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Jordanna's Skating Haven: Jordanna's 1999 Summer Champions On Ice Review

My own photo of Todd performing one of his trademarks, a spiral.

NOTICE: This review may not be linked or referred to on any website, message board, email list or any other public forum without the express permission of the author.

Well, given the circumstances, I don't think my first time seeing live skating could have been much better.

Initially, I had gotten two tickets to Champions On Ice when they went on sale back in November--one paid for by my parents as a Christmas present, one bought myself for my grandmother's Christmas-Mother's Day present (Mother's Day being a week before the show). The seats were for the eleventh row. As a member of Spiral Edge (the online Todd Eldredge mailing list), I made plans to meet with some fellow "Edgers" for lunch before the show. I looked forward to it for months.

It was only the very day of the event that I learned my aunt had decided to see it, when she picked up both my grandmother and myself to take us to the lunch and to the Orlando Arena. She had yet to buy a third ticket, so we stopped in at the Arena box office to take care of that. Naturally, we asked what the best seat available was.

It turned out to be a seat just to the left of center ice, in Row AA. The front row.

Bless my grandmother and aunt--knowing the fanatic that I am, especially for Todd, they handed over that front-row ticket and opted to sit together in the eleventh-row seats.

Well, I sort of floated out to the Arena parking lot. *g*

After that, my aunt dropped myself and my grandmother off at the Olive Garden, where we were to meet the other Edgers for lunch, then went to pick up my cousin (known as Sephiroth or Seph) from school. I had reserved our table that morning, so we were able to sit down at once and wait for our company to arrive.

Eventually, my fellow Edger Debbie arrived with her mother. Such wonderful people. We got acquainted and had a terrific time. After a while my aunt showed up again with Seph, and we ordered our lunch, which was excellent; but sadly, we never did meet up with another Edger we had expected. (Paula, I'm so sorry.)

Since Seph wasn't going to the show that night, my aunt had to drop him off at home, so after lunch she invited Debbie and her mother to stop in at her house for a few minutes. Seph and I rode with them to tell them the way, which had its very funny moments, with Seph telling Debbie's mother where to turn at the last minute. But we all finally got there; my guess would be we stayed about twenty minutes. Debbie and I got in a few laughs talking about mutual acquaintances.

We got to the Arena a little after six pm (the doors would open at six-thirty for the seven-thirty show). At this point, we'd lost Debbie and her mom. We sat at the bottom of the long row of steps leading to the doors for a while, then started up when the doors opened. A sizable crowd was collecting already.

Carrying the large bag that I was, I was of course stopped by the O-rena's notorious security bullies before we even got to the doors. And naturally, they confiscated the gift basket I had for Todd--as I'd pretty much expected. They repeatedly assured us he'd get it, but... I'll only be completely assured of that if the self-addressed postcard I'd put in the basket comes back to me. The Arena employees have, in my opinion, worked themselves up a pretty bad reputation.

As it turned out, my lone front-row seat was across the ice from my aunt and grandmother's seats, so the three of us walked around to the other side first after buying our programs. (I ended up forgetting and leaving mine with them the whole time.) After we found the right section, I headed down to find my seat, but I was stopped at row R--there were Debbie and her mother, in the same section as me. After a few more minutes of talking, I continued on my way down.

As I reached the bottom few steps, my eyes were misting up. I simply could not believe where I was. In that area, all that was between the front-row seats and the ice was a walkway and a row of potted plants.

After a few minutes of just sitting there and trying to comprehend how something had turned out so incredibly right for once, I walked around a little and looked for two other people I was supposed to meet. Neither was there yet. So I went back and started playing around some with my father's big beast of a camera, trying to get the focusing right, hoping that my first time using it would be successful.

Someone called my name, and I looked up to see the Detroit Red Wings shirt and wrist guard that had been described to me over the phone that morning; this was Sarah, another Edger. She'd let me know in advance she wouldn't be making it to the lunch, so we'd agreed to find each other at the Arena--only she'd found my aunt with my grandmother instead. They had sent her over to me. And it turned out she was in my section too, in row T, just above Debbie and her mother.

Sarah was a doll. All night I thought she was my age, until I learned she's a mother of two. She was as much of a sweetheart as Debbie and her mother. After we chatted for a few minutes, she went back up the aisle, and I went looking again for one of the others I was to meet.

At last I found Claudyne (the president of Silver Blades Skating Tours), one section over from me. She was very nice, and gave me some material on the tours. At some point Debbie and Sarah both came down again too, so for a few minutes all four of us were conversing. But it was a little after seventhirty now, so I had to get back to my seat in something of a hurry.

I went back to find someone settled into my seat, beer in hand.

Out came my ticket stub, and after a jumble made only worse by the announcement over the speakers at that moment (about the prohibitions of video cameras, throwing things onto the ice, etc.), I reclaimed my seat. The man who had been in my seat ended up next to me for a moment, but soon switched places with the woman I assume was his wife. He proceeded to lay into a bag of peanuts, scattering the shells all over the floor and under the seats. (I disagreed from moment one with allowing food, and especially alcohol, into the show. I suppose it's just another way for the people upstairs to make money, but it looked to me like a mess that could even become a safety hazard.)

A few minutes later, the show began.

First off, I have to admit I really am disappointed I didn't get to see Elvis Stojko, due to his broken collarbone. Especially since I was in the front row. His program was for me one of the highlights of the television broadcast of COI.

First off, the intro number. What a thrill. Especially when I realized that before he was introduced, Todd was visible near the skaters' entrance far off to my right. Every time a skater passed by that end of the rink, the spotlight they were in lit up the area, and I got to see glimpses of Todd doing some very nice moves to the music! It was really, really cute.

Todd was finally introduced and came out, and it was truly breathtaking just to see him so close.

I had my special Todd pennant with me, and made full use of it any time he was around. I'm pretty sure he looked right at me during the intros--but my personal theory is that he decided to toy with my emotions for the rest of the show. It seems like something he'd do. But, given the little delights that followed, I forgive him. *g*

Elizabeth Manley skated first. I like her, but not that program (I don't even know the name of it). I'd rather have seen her do "Uninvited", but she was good anyway.

I don't remember the exact skating order. Punsalan and Swallow did their Sonny and Cher routine, and Nicole Bobek did her Blondie medley, neither of which rank very high on my list. We did seem to get the less enjoyable programs over with first, though, which was good.

I don't remember exactly when, but of course Rudy Galindo also did the awful Village People program he needs to be shot for using again. I ignored him.

Bourne and Kraatz were quite good. Shae looked very happy.

Well now... it has to be said that if you were a potted plant at the edge of the ice, you weren't having a very good night. When Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze skated, Elena stumbled out of a throw jump and ended up falling into the pots right in front of the people on my left. (She seemed alright. She and Anton were both smiling as he helped her up, and the crowd cheered them heartily as they resumed skating.)

Anissina and Peizerat had an even worse zamboni trip on the other side of the rink. They were doing a lift in which he was skating backwards with her basically on top of him; he slid right into the rows of pots, and they both disappeared into the greenery, accompanied by quite a gasp from the crowd. All that was visible for several seconds was a tangle of limbs, until they finally got up and got back into their program, cheered on just as B&S were.

Michael Weiss skated fairly early, using his K.C. and the Sunshine Band program. The large camera in my hands seemed to catch his attention, because he played up to me a little at one point. He was lots of fun to watch.

Laurent Tobel: Others told me his Rugrats program was pretty creepy, but I thought it was hysterical! He was dressed as a baby, of course. Did a little crawling around, falling down and thumb-sucking--as well as feigning a sneeze at the people on the other side of the rink. (Too bad it wasn't on my side. It would have been a great picture.) He jumped well as far as I could tell, especially for such a beanpole.

Of the Russian trio touring with COI, it was Alexei Urmanov who performed here--which was ideal for me, because for some reason I really can't stand Yagudin or Plushenko. Urmy's program was rather quirky and quite good--I'm not used to seeing him do much of anything but his Tango, in all of its various variations.

During the intermission I got up and walked several sections over, where I tracked down Julie--an online acquaintance I was to meet--in her front-row seat at the close end of the rink. I handed her the video tape she'd asked me for, and she told me a little about the Todd tape she was still preparing for me in return.

When I went back to my seat, Sarah and Debbie came back down to visit again briefly, then went back up.

As for the rest of the skaters...

Surya Bonaly was great to watch, and I think she was also aware of my camera.

As I said, most of the skate order completely eludes me, but I think Todd was the second or third to skate after the intermission. The program was "Pity the Child". I'd hated the music during the broadcast of the Hershey's Kisses Challenge, found it not so bad during the COI broadcast... but I guess now I'm destined to love it forever as my first Live Todd. He skated marvelously; his only error was that he doubled his triple axel, according to Julie. I was too absorbed into just having him that close to me to notice. I also confess to taking fewer pictures of him than others, because I wanted to enjoy just sitting there and adoring him.

It appeared to me that he didn't get anywhere near as close to the edge of the ice as many of the others. His skating is so precise and wonderful... and I even had time to admire some of his, um, attributes. *g* Seriously, it was wonderful beyond words to see him so close. He's absolutely... perfect.

He didn't seem to look my way at all before, during or after the program itself. So if he had noticed me during the intros as I believe he did, either he really was teasing me, or just too involved in his very dramatic program. I was extremely vocal when it came to him--but so was everyone else.

Oksana Baiul skated immediately after Todd, beginning curled up on a table at the edge of the ice on the far end of the rink. She skated well, although she did at least single a jump right in front of me. She also seemed pretty hyper. The program ended with a jump, and when the lights went down and then came back up, she hadn't even gotten back to center ice to take her bows. She jumped around a little, looking amazingly happy, before doing so.

I believe Klimova and Ponomarenko skated after Baiul, and I recall starting to feel drowsy. No offense at all to K&P fans--they were quite pleasant to watch--but two slow programs after the mental drain of watching Todd had the effect of lulling me somewhat.

When Kazakova and Dmitriev skated, whenever that was exactly, I had to change the film in the camera. What I did see of them, I enjoyed.

The crowd-pleasers were saved for the end. Viktor Petrenko did his Michael Jackson program, which I'll happily admit I find very entertaining. I liked him before, but after watching him live (as well as an occurrence you will read of shortly), I like him even more. He did toss his hat down by center ice on my side of the rink, going over to pick it up when the lights were down after he skated.

Philippe Candeloro was a hoot.

I was immensely glad he skated to D'Artagnan, which I like, and not his Saturday Night Fever attrocity. He left the sword over at the end of the rink--and after setting it down, I believe he jumped up onto the railing there to tease some members of the audience. Then he went over to center ice to start milking the whole crowd. In one quiet moment, even I called out "Yeah," not even very loudly--but the Arena was just quiet enough. He turned around and gave me a funny look, shaking his head in amusement.

It was an older lady across the rink he flirted with, which I still find funny. Then, when he went to pick up his sword, he jumped up onto the railing and yelled at the people sitting there--even funnier. But the nicest touch was that he played directly to my camera in the swordfighting scene. He did fall flat on his chest on one jump across the rink, though.

Michelle Kwan skated last and got the biggest cheers, of course. She was nice to watch and skated excellently. It was also great that the split she closes the program with was performed right in front of me.

The closing number... this was everything it promised to be, and it was where some of the most special moments of the night happened.

My eyes were of course glued to Todd through the whole thing. I must confess that some of his movements in the group sections seemed rather un-Toddlike--but he was adorable, prancing around, dancing with Nicole Bobek (I think), and making some of the cutest faces I've ever seen.

And as he passed by, he smiled at me and gave me a truly precious finger-wiggling wave.

Well, I misted up again, and was thoroughly overcome as I sat watching what was left of the closing number. I went for a few photos here and there, but looking Todd in the eyes had a way of making everything else fade into the background.

As the skaters were circling the rink, I scooted just barely out of my seat and stretched out my hand, stealing a high-five from Viktor Petrenko before sitting back to get my last glimpse of Todd on the ice. (He didn't come close enough to the edge of the rink.)

When it was all over, I made my way up to the top, where I found Debbie, her mother, and Sarah waiting. We were all firmly agreed to get together again for the Keri Classic this October second--and I can't wait.

Debbie and her mother decided to head on home, since they had a ways to travel. Sarah and I walked out together; my aunt and grandmother were out on the steps, but Sarah and I decided to walk over to the gated area at the side of the Arena, where there was a marginal view of the COI buses. There wasn't much to see there. But someone--who I only later learned was in fact Julie--called out as she passed by that the other side seemed like a better place to be. Accordingly, Sarah and I went all the way around the Arena, to the other side of the gated area. There was a handful of people standing around there, and there was indeed a somewhat better view of the goings-on down by the buses and trucks.

A car was parked down there, and after a few minutes a very nice, lithe figure came out and started loading things into the trunk (a several-minute process), while talking to another man who was standing nearby. Sarah and I had quite an exchange about that handsome figure in the white shirt and dark shorts.

"Is that Todd?"

"Is it? It can't be..."

"Just look at him!"

"Well, I did hear he might leave by himself to go visit his uncle..."

"Look at those mannerisms. That's Todd."

It was indeed Todd himself. Once we knew for sure, we called out to him twice, but neither time did he turn around. In hindsight, I should have used the camera's zoom lens to check him out better--especially since he was most definitely wearing shorts. *g* I hope my gift basket was among the things he stuffed into the trunk.

Eventually he got in the car and started to pull out, although he made several long pauses in the process, talking to who knows who. But things kept getting better, as he turned our direction, and the guard unlocked a gate mere yards from us that he would have to go out through. Sarah and I crowded to the railing with our Todd pennants.

And indeed, Todd smiled and waved at us as he drove by.

I'm sure he enjoyed the sight of our ensuing hysterics in his rearview mirror.

All things being the way they were, that was the best way the night could have ended. Sarah and I hugged and went our separate ways then, and I drifted back to my aunt and grandmother (on "cloud ten", as a friend in chat later guessed it to be). I came home deliriously happy, and also with a fresh perspective on skating that erased the burnout of a wonderful but stressful skating season (from a fan viewpoint).

So the countdown to October second begins--and it promises to be even better.