Summer Wrap Up 2016-Here Comes Fall!

What an amazing summer for skating it was!  Great shows, clinics, events and blogging.  This is full of exciting, new and free things we did this summer and what to look for in the fall.  Here are a few of my favorites…

RG

The Canadian National Exhibition – Toronto

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“The Hit List” – a figure skating and acrobatic extravaganza based on number 1 hit songs spanning over the decades. The show ran for 17 straight days – with two shows a day and played to a packed houses every show!

Starring Canadian and World Champion, Elvis Stojko and Olympic Bronze Medalist, Joannie Rochette

(Left, Wesley Campbell. Right, Joannie Rochette and Roselle Doyle)

Choreography by Roselle Doyle

Directed by Melanie Royer

The Nantucket Edge Skating Clinic

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I was honored to participate as a guest coach for the Nantucket Edge Skating Clinic this summer with this talented group of coaches: back row: Kristin Barone, Randy, Chad Brennan. front row: Beth-Anne Duxbury, Elin Schran, Gina Light

New post at Skate Guard by Ryan Stevens: Dansants a Glace – Ice Teas At The Hippodrome.

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A look at the elegant 1910’s high-society of New York and their passion with figure skating. http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca

For Fall 2016:

Ice Dance International 2016 Residency, Tour and Clinics: http://www.icedanceinternational.org

The World Figure Championships and Figure Festival starts December 19, 2016 in Toronto:

http://www.worldfigurechampionship.com/championship.html

ICE At Santa Monica Returns – for info and updates: http://www.downtownsm.com/ice

Rink Links:

Tai’s Skating Coloring Book – http://taibabilonia.com/coloring-book.html

Meet Randy!

@therandygardner

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Growing Up Gardner – The Holidays

Our family Christmas party was always a hit.  It always had to take place on the Sunday before Christmas every single year, no matter what day of the week Christmas fell on.  These memories are still so vivid that I still follow my mom and dad’s set-up and execution of the party, but now with a whole new set of family and friends.  I have one week from now to get it ready – the Sunday before Christmas.

Family Christmas Party circa 1962

Family Christmas Party circa 1962

An excerpt from the chapter, Growing Up Gardner from Out In The Cold

By Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner

Our biggest event of the year was the family Christmas party, which included mostly guests from my mom’s side of the family, the Bakers. This party was mom’s shining moment for her family and friends and the guest list grew to be at least 30 people over time.

Uncle Tommy was always the first to arrive. “Ho, Ho, Ho, Meeeeery Christmas!” he’d yell as he came in the front door, sporting his Santa’s hat. His arms would be filled with gifts that he’d deposit next to the Christmas tree in the living room. Aunt Lorraine, his wife, would arrive with him as well as my cousin Debbie, her husband, Jeff and eventually their son, my second cousin, Ron. We would all hug, kiss–Tommy gave wet ones. Uncle Tommy and the whole clan would proceed directly to the bar and make their drinks. I would hear the sounds of Christmas in our house–ice cubes clanging, the bubbly sounds of freshly opened bottles of soda and then the very distinct smell of alcohol. The party had begun.

The annual family Christmas party took place every year while my mother was alive. Even when she became ill and couldn’t get up from the couch, she’d insist on having the party, although Gordy and I were left to do all the preparation and cooking. Mom would sit on her end of the couch in the den while Gordy and I brought her samples of food to taste and approve. She’d munch on all the samples, directing us to add an ingredient or simply yelling, “This isn’t hot enough. Turn the stove up to high!”

We continued to throw the party even when our guest list had shrunk to just six people.

With family friend and baby sitter, Louise, circa 1961

With family friend and baby sitter, Louise, circa 1961

 

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Interesting Parallels

This young man, Matt Dooley, has experienced some of the very same things I did at roughly the same age.  I did not have the suicide attempt, but the emotions surrounding his everyday life are all too similar.  His story is an inspiration.

Here’s an excerpt from my story.  Read this first, then read his.  You should see some similarities, even though they’re decades apart:

Excerpt from “Out In The Cold” by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner:

Tai and I shared a lot during our three-decade career. The fact that I was gay initially seemed to benefit our skating.  Since we weren’t a romantic couple off of the ice, we didn’t have to take our work home with us at the end of the day. But the downside was that as our fame grew, we shared the heavy burden of keeping my sexuality a secret.  If the world found out that I was gay, all of our endorsements would end and we certainly wouldn’t be as popular.  People liked thinking that Tai and I had met as little kids and turned into a loving couple.  It was already difficult enough to deal with being a young, famous champion athlete and being a closeted gay man just made it worse.  I struggled with how to handle the truth.  Sometimes I opted to simply remain in a state of denial.  It just seemed to be the easiest solution.  I knew that coming out would change how everyone saw me.

As I became a successful skater, I knew it was professional suicide to be openly gay.  When I competed in skating back in the seventies, it wasn’t acceptable in any sport to be openly gay.  I had to do everything in my power to avoid suspicion, including pretending to be in relationships with various girls.  It was hard work living my life always on guard that someone would discover the truth.  Keeping the secret about my sexuality was very difficult and made me feel isolated and unsettled.

I used my training and my commitment to skating to distract me from dealing with the issue.  It just was safer that way.  I knew that if I came out, there would be no commercial endorsements in my future. No one in the 1980’s would hire a gay athlete to sell any product. We heard all the time about star athletes not getting commercials or personal appearances simply because there were rumors circulating that they were gay. I knew that coming out would hurt our chances of reaping the commercial rewards of championship skating.  There would be no toothpaste ads, no Wheaties boxes and no Ford commercials.  I’d worked hard for these things.  I wanted the money, the exposure and the status of being on the front of a Wheaties box.  So, I continued with my secret.  I’d worked too hard to have it all taken away.  And, there was also Tai.  I felt a particular responsibility to her to make the most of our career and not to destroy everything by revealing my sexual orientation, so I stayed in the closet.   I didn’t tell anyone—not even Tai.  I always suspected she knew, but we never discussed it.   (When I finally told her, she turned to me with a sly smile and said, “You silly boy, I knew that.”)

Matthew Dooley: http://www.outsports.com/2014/3/3/5460088/matt-dooley-gay-tennis-notre-dame

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What Will Happen In Sochi During the 2014 Winter Games? No Rainbow Flags?

It’s hard enough competing at the elite athlete level, let alone feeling all together different and isolated from everyone else at the same time – alone, odd and scared.

Now that DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) has been abolished in the U.S. and Prop 8 was dismantled in the California Courts, finally there’s hope for gay men and women not only in America but around the world to be allowed to marry and obtain the same civil rights as everyone else.  Some of the world had already beat us to it.  Others are slowly following suit.

Russia now has this unbelievable law prohibiting anything gay – literature, support for gay rights, same-sex unions and rainbow flags.  So now what will really happen in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Games?

I certainly wouldn’t want to be a gay athlete competing over there for the Games, or a coach or a spectator.  And there’s only so much comfort and protection one gets while residing in the Olympic Village.  Besides, who wants to be held hostage in a temporarily perfectly created village just for you?  Eventually you have to venture out.

Will the Sochi police really protect the LGBT community while in their city?  I think not.

I fear we’ll witness a dreadful occurrence in a public place during the Games.  And what a shame that would be.

Below is an excerpt from my memoirs where I talk about my own experience leading up to the 1980 Games in Lake Placid as an in-the-closet Olympic athlete.  Now, 34 years later with hopes of a changed world, I do see many great changes for the better and, unfortunately, one huge step backwards.

Excerpt from “Out In The Cold” by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner:

Tai and I shared a lot during our three-decade career. The fact that I was gay initially seemed to benefit our skating.  Since we weren’t a romantic couple off of the ice, we didn’t have to take our work home with us at the end of the day. But the downside was that as our fame grew, we shared the heavy burden of keeping my sexuality a secret.  If the world found out that I was gay, all of our endorsements would end and we certainly wouldn’t be as popular.  People liked thinking that Tai and I had met as little kids and turned into a loving couple.  It was already difficult enough to deal with being a young, famous champion athlete and being a closeted gay man just made it worse.  I struggled with how to handle the truth.  Sometimes I opted to simply remain in a state of denial.  It just seemed to be the easiest solution.  I knew that coming out would change how everyone saw me.

As I became a successful skater, I knew it was professional suicide to be openly gay.  When I competed in skating back in the seventies, it wasn’t acceptable in any sport to be openly gay.  I had to do everything in my power to avoid suspicion, including pretending to be in relationships with various girls.  It was hard work living my life always on guard that someone would discover the truth.  Keeping the secret about my sexuality was very difficult and made me feel isolated and unsettled.

I used my training and my commitment to skating to distract me from dealing with the issue.  It just was safer that way.  I knew that if I came out, there would be no commercial endorsements in my future. No one in the 1980’s would hire a gay athlete to sell any product. We heard all the time about star athletes not getting commercials or personal appearances simply because there were rumors circulating that they were gay. I knew that coming out would hurt our chances of reaping the commercial rewards of championship skating.  There would be no toothpaste ads, no Wheaties boxes and no Ford commercials.  I’d worked hard for these things.  I wanted the money, the exposure and the status of being on the front of a Wheaties box.  So, I continued with my secret.  I’d worked too hard to have it all taken away.  And, there was also Tai.  I felt a particular responsibility to her to make the most of our career and not to destroy everything by revealing my sexual orientation, so I stayed in the closet.   I didn’t tell anyone—not even Tai.  I always suspected she knew, but we never discussed it.   (When I finally told her, she turned to me with a sly smile and said, “You silly boy, I knew that.”)

© Randy Gardner 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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“I’ve Landed!’ Pt. 2

Excerpt from “Out In The Cold” by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner.

I was getting ready for what would be the most important meeting of my life.  Jay and I  drive from Los Angeles to the central coast of California to where Jay’s meeting is to be held.  From there, early the next morning I start my own drive, which seemed to take hours and hours, winding my way northeast to San Jose and finally arrive at my destination.  I park, scan the hotel buildings and pick just the right one to enter.

As I’m walking down the dimly lit hallway I whisper to myself, “brave, be brave.” I see the number on the hotel room door, take a mighty deep breath and stand very tall. Then I knock on the door…

“Wow, what a great meeting! Thank you so very much for just being you.  Thank you so much for the autographed pictures you gave us.  I am going out today and buy a special frame and put it with the rest of my children.  This is the morning after and I have so much catching up to do.  Better say bye for now.”

When she opened the hotel room door I was somewhat surprised that I had to look down so far at her. I’m only 5’8”.  I nervously relaxed and dropped my shoulders and said, “It’s me!”  She greeted me with a great hug as I bent at the knees.  I noticed the resemblance, but was wondering why I didn’t look more like her.  I never looked liked anyone in my family.  I wanted to.

Our hotel room meeting lasted for only a few hours.  We barely got to know each other, but it was a start.  Dottie and I stood in front of the mirror over the bathroom sink and compared our smiles, eyes and the shape of our jaws.  We got silly at one point smiling, then frowning, then smiling again – finding the similarities of our facial features.  Then it was time for me to leave.

Driving back, I was much more relaxed and content with my discovery.  I didn’t know where I would begin to tell the story to Jay, though.  Even though I had learned a lot that day I had only scratched the surface of finding out about my life and the woman that gave birth to me.  When I arrived back to the hotel where Jay and I were staying, Jay was waiting for me in the room very anxious to hear about the meeting.  I told him what Dottie looked like, how we babbled about simple things and our mirror smiling show. And I think that was about it.  I was exhausted from the trip – one that I never thought I would take.

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“I’ve Landed”

Excerpt from Out In The Cold by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner.

“After I found out about my adoption, I felt compelled to find out the identity of my birth mother.  I had so many questions about where I came from and what had led my birth mother giving me up for adoption.  When I start the search for my birth mother, I immediately hit a brick wall.  My adoption had been a private one, so the records were sealed. My consultant told me that I needed to send a letter to the state requesting they unseal my records. While I waited for a response to my letter, I spent my time at the Los Angeles Public Library searching for information about my birth mother in the public records; names, addresses, marriage licenses.

In the meantime, I found out her name and looked to see if there were any more public records where I could get more information about her.

While most of the country and the world remained fixated on President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, I spent my time cloistered in a small dark corner of the Los Angeles Public Library going through yards of microfilm looking up names and trying to find the documents on the list given to me by the consultant.  It was tedious work, but I was extremely motivated.  After leafing through scores of old documents, I finally found an old phone book from Los Angeles County with phone numbers and address listings and other potentially helpful information.  Once I had enough to pass on to my consultant, I marked it and had the desk print it all out for me.

 It wasn’t long before my search consultant contacted me and asked me if I wanted to make contact with my birth mother.  I didn’t hesitate to say yes.”

©Randy Gardner. All Rights Reserved.

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Rare Pre-Show Photo

I never allowed being photographed in the dressing room pre-show, but Rudy Galindo, my tour buddy, just had to…circa 1997.

Circa 1997

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“I’M WHO?”

Chapter excerpt from Out In The Cold, by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner.

…an important truth that I discovered at age forty, that I’d been adopted as a baby and that my parents lied to me about it.

My discovery that I’d been adopted coincided with the realization that almost everyone in my family knew about my adoption, including my brother, Gordy.  The shock was overwhelming and I found myself feeling as if I didn’t belong anywhere.  I felt adrift after having been so tightly anchored to my family.  I struggle to process how the family that I’d loved and trusted for so much of my life could have lied to me for so many years. I questioned the trust I’d put in mom, my dad and my brother.  I began to wonder what other secrets they’ve been keeping from me.  I didn’t feel as if I could trust them anymore.  They were like strangers that I didn’t know.  I felt unsafe.

I began to do some research into the adoption and decided to take the first steps to find out the identity of my birth mother.  Moments after I’d actually put the paper through the fax machine, T.H. called me back.  “Your birth certificate has been altered,” she said.  My heart sank.

According to my consultant, altering birth certificates was fairly typical back around the time I was born.  She politely asked if I wanted to find out more information—did I want to confirm whether I’d been adopted or not?  I told her that I wanted to know the truth.   T.H. then did a quick search and confirmed that I was, indeed, born in Los Angeles County.

If someone had told me that I’d find out that I was adopted at the age of forty, I never would have believed then.  When I was younger, speculating about the future, I never would have guessed two things about my life at that age—one, that I’d still be skating and two, that I’d be busy confirming that I had been adopted.

When I found out about the adoption, my initial feelings were that of loneliness and uncertainty.  I’d developed a lack of trust in the people I spent my life believing-my Mom, Dad and Gordy.  I questioned their truthfulness.  I wondered what else they’d told me throughout my life that also wasn’t true.  I looked down to my hand.  The freckle I shared with my mom had almost faded away.

©Randy Gardner 2013. All Right Reserved.

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2012: 4,200 Hits!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Happy Holidays!

Wishing you a great holiday season 2012.  Will be back right after the new year with more excerpts from Out In The Cold.  Thanks for stopping by.

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“Life In The 1980’s” Reparative Therapy, by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner

“…they responded to the news by arranging for me to see a psychologist who was confident that my “problem” could be fixed through “change therapy,” aka Reparative Therapy.

The psychologist explained that his therapy was very effective in helping people like me make permanent lifestyle changes.

The sessions would definitely cure my problem and I’d be able to lead a normal, productive life.  I’m sure that his words gave my parents some solace.  They smiled with relief, crossed their collective fingers, convinced that the therapy would make a difference and I’d come to my senses.

Mid-1980’s

I lied to the psychologist (“I really do want to be straight!”) just to appease him and my parents. I went to a few sessions before quitting.  My parents would have to face the cold hard facts.  There was no cure…”

© Randy Gardner 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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Sonja Henie: 100th Anniversary Of Her Birth

When I was an 8 year old boy my parents took me to see the ISU World Tour of Champions in Los Angeles at the Forum arena.  The tour featured all the current medalists from the World Championships that year.  As a young skater I was in awe of all these great champions and watched the show with my eyes wide open not believing I was actually seeing these skaters perform live.

After the show, we were able to go backstage to get autographs.  But, there was a commotion going on down the hallway.  A crowd had gathered around a short woman with her signature short blonde wavy hair wearing a  full-length white fur with  sparkling jewels around her neck.  Cameras were flashing and programs were being handed to her for signatures. It was Ms. Sonja Henie!

She had come to watch the show, and naturally, she was the star of the evening – a three-time Olympic Champion, movie star and star of her own ice show, “The Hollywood Ice Revue” from the late 1940’s through the 1950’s.

A lasting impression for this young boy and one that I always talk about when reflecting on my early years as a skater.

SONJA JENIE:

April 8, 1912 – October 12, 1969

With Sonja's dress

With Ms. Henie's dress at the Roy Blakey Collection.

Olympic Champion 1928, 1932, 1936 and ten consecutive World Championships.

She came to Hollywood in the late 1930’s to start her movie career at Twentieth Century Fox.

During her film career some of her co-stars were Ray Milland, Robert Cummings, Don Ameche, Ethel Merman, Cesar Romero, Billy Gilbert and Tyrone Power.

She was born in Oslo, Norway and in 1941, she became a U.S. citizen.

Ms. Henie was one of the most popular movie stars of the 1940’s because of her unique films starring her as a skater and featuring eleborate sets and costumes.

Some of her skating partners were Michael Kirby, Marshall Beard and Eugene Turner – both in her movies, as well as, her tour.

Happy 100th to Ms. Sonja Henie!

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“Becoming Champions”

By Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner. An excerpt from Out In The Cold.

1979, U.S. Champions.

The month of March is traditionally the time of the World Figure Skating Championships.  In this missive, I describe my observation of the Olympic and World Championship pair skating teams from Eastern Europe – formally the eastern block.

“…As international athletes, we traveled the world for competitions and exhibitions.  We experienced traveling to the eastern block countries during the height of the cold war – seeing the effects of communism behind the Iron Curtain.  We saw how the machine worked.  We learned that pairs skating was dominated by the Russians and the East Germans.

We saw that tall, young men were usually paired with incredibly petite female partners in both East Germany and Russia. I witnessed first hand how both countries in the eastern block fed their pair skaters “special vitamins” to give them the edge over the competition.  The special vitamins helped the young skating girls become incredibly powerful, even at the age of fifteen, so they’d have no problem keeping up with their more mature male partners. The “vitamins” also resulted in the young girls having incredible growth spurts and growing little fuzzy mustaches like a pubescent boy.  Once they got too tall for their male partner, they were never seen again at competition.  It was like they’d fallen off the face of the earth.  Another team would replace them the following year. It was a system that, however cruel, worked for those countries.”

Copyright: Randy Gardner. All Rights Reserved.

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February, 1980…

February, 1980 Winter Olympics Newspaper Ad

Post #11

Excerpt from “Out In The Cold” Written by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner

“…I remember picking up a copy of The New York Times on the day of the competition and seeing this large advertisement with a picture of Tai leaning back against me as we glided across the ice.  The caption next to the picture read: “The grace. The glory. The gold.”  We were the complete package—young, attractive, confident champions with gleaming, all-American smiles.  The only thing standing between us and having our picture put on the cover of a Wheaties box was winning a gold medal.

I was keeping a secret from the world that had the potential to destroy my skating career.  Only ten days earlier during our practice on the ice, I’d suffered a groin pull injury to my left leg.  The pain was so intense that I was unable to execute even the simplest of jumps.  Although I’d downplayed the injury with Tai, telling her I’d be fine, I wasn’t so sure.  I rushed off to see a physician who immediately offered me every drug imaginable.  All I had to do was ask and they’d give me whatever I wanted.  I was like a very profitable racehorse that everyone was betting on to win.  There was a lot at stake.  Hopefully, the experts would turn out to be right…”

Randy Gardner, All Rights Reserved.

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The Ice Capades Decision

Post #10 “The Ice Capades Decision” 

Immediately after we withdrew from the Olympic games, I returned home and began the lengthy process of healing, both emotionally and physically.  It didn’t take long for Tai and I to realize that we’d actually become more popular following the Games. On April Fool’s day 1980 – only a few months after our February appearance in Lake Placid – we signed with the Ice Capades for a hefty three year contract and landed lucrative endorsement deals with Lee Jeans and Nestle’s Crunch.

The Ice Capades’ management wanted us to debut in Los Angeles later that month. Our opening night debut was to be an event—filled with all sorts of fanfare welcoming us back to the ice.   After all, this was to be our first skating appearance since Lake Placid. I was thrilled at the chance to be back on the ice and to be part of Ice Capades.  It was a childhood dream of mine to star in a professional show. I started skating because I loved going to ice shows and also, because I loved watching the competitive skating on television.  During my years skating, I’d made all sorts of friends who’d ended up working in professional shows. I was excited to finally be a member of the club.

Speculation was rampant before our first show.  “Would they be ready?  Are they still as good?  What would they be like?”

The evening of our Ice Capades debut, Mom, Dad, Gordy and Tai’s family were all in the audience, anxiously waiting for us to embark on the next phase of our skating career.

The announcement came over the speakers situated in a cluster right overhead of the audience, “The Ultimate, Two As One, World Champions, Tai and Randy!”  When the lights hit us, we were already in motion.  The applause was so loud that we could hardly hear the music.  But the adrenaline and the overwhelming love from the audience pushed us to be our very best.  I remember that we skated nearly perfect that night.  We got a standing ovation and answered all of the questions with a single performance.  Lake Placid was behind us and we’d begun a new, exciting professional chapter in our life.

But life in the Ice Capades was more than just standing ovations and fancy costumes.  We quickly found out that our work was only just beginning.  We had a tour of 30 weeks in front of us.  The new season began in September, so we took the summer to learn our new material, get new costumes designed, learn how to apply make up and learn how to deal with press conferences in every city.  Oh, yes, and we had to get wardrobe trunks to take on tour with us.  I scored a great 1930’s steamer trunk that was an original from Saks Fifth Avenue.  It still sits in my bedroom as a reminder of our touring days.

The new Ice Capades tour started in Duluth, Minnesota.  We arrived two weeks early to put finishing touches on our numbers and to work with the cast of fifty that made up the entire show.  The final costume fittings were done on-site so we could skate in them before the show opened to be sure everything would hold up and also not be too cumbersome during the performance.  Each set of costumes had to endure for at least two years of touring, so they were constructed to last.  They were made of heavy spandex (like triple strength) with beading and stones that were riveted to the fabric.  The costumes had zippers that were around an inch wide and  double wide seams that could be let out or taken in depending on weight fluctuation.

During performance 1980

The “gypsies” in the show were much different than the folks we knew from the Ice Capades Chalet in Santa Monica where we trained for the last eight years of our career.  We were now in a family of performers that ranged anywhere from 18 to 60 in age: all of different ethnic backgrounds, all with different abilities and few of whom we knew very well.

There was the skating clown act, Biddy and Baddy (stars of European ice shows) and Terry Head and Gisela (the British ice comics that had 25 years of experience). The show also included the 5’10 showgirls (wearing their g-strings and fishnets running around backstage with their hair in skull caps), then the other principal skaters with the other 40 girls and guys in the chorus. This group would become our traveling family for the next nine months.

We’d travel from city to city by planes and buses.  On the bus travel days, we had two buses for the cast that would be fairly full, but Tai and I got a single row.  Several big trucks proceeded the buses, carrying the actual show — the sets, costumes, rigs, and crates full of anything and everything that was needed to set up for the opening night at any given engagement.  The trucks proudly displayed the famous Ice Capades logo on the side as they drove down the highway and led the caravan before turning onto the streets of the new town. The trucks would split off and go to the arena and the buses would head toward the hotel.

Some trips began in the early morning, others left later in the day, depending on how far we had to go and on the weather conditions.  We would try and dress comfortably on travel days.  I  hoped that my new Levi 501 button down jeans would be broken in enough so as to not restrict me from stretching my legs out across the aisle.  Sometimes, though, I had to sacrifice comfort for style.

Ted, Eddie and Scott on a travel day 1981.

Relationships on the tour flourished between cast members — men and women, men with men and women with women. Given the close quarters day-in and day-out on the road, relationships between cast members were inevitable. It was during this first tour that I began my first real relationship with a young man who skated in the show.

His name was Ted.  He came from Chicago and had been in the show two years before we arrived. Ted was a well seasoned professional who skated in the chorus (although he was two years younger than I).

Ted publicity shot - 1980

He told me that he’d decided to stay with the show because he’d learned that Tai and I were going to be joining the cast.  He was a little shy, with glasses, a lean body and clean cut looks.   He slowly edged his way towards me during our first few days of active rehearsals.

Although we had mutual friends in the show, Ted was still too shy to approach me directly.  Initially, he’d simply follow the others to dinner or drinks after rehearsal days.  He would scoot his way toward me, ending up talking to me at the table afterwards.  How convenient!  He had had a crush on me, but didn’t really know what to do about it.  He eventually had a mutual friend, Andrea, (one of the tall girls in the show), call me in my hotel room one late night.

“Ted likes you,” Andrea said, “but he’s too scared to tell you.”  Well, that’s all I needed to hear.

© Randy Gardner. All Rights Reserved.

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Another Reflection Of The 1980 Olympics

Post #9

Excerpt  from “Out In The Cold” Written by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner.

Although Tai and I were coming into the games as the favorite to win the gold medal in the pairs skating, I was still concerned about our chances.  I was keeping yet another secret from the world and this secret had the potential to destroy my skating career.  Around ten days earlier during our practice on the ice, I’d suffered a groin pull injury to my left leg.  The pain was so intense that I was unable to execute even the simplest of jumps.  Although I’d downplayed the injury with Tai, telling her I’d be fine, I wasn’t so sure.  I’d rushed off to see a physician who’d immediately offered me every drug imaginable.  All I had to do was ask and they’d give me whatever I wanted.  I was like a very profitable racehorse that everyone was betting on to win.  There was a lot at stake.

After Tai and I defeated the top Russian team at the 1979 World Championships—ending the Russians fourteen-year dominance in the sport—people who followed skating began talking about how we had a chance of winning gold at the Olympics.  Our popularity increased and ABC, the network that was carrying the Olympics, featured us prominently in their advertising for the games.  We were everywhere—television, magazines and newspapers.  I remember picking up a copy of The New York Times on the day of the competition and seeing this large advertisement with a picture of Tai leaning back against me as we glided across the ice.  The caption next to the picture read: “The grace. The glory. The gold.”  We were the complete package—young, attractive, confident champions with gleaming, all-American smiles.  The only thing standing between us and having our picture put on the cover of a Wheaties box was winning a gold medal…

…We skated back over to our coach.  He glanced at the clock.  “Keep going,” he instructed through clenched teeth.  “You’re running out of time.”  Since the warm-ups are timed, we only had six or seven minutes to see if we’ll be able to compete.   The pressure was intense.  I had to get it right this time.  We skated off and tried to execute the side-by-side double flip jump, but I couldn’t even pull my leg in and I fell to the ice.   I quickly got up, aware that the clock was ticking.  I tried it again and once more fell to the ice.  The crowd gasped with surprise and concern.  They couldn’t believe that I’d fallen once, yet alone twice.  We tried the jump once more and I fell again.

Our coach John motioned me over.  I skated towards him, dreading what he was about to say.  “I think we have to withdraw,” he said forcefully, hoping I wouldn’t respond.

“No,” I replied quickly. “Just let me try it one more time.” I stared at him, refusing to accept his verdict.

Dick Button choked up as he watched us leave.   He’d always described our skating as “soft elegance” and referred to us as “pure California sunshine.”  He knew how bitterly disappointed we both were.  He understood what it meant for us to not compete.  “We’ve just gotten word that Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner are going to have to withdraw,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion.


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Easter Egg Hunt!

Easter in Arizona with my brother Gordy and cousins Ann and Brad from my dad’s side of the family. Circa 1960.

Post your Easter story here and be considered for publication in my memoir “Out In The Cold” where I am looking to share stories from friends and family.  Did you have Easter egg hunts, travel to relative homes, meet the Easter Bunny? Who filled your basket with the most goodies? Two paragraphs should do it!

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Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and yours a great holiday season and happy, happy new year.  New excerpts are coming soon from my memoirs, “Out In The Cold.

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Circa 1967

(Post #6)

I started figure skating in 1966, but it was really during my second year on the ice that I started to have fun with it. It was 1967 when I really committed to skating.  The country was watching “Family Affair” on television.  I was obsessed with the Monkees and Jimi Hendrix blew away the crowd at a wild performance in Forest Hills, New York.

Excerpt from “Out In The Cold” written by Randy Gardner with Allison Hope Weiner:

The young skaters at the rink were all gathered around in a circle.  They were shouting, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten!”  I’d completed ten jumps in a row, showing off, as usual.  I wasn’t always the best one of the group, but I certainly tried to be.  I was fearless on the ice.  If when my little body wasn’t strong enough to do the things that the big kids did, it didn’t stop me from flinging myself in the air and trying to do a jump anyway.  I didn’t care if it didn’t end well—if I ended up sprawled out on the ice.  I just kept trying to do everything the big kids did.  The other kids encouraged me to try all the jumps.  They loved making me their guinea pig.  And, I loved it too.

It may seem as though everything else I did was secondary to skating back then, but I did manage to fit other things into my busy schedule.  My family spent a lot of time at the movies together.  I remember that “Bonnie and Clyde” was one of my favorites. It was a fairly intense movie for a kid, but my parents wanted me to see it. I was interested in their story.  But I remember that when that final shoot-out scene happened in the film, I slid off my seat on to the floor and covered my eyes.  I glanced through my fingers and caught a glimpse of both Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty’s bodies being shaken and riddled with bullets.  Then, the sound went quiet and I saw Beatty’s body on the ground and Faye Dunaway’s body hanging half way out of their stolen car.  Both were still and lifeless in their blood soaked clothes.

I remember my mom looking down at me and asking, “Are you alright, Lil’ Rand?”  “Yes,” I replied, sliding myself back on to my seat just in time to watch the final credits.  My heart was still pounding with fear, but I also felt excited and exhilarated by the experience.  Whenever I catch the film on television, I go back to that day in the theater and can still remember the myriad of emotions that raced through my tiny body as I sat on the floor, peeking at the screen through my fingers.

During my first years at the rink, I quickly gained a reputation for being really good.  I was known as the little hot shot and it was easy to make friends with the other kids even though at ten years old, I was one of the younger skaters.  Most of the other kids were in their early teens.

We would all carry small suitcases to the rink that held our skates and personal belongings like extra cloths, books, games, cards and anything else that we needed to kill time when we weren’t skating. During breaks from skating, we’d spread our junk out on the benches and play games or help each other with homework.

My coach, Mable, had all kinds of students of every color.  All of her students had a bond with each other and her.  We all loved her.  Not only was she our coach, she was our leader and the queen of the rink.  She had several black students, mostly girls, and we hung out together all the time.  Their sense of humor and street smarts would always make me laugh.

During a break one day, I glanced down the row of benches and saw a new girl playing with her dolls.  She was a tiny little thing with mocha colored skin and golden locks of hair.  She was quiet and completely focused on taking care of her dolls as if she were their mom.  I walked over to her, curious to get a closer look at the dolls.  The girl introduced me to the dolls, telling me each of their names.  After introductions, she handed me one of the dolls to hold.  I stood there holding the doll as she returned her attention to the rest.

The shy little eight year old girl had the most beautiful hair I had ever seen.  Her name was Tai Reina Babilonia.

© Randy Gardner. All Rights Reserved.

One of our early photos. (early 1970's)

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Dazzlin’ Dancin’ Aunt Ducky

(Post #5) Excerpt from “Out In The Cold” written by Randy Gardner and Allison Hope Weiner

My mother’s sister, Ducky, was the dancer. (She got her nickname because of a duck-shaped birthmark on her back.) She and Johnny would hit the nightclubs of Los Angeles almost every night of the week. They started in the 1940’s and went well into the 1980’s.  They were actually personal friends with both Lawrence Welk and Tommy Dorsey.  Ducky worked for years as a secretary at Northrup, the military aircraft manufacturer.  Johnny worked at Union Pacific Railroad for almost his entire career.  Although they were both barely making ends meet, they always managed to save just enough money to go out dancing each night.  They would get home from work, change into formal attire and head out to the hottest nightclubs in town.

 

backrow: Aunt Jane, Dad, Johnny, Ducky (peeking), Randy. frontrow: Lommie, Mom.

They were quite well known on the dance circuit, competing often and occasionally even winning.  Sometimes my entire family would all go to watch their dance contests.  Since I was underage when they danced, I don’t know how they managed to get me into the clubs. But I remember being there with my parents and my brother, Gordy, happily watching Ducky and Johnny glide around the dance floor.  I can still remember sitting in a balcony at the famous Hollywood Palladium, watching the orchestra play while they danced around the floor under the sizzling, hot lights.

It looked a lot like the ballroom competitions today, although not quite as formal.  The dancers were virtually the same, but the competitions took place in gorgeously ornate nightclubs and there was a live orchestra accompanying the dancers.   I adored watching the couples whirling and twirling around the dance floor, each taking their turn in front of the judges.  We were all so proud when Johnny and Ducky hit the floor, hootin’ and hollerin’ as they trotted out there, nailed the complicated steps and ended up taking home the big trophy.

Johnny and Ducky’s dance routines inspired me and were partly responsible for my choice of career.  Ducky, in her own quirky way, was a wonderful character.  She was slightly neurotic, never learning to drive because of her fear of left hand turns.  She was so deeply afraid of left hand turns that Johnny had to figure out a way to drive her without ever making a left hand turn. He was often left circling, making one right hand  turn after another.  Ducky also worried whenever our family left the house, even if it was just for dinner. If she knew we were going out, we’d have to call her when we got home to assure her we were fine.  If we came for a visit to their apartment, we would have to call to let her know we’d made it home safely.  She was very protective of me, always reminding me to “look left, look right and all around” before crossing the street.  She constantly told me not to talk to strangers—even after I turned forty.

She loved me completely and absolutely and was always interested in everything I did.  She’d save everything of mine—report cards, party invitations and even the Christmas cards I sent her.  She made scrape books and photo albums of everything.  One of the scrapbooks she made contained a note I’d sent to my mother:

“Dear Mommy, I love you truly and dearly.  I’m sorry for what I did to you last night.  Love, Randy.” (I’d written the note after I got upset before a family outing and decided to take my clothes off.)

Age 8

She also kept a note that a teacher wrote about me when I was six.

“Randy had to stay after school because the teacher said he talked all day – to himself.  When asked what he was talking about, he replied, I was telling myself I can’t do this work!

She saved items that celebrated my achievements and drive.

“Randy cut an ad out of the TV Guide advertising a school for talented children. He filled it out himself and went around to the mail box to mail it.  I was talking to Sis on the phone when he returned and he came to the phone and said, ‘Ducky, don’t call an agent for me, I have my own.’  He is so precious and someday he will be a star.  Talented he is – sings, dances, ice skates, plays accordion, harpsichord and you name it.  Am I a proud aunt?  You bet I am!”

She’d saved several things from my ninth birthday– my guest list, a paper plate from the party and cards from all my friends that attended.

“Someday you will be with the Ice Follies.  We loves ya.”

When I read those scrapbooks, they always bring back great memories of my childhood.  But although Ducky and I had a special relationship, she didn’t have the same connection with my brother Gordy.  I always found it odd that Ducky didn’t save hardly anything of his.

Lommie and Ducky’s love for me was immense.  Sometimes it was overwhelming and even annoying, but the majority of the time their adoration helped me flourish.  They made me feel safe and loved.  They were the ones who taught me what it meant to really love someone.

© Randy Gardner. All Rights Reserved

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