as a force to be reckoned with in men's figure skating; after being outed in a palimony suit, he has become an advocate for glbtq rights.

arts >> Weir, Johnny

Flamboyant figure skater Johnny Weir won three United States Championships and twice represented his country as an Olympian; although there had been widespread speculation that he was gay for several years, he did not come out publicly until 2011.


    Bibliography
   

Cranston, Toller, and Martha Lowder Kimball. When Hell Freezes Over, Should I Bring My Skates? Toronto: McClelland & Steward, 2000.

_____. Zero Tollerance: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Who Revolutionized Figure Skating. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1997.

Malone, John. "Cranston, Toller." The Encyclopedia of Figure Skating. New York: Facts on File, 1998. 43.

"Toller Cranston." www.tollercranston.com

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Cranston, Toller  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 15, 2010  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/cranston_t.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

This Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, inc.

www.glbtq.com is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.