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KurtKountry: An Unofficial Kurt Browning Website

October 21, 2000
Oakland, California

My trip up to Oakland for Kristi Yamaguchi's A Golden Moment was a rather uneventful one. After all, it's only an hour by plane, so what could happen, right? Well, once I got there everything seemed fine. The hotel (Holiday Inn) was clean. Their restaurant was OK…and it was walking distance to the arena…well, almost!

The distance was fine, but when you get about a block from the arena the sidewalk ends. So, you have to walk out on to the busy highway, loaded with cars trying to make their way into the parking lot. Obviously, my Mother was reluctant to do this with me in the wheelchair.

We decided to walk back to the hotel. It was so frustrating.. We were close enough to see the building… but there was no way to get to it. It was getting late, but the desk clerk suggested we call a taxi. It is difficult for Mom to lift me in and out of cars, but we had no choice but to give it try. We waited and waited. Traffic was backed up due to the event and it was getting later and later.

Finally, the cab pulled up, but the driver refused to take the wheelchair, although the desk clerk had specifically requested a car with a large enough trunk to accommodate our needs.

Seeing that I was crushed, the Holiday Inn offered to take us in their airport transfer van, it was too high for Mom to lift me into, but the driver on duty graciously offered to take care of that. I usually don't like strangers to lift me, but it had been a long time since I'd seen any of my skating friends. I was supposed to go to Vancouver, BC for "Stars On Ice", but instead I ended up having multiple kidney operations (which got me nice sympathy calls from Kurt Browning, Peter Carruthers and Susie Wynne, etc, but I still would've rather gone to the show! Believe me!)

Anyway, by the time arrived at the arena, picked up our tickets at will-call, and got to our seats, the show was well underway. My good friend, Rosalynn Sumners was in the midst of performing her first number… Some things just get better with time. Roz still sparkles on the ice.

I was also happy to discover that had not missed my buddy Kurt's first performance of the evening. He skated to "Beyond The Sea" , a bouncy little tune that fits his personality perfectly.

Of course, I was really excited to see Kurt in the second half, as he would be skating to the classic, "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables. It would be sung live by Gary Morris, who had played the role of Jean Val Jean on Broadway. I was not disappointed. It was a truly special moment! Adding to already emotional evening, ably hosted by breast cancer survivors Peggy Fleming and Richard Roundtree. But for me, the most striking thing about the evening was the commitment of the entire Yamaguchi family to this important cause.

Upon my arrival backstage for a post-show visit, Kristi's mom, Carol, was busy with her daughter, from whom I got quick but gracious hellos and waves. Krist's other family members were busily involved, too. While I was waiting for my buddy, I encountered Kristi's Aunt Kay, who was acting as assistant to Peggy Fleming. The Yamaguchis are an extremely gracious family, always kind and considerate. Kay even offered to try to pull Kurt out of the dressing room, but I could wait.

I also spoke briefly to Sandra Bezic, who choreographed the skating, and had the opportunity to meet Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, who, in addition, to being talented vocalists are also very nice people. I was sorry that I did not have a chance to see Rosalynn Sumners, who was busy trying to catch a plane to another event…or Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, who I just didn't see. Mom saw these guys earlier while finalizing arragements for my backstage visit, and reports that all is well with them.

Eventually, Kurt made his way toward me, stopping to sign a few autographs, along with Katia Goordeeva. I must say Katia is looking better and better these days (very glamorous) , as she assured me that all is well with she and Daria. Kurt seemed quite up-beat considering his Mom's recent passing. He said that some days are tougher than others, but, in general, his family is doing well and Kurt's trademark sense of humor has remained in tact. He said he is working with his old coach, Michael Jiranek, because "somehow (he) forgot how to skate over the summer," and really needed to work on his technique!

Then, people came to escort him to the reception. I could not attend because we had to catch the shuttle back to the Holiday Inn. So, Katia, graciously agreed to go ahead, so I had time to give him his gift, a poem I had written for him. He seemed pleased. He also wanted a quick health update from me. (I was recently ill and told by my doctor that the best medication for me was only available in Canada. Kurt's response: "Our Kit Kat [candy bars] are better, too!") He also wanted to apologize for keeping me waiting so long, but he had a lot of sponsors to meet back in the dressing room, and now, more of the same to do at the reception… So, a quick hug and he was off. Our visit was short but sweet!

The magic of this even was truly that it was a family event. Thanks to all for a wonderful evening.