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.
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.
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).
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.