Tuesday night, the west-side Barnes & Noble hosted Johnny Weir, the flamboyant Olympic figure skater Salon.com calls "the Lady Gaga of skating." He was promoting his new memoir, Welcome to My World.
As the crowd grew from a smattering of tween girls and weary moms to a more fevered mass, there was hushed speculation on the biggest question of the evening: what would Johnny wear?
"Maybe he'll wear that," one customer suggested, pointing to the skintight catsuit and heels he wears on the cover of his book.
"I'm picturing more of a military look," another customer mused thoughtfully. "A smart jacket, maybe those Hungarian buttons down the front."
Weir, who made headlines at the 2010 Olympics when two Canadian broadcasters questioned his gender, is making different headlines these days with a documentary series on the Sundance Channel, a pop single and now a memoir.
Welcome to My World is touted as Weir's coming out, but Weir says he was never really in. "With people killing themselves and being scared into the closet," Weir recently told People magazine, "I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story."
Weir is surprisingly self-aware for his 26 years. In his new memoir, he acknowledges his mistakes and immaturity, charting his own growth in the process. "I hated when people told me what to do," he acknowledges in one chapter. "If the entire federation signaled that I should quit, then I would do the opposite -- even if it killed me."
Weir's publicity team is in overdrive this year. In addition to his book tour and TV show, Weir released a dance single, "Dirty Love," a pleasant-but-lifeless techno number that lands about as solidly as Lady Gaga would after a triple axel on the ice.
"How do these kids even know about Johnny Weir?" one twentysomething fan mused as we waited for the guest of honor to arrive.
"They watch the show," one mom explained, struggling under a mountain of coats and bags. "That's how my kids know." The show is Be Good Johnny Weir, an eight-part documentary series on the Sundance Channel, another cog in the wheel of the skater's celebrity.
When Weir finally arrived, flanked on either side by bookstore employees, he climbed on a chair with a perhaps unnecessarily large megaphone, and said a quick hello to the squealing crowd.
"Thank you all for coming out tonight," he said, wearing not a catsuit and sequins but a tasteful turtleneck and gray pants. "I know you all could be home watching Glee."
Weir signed books for an interminable line of devotees, smiling at fans like each was his first. He was quick with hugs and jokes, even chatting with one little girl in her native Russian. For all his manufactured celebrity, Weir comes across as refreshingly sincere.
"[People will] think all the boys who skate will end up like him," a Canadian announcer worried during Weir's flamboyant performance at the 2010 Olympics. We should be so lucky.