When you only have to mention a skater's first name, you know that athlete has left an indelible mark on the sport and its fans. Doubly so for Tai and Randy.
Although I was too young to clearly remember the height of their competitive amateur career, their impact in pairs skating is pretty evergreen. In short, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner were three-time World medalists (won Worlds in 1979 in Vienna, Austria, link to long program), five-time U.S. champions (1976 - 1980), and were heavily favored to win the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, but had to withdraw due to an injury sustained by Randy. They were also the first pair to successfully land the throw triple Salchow and to date, are the only American pairs team to win Worlds. After retiring from amateur competition in 1980, they began an illustrious professional career, which is how I got to know them, through TV specials and professional competitions. (I remember watching them and thinking, "I wanna be like Tai!")
In 2002, they collaborated on a book Forever Two as One and have also pursued their other passions separately. I caught up with Randy as he added one more responsibility to his life, being the new president of the Pro Skating Historical Foundation. Randy has been keeping busy as choreographer, coach and producer for skating as well as for nonskating projects, which his company Randy G. Inc. Productions produces.
I’d have to say winning the 1979 World Pair Championships (see right). It was the skate of our lives!
2. Did you have any superstitions as you prepared for competitions?
Always tie the right skate first.
3. If you weren't a skater, what do you think your career would be in?
I was always interested in dance. I took dance classes as a kid and even continued while I was skating.
4. As a choreographer for the immensely popular 2006 FOX reality competition show Skating with Celebrities, who surprised you the most in terms of his/her abilities and determination?
Both my teams surprised me with their talent and determination. I had Bruce Jenner (with Tai Babilonia, see right) and Dave Coulier (with Nancy Kerrigan, see below left). Bruce, being the gold medalist in the decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics, had the training drive that pushed him to be the best he could be, even as a skater. He was the first one there at training and the last one to leave. He even pushed Tai to learn more each day. He really wanted to learn to jump and spin, so we got a two foot spin and waltz jumps, Salchows and toe loops in his routines.
Dave is a hockey player, so my challenge with him was to get him to have better skating skills, better posture and to learn how to skate on figure skates. We had to watch those toe picks. He had a couple of mishaps with the toe picks, so he shaved off the bottom pick on each blade. It seemed to work, but skating backwards or stopping backwards became the concern. He learned how to snow plow stop skating backwards. It saved him.
5. Do you follow skating nowadays? Of the current crop, is there any particular skater/s whom you like, perhaps reminds you of you and Tai?
I think that pair skaters Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker have a great future not only for U.S. pair skating, but in the international arena, as well. I often think that Keauna looks a lot like Tai. She has the same body type Tai had at that age and her looks are quite similar especially when she has her hair up in a bun.
6. You are also working on your autobiography. When will we get to read it and do you have a working title?
My book is being written right now. I’m hoping to get it out by the end of the year for the winter season. I’ve got a couple of titles, but haven’t finalized it yet.
7. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, you talk about finding out 10 years ago that you were adopted. The article talks about your reunion with your birth mother. I was curious whether you had a chance to talk about it with your adoptive parents, and how they felt about your desire to find her.
My Dad had already passed away when I found out about my adoption. My Mom was alive when I found out, but she passed away March, 2007. It was a big family secret, so taking that into consideration, I never told my Mom that I knew. I am now discovering some of the reasons why they didn’t tell me from other relatives and family friends. The book will reveal these reasons and why I chose to keep my founding out to myself.
8. On YouTube, there is a 50th birthday retrospective that we are enjoying watching. You have met many nonskating celebrities throughout your career. Which celebrity were you star-struck by and thinking "I can't believe I'm meeting this person!"
There have been many impressive people that I have met along the way. The most honorable have been some of the past presidents: Ford, Reagan, Bush and Clinton. These meetings either took place at the White House or special events that Tai and I were invited to. I was star-struck by Elton John, Cher and Kathy Bates and have casual friendships with Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and Angie Dickinson.
No plans, yet, to perform in the near future. We are celebrating our 40 years of the partnership this year, so there might be something for that.
10. What are you involved with currently, in addition to working on projects for your company Randy G. Inc. Productions?
I produce special events and private parties for corporations. My last event was a party for a big accounting firm where we took over the hangar in Santa Monica and provided the talent for the evening. We had cirque-style performers, dancers and big life size puppets. It was a casino theme party so there were poker tables and other quasi games to emulate being in a casino.
I’m also very excited about being elected as the new president of the Pro Skating Historical Foundation. There we archive and research all aspects of professional and theatrical skating. Our collection is growing and our data base is holding a lot of interesting information for research. Our website is: www.proskaters.org/foundation.