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Stars On Ice 2002
Los Angeles, CA: Staples Center
January 20, 2002

I really was not feeling well by the time I returned home from the Pond, so I went straight to bed, and took some medication in the hope that I would feel better by the next morning.

It worked… sort of. I was in less pain, but the medicine left me groggy. I just couldn't decide whether to go...and hope my migraine didn't return…or do "the smart thing" and stay home. Obviously, I didn't do the smart thing or you wouldn't be reading this now. The problem was I had waited until the last minute to decide. It was still about a 40-minute drive from our house to the Staples Center parking lot. Fortunately, I have a great Mom, who is not only used to me, but was also used to driving to the Staples Center, as we had driven back and forth each day during the 2002 U.S. Nationals, only a week earlier.

Of course, if you've read some of my earlier stories, you know that getting into the Staples Center early, even with passes can be difficult… Post September 11, it could be impossible. I realized that. It was a secondary reason why I almost didn't make the trip.

We actually arrived in plenty of time, and met the head of security. I don't think he quite believed us. Eventually, however, he agreed to check things out. Unfortunately, there was no one in the show office. After a while, he went down to see what was going on. Sometime later, (it seemed like quite a while) he returned with authorization.

He escorted us to the ice where warm-ups were just being completed. In fact, Steven Cousins was the only one remaining on the ice. So, SOI staff members suggested we go to catering. The Staples Center has a huge backstage area, but everyone trickles into catering sooner or later.

Jenni Meno and Tara Lipinski were already there when we arrived. Jenni waived us on in. So, Mom and I joined her at a table. Tara was busy playing "hangman" with friends at another table. Jenni wondered why she hadn't seen us backstage the night before. I told her about my migraine…she said it was so crowded. They barely got to talk to Todd's family, or they're coach, Mr. (John) Nicks, who was also in attendance. "At least, you skated well for them." I said. "Especially the throw double Axel! It was really good!" "With, Mr. Nicks around, it had to be." Jenni joked.

Just then, a certain person popped his head through the door. Kurt did a double-take, smiled, and yelled, "Surprise!" I guess when I didn't show for warm-ups, KB figured I wasn't coming. He was glad I was feeling better though.

Kurt ordered his meal from the chef-on-duty. (The Staples Center is a classy place.) He had a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. He also helped himself to a glass of milk. He called it the kid's meal! Not that you care, but I had a turkey sandwich and some iced tea… just for the record!

We talked about the U.S. Championships that had been recently held there -- Especially, Todd Eldredge's performance. "That kind of energy can only happen when everything is on the line," Kurt commented. I told him that they were selling autographed photos of him (and other skaters) at a booth at nationals. His was priced at over 100 US dollars! "I guess they're not selling that any time soon!" My buddy laughed.

I asked if he was disappointed that I didn't buy it. His reply: "I would've been disappointed in you if you did."

Kurt did, however, mention that someone purchased an autographed picture of golfer Fred Couples (one of Kurt's favorite athletes) off of EBAY for him. Kurt participated in a celebrity pro-am golf event, and was quite impressed (and a bit amazed) when Mr. Couples recognized him, and according to Kurt, said that he and his family watch skating on TV often.

In lieu of my buying his autograph at Nationals, KB signed my program with sweet, personal message and we shared a nice moment before he had to prepare for the show. "I'll see you after…" he said. Jenni and Tara also kindly autographed the program before leaving.

Mom and I sat there for a while before realizing that we didn't have tickets yet. Mom left me to find someone to help us just as Scott Hamilton wandered in. After getting his food, and offering to refill my iced tea, he sat and we talked about the football game that was on TV. I know nothing about football, so the conversation quickly turned to the Olympics -- past and present. He likes commentating. "It's easy. I just have to say what they do." (If only he knew about the pair judging controversy ahead of him. I guess that's why they say ignorance is bliss.) It was great to spend time with Scott like this. When he was skating, he was always great, but very busy. He seems to be enjoying a slower-paced lifestyle.

Mom returned just as some old friends of Scott's arrived. It seemed as if they had lots of catching up to do, so we excused ourselves. It was then that I discovered that the skaters had a private "Target" reception to attend. I wouldn't get to see Kurt after the show as we had hoped.

I asked if someone could get a message to him for me. They said just to wait for him outside the dressing area.

While I was waiting, I got more autographs: from, Katarina, Kristi (who confirmed it was her last year on tour), Ilia, Steven…and basically the rest of the cast. I also ran into old friends Paul Wylie and Tai Babilonia (She looked very well, though she had as much trouble getting through security as I did.)

Then, it was time for the show. Guess who was last out of the dressing room? I barely caught him to say: "I can't see you later!"
"Who said?" He asked.
"You have a reception." I reminded him.

He looked around frantically, noticing the show was about to start without him. He hugged me and was gone. By the time, Mom and I reached our seats. The show had started and someone had taken them. I had already seen the show, so instead of making a big deal about it…we just went home.

It was a bittersweet ending to an otherwise wonderful weekend...I always have a great time!



The entire cast and crew of "TARGET STARS ON ICE," especially David Baden, Lonnie Biegel, David Hoffis, Jenni Meno, Todd Sand, Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton... and, of course, Kurt Browning -- all of whom helped make this wonderful weekend possible!

We thank you for the

hits we have received here!

Copyright 2002 by John H. Baker, unless otherwise indicated.