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.


About randygardnermemoirs

National and World Pair Figure Skating Champion
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34 Responses to The Ice Capades Decision

  1. Ted Bogdanowicz says:

    Randy, Love the new post and do think I was very hot especially with those rather large glasses. Happy to call you my friend yesterday, today and always. Ted XO

    • Linda Allen says:

      I just had a chance to read your memoirs! LOVE them! such memories! I was there! …and yes, I used my grandmother’s steamer trunk now collecting dust in her garage. She’s passed, but that trunk still has all the stickers on it!

      Great job! Love, Linda

  2. Yes, Ted. I loved those rather large glasses…

  3. Ted Bogdanowicz says:

    Honestly though, I feel that it’s all Andrea’s doing…

  4. Jim Mullen says:

    Great stories Randy….thanks for sharing your memories for all of us involved!!!

  5. Leave a great travel day story here.

    • GILDA! says:

      Travel Day Story!? That’s a wide open request. The list goes on….But here goes…climbed off the company bus half a sleep in some Texas city on a Holiday on Ice tour…probably checking into the local “Covered Wagon Motel”…ah…the glamour! Checked in at the front desk wearing my BATH ROBE. Needless to say, the performance director was not happy…”I just forgot to take it off before boarding in the previous city.” Atleast, that is what I “made up” at that time! Must of worked…NO FINE!!! 🙂

  6. Pam Miller says:

    Randy, I enjoyed your memoirs! Such good memories!! So young, all of us, and so thin!!OXOX

  7. Dana Slaunwhite says:

    OH my thanks so much for sharing these stories Randy..
    As an adult of 53 yrs now, when i need to go to my “happy place” it’s always at the Ice Capades..
    I always wanted to be a figure skater, back then men’s figure skates were rare, so i got a pr of my aunts white ones and painted them black.
    The paint wouldn’t last long after all we could only skate on the outside ponds.
    A true inspiration to all I will never forget the Ice Capades..
    and what they meant and still mean to me..
    Dana Slaunwhite

  8. As a child growing up in a small rural town, it was always a huge treat to go into the big city to see the newest edition of Ice Capades. I have always wondered what life must have been like on the road for the talented cast and crew of the show. Thank you for giving me a little glimpse of that life. I’d love to hear more stories of those colorful characters that made magic on the ice for starry-eyed little kids like me.

  9. GILDA! says:

    Had the pleasure of working with you and Tai back in the day. True professionals, a beauty to watch and always appreciated the perfect “lines” you both mastered. And wonderful, flawliss jumps and lifts! 🙂

  10. Lisa Baumann says:

    So, so, so happy the way FATE happened and that I worked with both you and Tai. When is this coming out???? I am so excited (and happy) that you are writing about all of this! xoxoox

  11. Dianne Kennedy says:

    Hi Randy, I was a member of the cast of the 18th thru the 21st Editions. Memories memories, definately a lot of shared memories the more things change the more they stay the same even though there is a 20 year difference. We did all the travel on trains, right out of Some Like It Hot, I may still have pics. Gilda and I have a shared bathrobe experience, only I got fined, which was awful because we only made $ 75.00 a week. Lots of calls back home to supplement our income. Thanks for the blog, love it . I just tried to see if there were any skaters out there from my era yesterday. Think I’m coming full circle. Love to you, Dianne Kennedy

  12. Comi Lee says:

    Those are the days my friend
    Do you know how you have enriched so many people’s lives?

  13. Ted Wilson says:

    I was in Capades long before Randy and Tai joined but its so great to read all the responses of people who shared the ice with this famous couple. I’ve never met Tai but had lunch with Randy in Studio City many years ago and we stay in touch now and then. The legacy of Tai and Randy in America is as strong as that left by Sonja Henie, Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton or Brian Boitano. Randy you and Tai live forever in the minds of millions of fans of which I am and always will be one. Best of health and good fortune to you both.

  14. Ted Wilson says:

    There are so few skaters today that are completely gracious. I can name a few such as Richard Dwyer, Gerty Desjardins, Carole Heiss Jenkins but Randy and Tai top the list. What goes around comes around…..

  15. Tara Hosterman Thomson says:

    Randy these memoirs sure bring back good memories….even from the in-between times! I first remember meeting Ted backstage as an “alien.” We were both tall so we were always close together in most numbers. I remember doing a spiral back stage with that alien costume, crashing and then my helmet sliding out under the curtain during Wendy Burges’ performance!!! Now the truth comes out! I guess I could go on, I sure made some good friends (including Ted) and I am sure glad I got to know you and Tai. oxox

  16. tim petersen says:

    randy, I’m just a few years late reading your blog,(go figure) brings back memories!!! errrr!

  17. Good afternoon Randy–We are working on a documentary that mentions the Ice Capades during the 1980’s and I was wondering if we might be able to use the first image on your site in the film
    Please let me know if you would grant me permission to use it. Thank you!

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