Going for More Gold : Bonnie Blair Now Gets the Chance to Cash In on Her Olympic Victory

Times Staff Writer

The morning she won her gold medal, Bonnie Blair bounced out of bed and had what turned out to be her breakfast of champions.

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

But if everything works out, America's newest gold medalist may soon be able to afford a finer meal and dine somewhere else besides a cafeteria line. Breakfast at Tiffany's, perhaps?

The selling of Bonnie Blair has already begun, according to her agent, who said he isn't quite sure what the price of gold will be.

"I haven't put any dollar amount on it," said Jim Fink, who is Blair's agent from Champaign, Ill. "I think a gold medal is worth the quality of the human being who wins the gold medal. Maybe Bonnie Blair will establish new value for a gold medal because of her personality."

Blair won a gold medal in the women's 500-meter speed skating race Monday night and Tuesday morning, Fink said at least one deal, with Disney World, had already been closed.

"Here's the campaign slogan we've developed: 'Bonnie Blair--A Woman and a Winner.' Let them play with that for awhile on Madison Avenue," Fink said.

Fink, who is a bank vice president and a longtime friend of the Blair family, indicated that he has pursued other endorsement possibilities for Blair.

He listed beer, cosmetics, women's clothes and food company. A deal with American Express may be reached sometime this week, Fink said.

"She's got everything that Mary Lou Retton had," he said. "She was the small person who went out and beat the big person, the David and Goliath kind of thing."

Retton set the gold standard for American women Olympians. In the first year after Retton won a gold medal as the all-around gymnastics champion in the Los Angeles Games, her income from a series of endorsements was estimated at $1 million.

Lee S. Mimms, a Studio City, Calif.-based personal manager of former Olympic gold medalist figure skaters Peggy Fleming and Robin Cousins and silver medalist Rosalyn Sumners, thinks Blair may have a future in endorsements.

"I would drive this point home to the buyers--conceivably she could be the only American woman gold medalist from the Olympics," Mimms said. "That would automatically make her more attractive.

"The qualities I get from her are believability and vulnerability," Mimms said. "She's also very fresh and very new. Those are tremendous qualities in marketing anybody."

However, Blair could also have some problems making money off her gold medal. Leonard Armato, an attorney in the Los Angeles firm of Bushkin, Gaims, Gaines and Jonas, specializes in sports marketing and represents Laker star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, among other athletes. Armato is not sold on Blair.

Armato said speed skating is still an obscure sport and, while Blair's gold medal was clearly a worthy accomplishment, it does not compare to the seven gold medals won by swimmer Mark Spitz in 1972 or even Retton's single gold medal in 1984.

"In a month, no one will even remember her," Armato said. "It's sort of like Andy Warhol's 'everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.' She'll be famous for a few weeks."

Armato admitted he could be mistaken about Blair. "I don't have a crystal ball and I'm not a guru," he said. "I may be mistaken, but I don't think so."

Blair has two more races to improve her position in the business world. Fink said there is a direct link between the medals she could win and and the amount of money they are worth.

"Everything has a hook on it," Fink said. "Gold, silver, there are varying degrees of pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.

"She has no concept of who she is and what she has accomplished."

Blair insisted that she is concentrating on her 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter races, not weighing the value of gold from a race she has already skated.

"As far as the cashing in goes, right now, I don't really know too much," she said. "It sure would be nice to get a little bit of something out of it, but it's not something I'm relying on or going to base the rest of my life on.

"I don't feel like a star," Blair said. "I just love to skate."

Blair set a world record of 39.10 in the 500-meter race when she defeated East German Christa Rothenburger, who skated before her, by .02 of a second.

"The race went by so fast, it's hard for me to even remember," Blair said. "I came across the line and saw that time and had the shock of my life.

"It's gradually starting to sink in, but I think it's going to be a little bit longer before it really hits me."

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