On the ice with Kurt at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California: January 15, 2000.
Photo by & Courtesy of Lois Browning.
^C 2000 by JHB Website & Lois Browning.
When mom and I arrived in Anaheim, our most difficult challenge was finding Kurt. The backstage area at the Pond, home of the Mighty Ducks, is very large downstairs, with the winding corridors, and lots of room. We encountered Katia Goordeeva and Ilia Kulik kicking a soccer ball around, and even passed Steven Cousins in the hallway a couple of times before locating Kurt, in the offices, where he had been talking to Sonia on the phone.
It seems she had just purchased a doghouse. Then Kurt got word that his brother and other family members had arrived and we're looking for him. So he went off to greet them, while Mom and I took this opportunity to visit with Jenni Meno and Todd Sand who were in the midst of giving the grand tour to 1999 U.S. Senior Ladies Silver Medalist, Naomi Nari Nam, whom I had never met. She is very sweet!
Eventually, we made our way toward the ice or warm-up. Kurt was on the ice with the pair and dance teams. I don't know why. The other singles skaters had a separate practice session. I watched from the tunnel for a while. But I couldn't see very much. The tunnel was small, and kind of claustrophobic. Kurt brought his brother, Wade, over to say hello. We chatted for a minute, and then Kurt had to get back to work. So I decided take a break and wait out on the other side of the tunnel. There was seating around the ice, and you had to walk on he the slippery surface in order to get to it.
Needless to say, Mom did not want to walk across the ice, let alone push me in my wheelchair. Scott Hamilton graciously offered to do it. To be fair, Kurt and Todd Sand offered as well, but I didn't want to be any trouble or for anyone to risk injury on my account. However, Scott really insisted. He wanted me to be out there when KB was skating, especially because Kurt has started doing triple lutz again, a jump he didn't do too often even as world champion. Scott was very slow and gentle with the wheelchair. He almost seemed to know what he was doing.
When I got out there, I told Kurt that the triple lutz was nice, but the program really needed a quad! He skated over to me and said, "I think one of us in a wheelchair is enough!"
I would pay for my wisecrack! I forgot I had to get back across the ice. When he was finished, Kurt came to get me. He said, "As long as you're out here, why don't you see things from center ice?" That was OK. He pushed rather slowly, and the view of the arena was impressive. Although he said it was much different when there were more people in the seats. In fact, it was much more difficult to skate in front of an empty house that a full one. He said he wanted to show me the take off and landing marks from his for from his triple axel that he did, so I could really see the distance he travels in the air. All of the sudden, he started pushing faster and faster! I could really feel the speed. Just when I was getting used to it , Kurt began to spin -- or spin me I should say! Yes, you do get sort of dizzy! Apparently, that only happens until you get used to it... or if you haven't skated for a month or so. After that, I could feel the chair moving faster and faster. Next thing I knew, Kurt was doing rather complicated footwork in front of me! At some point, he let go, and I was sliding across the rink on my own and didn't even know it! Mom was really not too happy about that.
The other problem was that I had the camera. Fortunately, Kurt's visiting relatives were clicking away. They promised to send copies of the photos. Before leaving the ice, KB insisted I try some footwork, so he swung the chair from side to side. Until he pushed me through the tunnel, leaving Todd and Jenni to catch me. Todd said: "Tomorrow, we'll try a Throw Double Axel!"
The really amazing part was they expected me to go to catering and eat after that! So off to catering we went. Between Kurt and all of his guests, we took up an entire long table. I was still a bit dizzy, so I didn't eat very much. Kurt was just excited that there was ice cream! He explained that out of approximately 60 shows that they do during the tour, they only get ice cream at catering about three times. He loves ice cream! He even offered to serve me. What a guy!
We talked a little bit, but he really needed this time to catch up with his family, and some friends that they had brought along. Although, I was honored he chose to sit next to me. And because confirmed to my sister on the telephone that he had actually taken me "for a spin" on the ice. My sister, Jeanne, could not be there because she working... but I wanted to make sure she believed my story. I wasn't sure that I did! Kurt even told her that he was sorry that no one had a video camera, so that she could see it for herself. "Maybe next time," he said. I wonder what that means? Kurt can be full of surprises. In the "San Diego" story, I mentioned that Kurt had given me a souvenir program. What I didn't say was that when I got home and had a chance to look through it, I found that it had beautifully and humorously autographed. When I asked why he didn't tell me he had done that, Kurt simply replied: "I don't tell you everything!"
Tour producer and chief choreographer, Sandra Bezic arrived to "check on the show," and graciously stopped by to say hello. Then it was time for Kurt to get ready to skate… after all that's why he was there.
On the way to the elevator, Mom and I nearly got caught up in a soccer game being played by Katia Gordeeva, Ilia Kulik, Steven Cousins and others. Kurt was on the other side of the room, just stretching, as he is first on the ice.
"If you want to watch," he piped in. "It's safer from over here!"
We wanted to get up to our seats before the rush. It's just easier with the wheelchair. Besides, I had a couple of friends to find in the audience and some souvenirs for myself… and for others, as well. So, we were off to the show!
Since there was nothing available on the ice, our seats were up a bit higher for this performance. Surprise! I actually enjoyed it more! From a level above, you get a much better view of the lighting and effects, which I thought were the best ever!
Kurt tried the triple lutz as his first jump in his "Play That Funky Music" program, and ended up barely touching his hand to the ice, not bad for a first attempt!
He agreed with this assessment when I caught up with him after the show. He vowed to keep trying until it was clean. But he had to figure out a way to keep a missed attempt from effecting the combination, which follows. He only had time to sign a couple of photos for friends of mine. Then, he was off to visit with his family. But he knew we still had one day left together. After saying goodnight to Scott, Todd and Jenni, etc. We were on our way, too. Two down, one to go.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
The cast and crew of "TARGET STARS ON ICE," especially David Baden, David Hoffis, Jenni Meno, Todd Sand, Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton... and, of course, Kurt Browning & his family -- all of whom helped make this wonderful weekend possible!