Hartford native designed gold-medal skating
Last week was a busy
one for designer Jef Billings.
If the New Hartford native wasnt
giving Katie Couric an interview on The
Today Show, then he was prepping
costumes for Olympic figure skating champions.
Billings, a freelance designer who now
lives in Los Angeles, designed the baby
blue, beaded costume worn by 2002 figure
skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes and
other ensembles for past Olympic figure
Its been the most photographed
costume Ive ever done so far,
Billings also designed the costumes worn
by Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi and
Katarina Witt, who all participated in
opening or closing ceremonies at the Winter
Games in Salt Lake City.
He was in the ice arena when Hughes won
the gold and was as shocked as everyone
else by her performance. Earlier that
day Katie Couric interviewed him on The
in all, that Thursday was a pretty good
day for me, he said.
Billings was called at the last minute
to design Hughes costume. He only
had 10 days to work on it and flew to
Silver Springs, Colo., where she practiced,
Eleanor Billings who still lives in New
Hartford, said she is proud of her sons
In 1999, Jef Billings won an Emmy award
for costumes he designed for a Scott Hamilton
Christmas show. Billings has had three
other Emmy nominations.
As a child growing up in the Mohawk Valley,
he was involved with the Players Theater
with acting and set design. He taught
English at New Hartford High School and
headed the theater department there, Eleanor
Billings received a bachelors degree
in design from SUNY at Oswego and a masters
degree in design from New York Universitys
School of the Arts.
In the 1980s, he designed costumes for
Lily Tomlin, Peggy Fleming, Carol Burnett
and Dolly Parton.
Players President Jane Metzger said she
remembers Billings as an active, creative
and talented 10-year-old boy who participated
in childrens theater.
He was such a little itch,
she said. I have such fond memories
Metzger can remember Billings making puppets
as a child that looked like a professional
had crafted them and later on creating
artistic sets for Players productions.
She hasnt seen him in several years,
but they manage to keep in touch.
Its wonderful to see his hard
work pay off, she said.
The wonderful thing about him is
he doesnt change. Hes as comfortable
as an old shoe, she said.
Back to the Mohawk Valley Hall of Fame