‘Rolling Ball of Sparkle’: The Legendary AOI Shanghai Press Conference

With the announcement of the Artistry on Ice 2015 show dates, we are all pleasantly reminded of the glorious on- and off-ice shenanigans that inevitably accompany this tour. But nothing has ever topped this classic moment: the June 2013 AOI press conference in Shanghai, brought to you predictably by Johnny and Stéphane, with surprising cameos by Kurt Browning and … Patrick Chan.

Please join me in reliving the happy insanity of the best press conference ever below.

BTW guys: we’re still waiting for the promised “Rolling Ball of Sparkle” to make its AOI debut. Maybe this year…?

Portions of this post originally appeared in the archive here and here.


Video link.

Transcript/commentary disclaimer: Please note that this is a compilation of the best efforts of various people who had to grapple with time constraints and the additional challenge posed by the audio being ever-so-slightly-but-maddeningly out of sync with the video. Accuracy not guaranteed, no warranties expressed or implied, void where prohibited, your mileage may vary. If sustained uncontrollable laughter persists for more than six hours, consult other fans who will gently remind you that that’s all part of following Johnny. If you can tell what they’re saying in any portions marked “unclear,” please share with the class by commenting below or via email.


Johnny waits outside the press conference room for the proper moment…



…to make his grand entrance in his Tang suit, a gift from his Chinese fans during Artistry on Ice 2012.


Press conference opening tidbit: From what I could glean from Weibo, the staff had seated Johnny and Kurt together, but either Johnny or Stéphane moved Johnny’s place card so that he could sit next to Stéphane. Kurt pretended to be hurt, with great dramatic flair, and Stéphane just smiled and said, “Bye bye, Kurt!”

The section of the press conference shown in the video above begins with the translator talking about Patrick Chan. At their end of the table, Johnny and Stéphane pose for photos…

Johnny: [makes prayer hands]


Stéphane: [stretches his arms out and laces his fingers together. Comments to Johnny.]

Translator: [talks about Patrick]

Johnny: [smiles and poses]

Stéphane: [smiles and poses]

Translator: [Patrick…. Sochi…. Patrick….]

Johnny: [rearranges his and Stéphane’s place cards so that they are touching]


Stéphane: [comments to Johnny]

Johnny: [nods wisely]

Translator: [Patrick…. Sochi….]

Stéphane: [smiles beautifully for photographers]

Translator: [talks about Patrick]

Johnny: [comments to Stéphane]

Stéphane: [covers face with hands. Shoulders shake from suppressed laughter.] [photos]

Kurt: [starts gesticulating at something beyond Johnny and Stéphane as Patrick begins talking]

Johnny and Stéphane [simultaneously glance to their right at Kurt, then nearly simultaneously turn to the left to see whatever it is he’s gesturing about]

Patrick: [talking]

Johnny and Stéphane [long and lolworthy minutes of commenting, whispering, head shaking, laughing]

Johnny: [folds hands like the sweet, obedient schoolboy he is. Then smiles hugely for fans/photographers.]


Johnny and Stéphane: [whispering, nodding, giggling]

Stéphane: [sighs]

Johnny: [makes this face]


Stéphane: [comments to Johnny, pretends to slap his own face]

Patrick: [concludes]

Translator: OK! [talking]

Johnny and Stéphane: [fidgety, then suddenly captivated by something under the table]

[Camera pans to gathered media and fans. There’s dear Haohewuyin in red, standing with Johnny’s “Diva” bouquet! I believe that’s Maria Ma crouching next to her, camera in hand, and there’s Joveta, seated with others, both shooting amazing photos!]

Translator: [says more stuff]

[Camera pans back to table]

Johnny: [cracking up so much that he has to turn away and cover his mouth with his hand while his shoulders shake]

Stéphane: [comments to Johnny, punches him lightly in the leg]

Johnny: [nods]

Translator: [stuff]

Johnny and Stéphane: [high-five each other] [photos]

Translator: [long speech]

Johnny and Stéphane: [synchronized fidgeting]

Translator: [stuff stuff stuff] …Johnny Weir!

Johnny: [suddenly startled by the mention of his own name. Folds his hands prayer-like again, smiles widely, and bows head at the gathered assemblage.]

Crowd: [laughter]

Translator: By the way, I like it that you are dressed in this strange way.

Johnny: Well, thank you. This was a gift from my beautiful fans last year.

Translator: Oh! [translates for audience]

Johnny: [makes “V” sign with both hands and nods to crowd]


Stéphane: [copies Johnny’s V-sign with both hands]

Translator: So Johnny, you have been with us from day one.

Johnny: Yes.

Translator: So how is this year different to you, and, I think, your numbers—you know, everybody wants to know more about your numbers, so maybe you can share insights about your new programs this year, what can fans expect this year, and maybe share a little bit—my question is, share a little bit of your experience in childhood and whatever.

Johnny: So the difference this year as opposed to the other years—

Stéphane: [makes duck face at Johnny]

Johnny: —is the production quality continues to grow and get better and stronger every year. This year we have amazing lighting and special effects on the ice, and, um—

Stéphane: [copies Johnny by mouthing “and, um” and makes rolling gesture with his hands to indicate to Johnny to get to the freaking point already]

Johnny: [sees Stéphane gesturing out of the corner of his eye, looks over, holds up a hand in acknowledgement and smiles]—Lady Gaga.

Stéphane: [nods, rolls eyes, gestures with both hands to say, “yes, hello, that’s what people want to hear”]

Johnny: [repeats] Lady Gaga. And, so, I couldn’t not—

Stéphane: [looking behind Johnny—possibly at Kurt—and cracking up so much he has to lean back and put his hand to his chest]

Johnny: —be part of this show. I’ve been with Artistry since the beginning—

Stéphane: [stretches arms waaaaay above his head in universal gesture of OMG I am so bored]

Johnny: —and it’s always a huge highlight of my year because it’s a growing skating community in China and it’s something that I feel very much a part of, and something I’m proud to be a part of, to represent a skater that’s a little bit different than just inviting ALL Olympic champions or ALL world champions [shade]. I get to represent people that really excel in doing ice shows and bringing the fashion and music and all of these different aspects together. So every year I look forward to coming to China and to exploring new places, new cities, new food— [laughs; crowd laughs in response]

Stéphane: [suddenly transfixed by his own microphone and how it should be positioned]

Johnny: —it’s really such an honor. And this year I’m performing “Army of Me,” by Christina Aguilera, and then performing “Born This Way,” by Lady Gaga. And keeping in tradition, I’ve brought my best fashion of the year. I’m very black and sexual for Army of Me, and then I’m over-the-top white, lacy, furry, sparkly for Lady Gaga.

Stéphane: [briefly performs neck exercises]

Johnny: And I think the best feeling I get is when the lights come up and I’m standing in the middle of the ice, and everyone just goes, “WOOOOOOOO!” over my costume.

Stéphane: [smiles at Johnny as crowd laughs appreciatively]

Johnny: I haven’t moved, I haven’t done anything, they just appreciate the way I look before I’ve even started skating. So it makes me very happy and excited. And—I love it here. [Looks back at translator] Good luck. [He means, “Good luck translating what I just said.”]

Crowd: [Gales of laughter]

Translator: [unclear, but the sense is that translating Johnny’s responses during these press conferences is…. challenging]

Johnny: [Zen-like smile] I believe in you. You can do this. Push yourself. [photos]

Translator: [gamely tackles translating. Eventually camera pans to crowd again, then back to table, where something totally incomprehensible is happening with Patrick, Johnny, and Stéphane that cannot be conveyed in words, only screencaps:]


[And then: sudden sound of door slamming. Patrick, Johnny, and Stéphane all turn to see what the commotion is amidst laughter from the crowd.]

Translator: He probably didn’t like what she—he just said! [continues his translation of Johnny’s remarks while crowd giggles]

Stéphane: [gives a thumbs-up to someone off-camera.]

Johnny: [tries to pay attention to the translator, though his version of this more closely resembles throwing shade at Patrick]

Translator: [says lots of stuff]

Johnny: [catches the eye of fans with cameras and starts posing happily for photos]

Stéphane: [joins him in posing and giggling]

Translator: [yay he did it!]

Johnny: [applauds]

Stéphane: [applauds]

Johnny: Thank you!

Translator: OK!

Stéphane: [mouths, “My turn?”]

Johnny: [smiles and mouths, “Hi!” to fans]

Translator: Stéphane. Yes, your turn, so see if you can top that one.

Stéphane: [shakes head] No.

Johnny: [nods encouragingly at Stéphane] I can help!

Translator: Again, we’ll come back to Artistry on Ice, which, you remember [unclear], you still remember the first year, the “Prince—the Prince of Spin,” that’s what they call you.

Johnny: [nods and smiles at Stéphane] Oh, ho-ho-ho!

Stéphane: [smiles at Johnny] Yes.

Translator: [speaks in Chinese] …. Johnny Weir.

Crowd: [laughs]

Johnny: [smiles and shrugs] I don’t understand.

Translator: You don’t like that one?

Johnny: [still smiling] I don’t understand what that—I don’t understand what you said about me.

Translator: I just said that everybody calls him the “Prince of Spin”—are you saying you’re glad?

Johnny: I was saying—I was saying that—

Stéphane: Johnny, you are just jealous.

Crowd: [bursts into laughter again]

Johnny: You can be the Prince of Spin.

Stéphane: OK, you can stay then.

Johnny: I’m just very proud of Stéphane. He’s my friend for a long time, and I’m very proud of him.

Translator: So how come, Stéphane, Johnny, are you, how can you [unclear]—

Stéphane: [interrupts] I love you, Johnny.

Crowd: Ohhhhh!!! [explodes with delighted laughter]

Johnny: [huge smile] Ohhhh… [unclear]

Stéphane: [lays his head on Johnny’s shoulder]

[More photos]


Translator: [says a bunch more stuff…..]

[Camera pans over to Johnny and Stéphane, who are now busy taking endless selfies with Stéphane’s magical zebra phone]

[More photos]


Translator: [continues]

Johnny: [glances over toward translator and makes a wan attempt to pay attention]

Stéphane: [reviews selfies to decide which one to Instagram]

Johnny: [turns back to Stéphane, who shows him one of the photos. Nods his approval.]

Stéphane: [scrolls through filters]

[Camera pans back to translator, who finishes speaking and looks expectantly at Kurt. Apparently this was a question for Kurt.]

Kurt: [discusses what he brings to the show, particularly in his performance of “Singin’ in the Rain”]

[Camera pans to Johnny and Stéphane, who are taking more selfies together. They agree on another one that might be suitable to post, signaling approval with hand gestures.]

Johnny: [looks over at the translator again to see if this press conference is actually still going on]

Fan: [hands Stéphane a… fan. IDKY.]

Stéphane: [begins fanning Johnny]


Translator: Johnny.

Johnny: [jumps, whips his head around to look at translator] Oh!

Translator: Did fans give you some food, the special [unclear], the sticky rice? Did you try it?

Johnny: [turns his mic back on] I ate it and it was delicious.

Translator: Not sure it was [unclear] enough for you.

Johnny: It was good that there wasn’t a whole lot more.

Translator: [translates]

Johnny: I’ve got to wear white in the show. [Meaning he can’t eat too much because his white costume adds pounds, unlike black.]

Translator: [translates]

Johnny: OK.

Fan: [asks question about Johnny and Stéphane doing a program together. Crowd explodes in giggles again]

Stéphane: [makes a great show of turning his mic back on to answer]

Johnny: I think maybe by next summer—

Stéphane: [looks at Johnny incredulously]

Johnny: [ignores him and sails on] —Stéphane and I will perform a number together, possibly good and evil, black and white, [unclear and unclear]…

Stéphane: Uhhhhh…..

Johnny: [confidently] I believe.

Stéphane: [turns off mic, returns to staring at his phone]

Johnny: So, I’m in charge of this pair team—

Stéphane: [glances at Johnny with great amusement]

Johnny: —and, as the boss of the pair team, we’ll work hard, so that we can do a number together. [turns his mic off with a flourish and sits back in his chair, lips pursed with determination]

Kurt: Sometimes pair teams join the names together for one, so it could be, “Stephan…-ny. Stephanny.”

Crowd: [laughs]

Johnny: [decisively] No. We’ll be called the “Rolling Ball of Sparkle.” That’s our pair name.

Kurt: OK. “Stephanny, the Rolling Ball of Sparkle.”

Johnny: NO “Stephanny.” [folds arms across his chest]

Translator: [translates]

Stéphane: [still scrolling thorough selfies, he chooses another one to show Johnny, who approves and makes a gesture to indicate “eyes wide open.” Stéphane makes a wide-eyed face in agreement. I’m guessing this is the one above that Stéphane finally Instagrammed.]

Translator: [still translating]

Stéphane: [sets phone down, picks up fan again. Fans self while making whistling face.]

Translator: [translates the part about the pair team name]

Stéphane: They already call me “Stéphanie” in China, so…

Crowd: [bursts into laughter]

Translator: [translates Stéphane’s comment]

Johnny: [definitively] Rolling. Ball. Of. Sparkle.

Stéphane: [taps Johnny repeatedly with fan] Sparkle.

Translator: [repeats for crowd] The Rolling Ball. Of Sparkle.

Stéphane: [grabs Johnny’s arm and intones dramatically] “The Sparkling Bubble.”

Johnny: [with a look of delight] Or: “The Sparkling Bubble.” It’s clever.

Crowd: Ohhhhh!

Translator: [translates, adding, “Pop. Pop.”]

Johnny: You prefer that. It felt very soft when you were saying, “bubble.”

Translator: Yeah, because I can think of champagne right away!

Stéphane: Yes, exactly. [nods and gestures with his hands to say, “See? You understand why my idea is better!”]

Johnny: Ahhhhh!

Translator: But then “Rolling Balls”—I just don’t know. Erase that image.

Johnny: Just wait. We’ll talk about it for next year

Translator: [unclear; best guess:] OK, I’m going to think about it then.

Stéphane: But Johnny, please… No Lady Gaga.

[Crowd laughs again, and footage concludes with these now-infamous photos.]





[More photos here.]

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