Came across this book Charisma Inc. On Edge – by Louise Titchener the other day in a used bookstore and just had to read it – right away! I mean the theme was ice skating , the cover had a guy in spandex and in the background an explosion – it promised an exciting read!
Starts off with Samantha St. James, a pretty undercover agent for the Charisma Inc. Secret detective agency, who is asked to brush up her skating to infiltrate the hip , touring skating show – Ice Dazzle. I’m not fooled they’re obviously hinting about the Ice Capades – which at the time this book came out offered to boost it’s flagging popularity with a Nintendo theme! Hosted by Alyssa Milano and Jason Bateman?! The reason for the book’s mystery? To help a possible defector ( this was when Olympian defectors were all the rage in t.v. shows, movies , and yes stories!) Though unsure about making the cut Samantha’s dazzling talent sparks off a fission of jealousy and admiration among the other girls trying out. When one curvy redhead – why are the redheads always the deadly ones? – jabs her in the ankle with her skate blade , gutsy Samantha tries to carry on with her routine only to take a monster spill. However things are looking up when Scott Parkinson , the Scott Parkinson skates out to help her up. Scott as in Scott Hamilton? She then discovers that the curvy , dangerous redhead had slashed not only her ankle but also the intended target her laces. Of course she’s hired and joins Amber her co-worker at Charisma Inc. Already undercover in the costume department.
I love this upcoming line describing Samantha’s fellow co-worker Amber’s date- ‘Scott’s friend did trick skating and worked as a clown for Ice Dazzle. But when he took off his white face paint and baggy costume he was a striking , black haired hunk of twenty two year old masculinity.’ Mmmrph! My kind of man!
After an exhausting day of rigorous ice skating routines Samantha lays back in bed wearing a Mickey Mouse nightgown listening to the Beatles , nursing a diet Coke and finishing up her favorite candy bar – Reece’s Peanut Butter cups. – I love that! You rarely see candy bars especially by name mentioned in series books sometimes I think the writers have seen too many health PSA commercials put out by NBC etc. all with cool jingles and animated sequences reminiscent of Schoolhouse Rock. Member that guy who looked like a chewed up wad of banana bubblegum wearing a top hat? His name is Timer and he was put out by DePatie-Freleng. Check him out – He was always singing the praises of fruit and vegetables and brushing your teeth. Oddly enough when candy bars do come up I’m surprised that the most popular is – Snickers bars? Weird huh? Of course Amber comes in just then in ‘sleek, black leather pants and a topaz silk blouse that emphasized her tawny coloring’ and made Samantha feel like a total grunge. – Amber has an amazing wardrobe – I love clothing descriptions! – paisley shawls , snakeskin clutches , emerald silk skating skirts.
The mystery heats up when Samantha learns that Scott’s old rival Gunther Loehr will be joining up with them as they jet off to Europe, could he be the possible defector?, and did he really try to sabotage Scott at the Olympic’s when glitter sequins from his costume were found on the ice when Scott took a spill that cost him the gold medal? Wait and see. Unbeknownst to Samantha and Amber a mysterious someone has already guessed there is a government plant and lurks about in the shadows with a fiendishly clever plan that nearly gets the girls killed just off the plane with a suitcase bomb – Ka-boom! Of course being a teen lit/ light book no one is hurt. Not that I wanted to ‘see’ severed limbs fly but well.. Sometimes when you just know nobody is going to get hurt you wish the writer would surprise you.
While Scott and Gunther battle it out on the ice rink and off the ice rink , Scott having already made a connection with the lovely Samantha is irritated when Gunther starts to use her as a pawn flirting wildly with her just to annoy Scott. The curvy redhead – Alison continues to cause trouble on the ice and Amber even succumbs to jealousy noting that Samantha is getting all the attention. Could be the sexy skating costumes. Deciding to try on Samantha’s steamy costume for her grand finale which includes mesh stockings , high cut red and white striped briefs and blue sequined top Amber’s ordeal proves to be one of the most bizarre, funniest, proposed terror
sequences ever! After wriggling the tight costume into place – Amber notices a warm sensation start. Tugging at the briefs doesn’t help , the warm kicks up to an uncomfortable warmth and then unbearable! Feeling as though she’s on fire and unable to remove the costume she leaps into an icy shower.
When Samantha comes in and finds Amber soaking in a bubble bath the tattered remains of her costume on the floor- Amber says – “You are looking at a girl whose body has been severely mistreated by a scrap of tacky yard goods”( So what had happened? itching power! Blazing shorts! Amber even jawdroppingly says – That innocent outfit tried to eat me alive?! I was howling with laughter! Blazing briefs! ) Upon closer inspection of her ruined costume Samantha notices behind a silver sequin is a transmitter. The writer has one upped it – blazing , bugged briefs!
The mystery is pretty easy to guess – but still it’s in keeping with the t.v. shows of the time when the pretty detective needed a love interest narrowing down your options of villiany
to a possible two. When Samantha is trapped in a stalled elevator and in climbs Gunther who tries to play off his prank as mere means to find a moment alone with her , the reader has to either guess he’s being coy about defecting or he has something to do with our mystery villain
and the bomb.
One of my favorite moments is a reoccurring mention of a nightclub called Heaven –
I started snickering right away. And if you recalled the 80’s movie I did , you would too!
Which movie you might ask – A Night in Heaven staring that top-notch bomb-detonator Christopher Atkins – though I will give him credit for delivering a pretty sexy striptease as Ricky the Rocket! In a hilarious book called Bad Movies We Love by Edward Margulies & Stephen Rebello – they dub the scene as Luke Skywalker on Extasy! And though Christopher Atkins deserved an entire chapter in their book , his movie is aptly placed in the Bring on the Bimbos chapter.
The nightclub sports all kinds of London freakazoids – punks – with fluorescent hair , shirts made entirely out of black feathers , dresses of chain link and even Samantha sports a mouth of purple lipstick and a froozy wig to fit in. Gloria lead skater brakes her leg and when they discover it was caused by the blade on her ice skate Samantha is offered the lead in the show and is now faced with the opportunity of leaving Charisma Inc for her dream of ice skating. She gives the lead instead to Alison who is
surprised and grateful and clears up the readers doubt that she loosened Gloria’s skate blade.
It’s pretty clear by this point Gunter is involved with the mystery villain although the reader is still clueless as to why. Meanwhile Samantha and Scott drive off to paint the town red and nearly do – with blood when they discover the steering on their rental has been tampered with , luckily Samantha’s driving. Faced with the probable head on collusion of a lorry truck , Samantha unable to stop or turn the wheel opens her door , allowing a gust of wind to push the car a fraction of a few inches forcing it to swerve just enough to escape the path of the lorry truck!
The mystery comes to it’s zenith as Samantha forces Gunther to reveal that he wants to defect , late at night in his bedroom causing some complications with Scott. Later before their performance Gunther is smuggled off to a hotel in a clown costume ( a touch of Her Alibi? – remember that movie – Paulina Poriskova’s family is a bunch of clowns who want to defect to America.)
When Samantha joins up with Gunther who is griping about the lack of food , she gets a call from Amber who reveals the mystery – Gunther doesn’t want to defect he wants to embarrass America by pretending that he was kidnaped! And wouldn’t you know it Gunther was listening on the extension – as the two warily circle the reader anxiously waits for the actual fisticuffs , wham! pow! Yes , Samantha kicks some butt even if she does resort to breaking a lamp over Gunther’s head to subdue him and while I was marveling at a girl actually rescuing herself , Amber and Russ arrive followed by the dreaded mystery villain the never seen Kolker who knocks out Russ and plots to have the girls drive a van off a cliff ( with Gunther inside – so much for partners in crime! ) as a brutal fight kicks off – Volker is too much for Samantha and Amber who are rescued by Scott – who happened to be following them out of his jealousy. Oh well , I suppose it is nice to be rescued by a gorgeous hunk now and then. As Gunther is left to be shipped back to East Germany having soiled his image , and Kolker will probably be traded for a British spy , Samantha can’t wait for her next assignment. Neither can I! – Pretty cool series.
All this talk of ice skating made me dig out an old 80’s movie called Blades of Courage – ever seen it? It’s pretty good – one of those token t.v. movies that always hinge on something topical to expose – this time it was unscrupulous coaches. The story starts with
spunky Lori a lively teen with a passion for ice skating whose bronze win takes everyone by surprise – most especially the sponsors lurking around for the next Olympic hopeful. Suddenly she is taken on by a driven coach whose main techniques seem to be parallel to that of an abusive spouse! First he separates her from her family ( okay well , the mother was a bit of a spotlight hog always trying to horn in on Lori’s wins – big deal ) , but then when Lori doesn’t skate perfectly and gets a little fresh faced – he flips out and tears her down – till she collapses in sobs and because there is no one there to comfort her , she must crawl into the lap of her tormentor. But the final blow comes later when love-hungry Lori is seduced by her coach and then it’s made pretty obvious that , that was just to humor her , as he is caught with someone else.
Feeling used Lori gets off this emotional roller coaster by sabotaging her own career – falling on every jump during an important competition – forcing them to toss her aside. Of course what would a t.v. movie be without it’s victorious ending – Lori pulls herself together and joins forces with a calmer coach , and enters the Olympics. There is even a showdown in the dressing room as her old coach tries to psyche her out by saying she always flubs her triples so why bother, she coldly tells him that not only will she nail them but everyone will see she succeeded without him , that nobody will touch him as a coach when she gets through. It’s one of those yes!-yes!-sock-it-to-him moments and you just know she’ll skate brilliantly. Funny , how stupid little things get overlooked in a movie like this , or maybe it’s just that time needs to pass but I love Lori’s wardrobe in this movie! It’s full of bright sweaters , bold earrings – even better those color-coordinated sets like earrings that matched your clothes and socks!
My fave – is her fat yarn hair ribbons – I loved buying these as a kid – they came in a fat plastic bag in a rainbow of bright crayon colors. I decided to take some grab it pictures I hope you like them – The actress is Christianne Hirt , whose a real doll here- sometimes she looks like Meredith Salenger , sometimes she reminds me of what Kristy ( as in the Babysitters club ) would look like if she were real. Hope you enjoy!