Monday, January 23, 2012

30 years ago: Hot romance, cool skating ; )

This past weekend, dh & I marked 30 years since our official first date. As I wrote in a post this past fall, about the 30th anniversary of our first meeting, the attraction between us had been building for some time. It reached a turning point at the residence Ukrainian New Year's (Malenka) social -- where I started the evening in a last burst of flirtation with the good-looking guy who lived down the hall from dh (all flirtation all fall long, but no real action), but wound up leaving with dh. (Smart choice. ; ) )

Our first official date, not long afterward, was January 22nd, 1982: he asked me if I'd like to go to a movie. There weren't any movie theatres anywhere near campus at the time (going to the movies generally involved a long bus ride), but once a week, the student union building showed cheap movies in the multipurpose room -- so we went to see that week's offering: "Altered States" starring William Hurt and Blair Brown.

It was a very weird movie -- in the words of the IMDB synopsis, "A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically." There wasn't any popcorn, and the seats were just hard, uncomfortable folding chairs. Not exactly an auspicious first date, eh? Well, I don't think we were paying much attention to the movie anyway. ; )

We thought about going to a movie this weekend to celebrate... but there wasn't anything on we wanted to see, at least not at a time when we wanted to go. Jan. 22nd is also FIL's birthday, so we went there on Saturday night to celebrate. We often go to the movies on Sunday afternoon, but I wanted to be back home by 3:30 because... this weekend was also the Canadian figure skating championships in Moncton, New Brunswick....

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...which brought back even more memories from 30 years ago, lol. Because, shortly after our first date, I regretfully abandoned my new boyfriend for the weekend, & took the bus two hours down the TransCanada Highway to Brandon to visit a girlfriend. We "met," several years earlier, via a chain letter for Bay City Rollers fans, & became penpals. (Today, we'd no doubt meet on a message board or blog.) Eventually, since Brandon was not that far from where I lived at the time, we met in real life. I haven't seen her in years, maybe since my wedding, but we still keep in touch on our birthdays and at Christmastime.

Having moved on from the Bay City Rollers by then (!), we still had another mutual interest: figure skating. And her extremely generous combined Christmas/birthday present to me that year was an all-events ticket to the Canadian figure skating championships, which were being held in Brandon in mid-January that year.

Torn between my new love interest & my longtime love of skating, I compromised: I skipped the Friday night events, including the women's final (won by a marvellous spinner from Toronto named Kay Thompson)(my girlfriend took her grandmother instead that night) -- but arrived on Saturday in time for a full day of skating events, including the senior dance, pairs and men's competition, as well as the gala performances on Sunday afternoon, before I returned to school. (I spotted Elizabeth Manley as we came into the arena, all cute & blond & fluffy in what looked to be a rabbit fur coat -- very fashionable at the time.)

I was already a big fan of an up-and-coming jumping sensation from Ontario named Brian Orser, who could do the still-rare triple axel with ease (the most difficult jump a skater could do at the time -- the first one had been landed in competition only four years previously), and had used this competitive advantage to jump right onto the top spot on the podium the previous year. My girlfriend preferred the skater he beat then, the three-time Canadian champion & more artistically inclined Brian Pockar (it was the original Battle of the Brians). We stopped at a florist en route to the arena to buy bouquets to throw to our respective Brians on the ice, and when we got to the arena, we found out they actually sold pre-wrapped flowers there. Who knew? (We were still pretty naive and didn't realize that both Brians were gay. Pockar -- whom Dorothy Hamill handpicked to be her Romeo in a skating version of Romeo & Juliet -- sadly died of AIDS in 1992.)

Anyway, Orser skated & I ran down the aisle to the boards to join the throngs of adoring fans and present him with my bouquet & a kiss on the cheek. My mother saw me do so on national TV. : ) This being pre-VCR days (and many years before YouTube), I missed it. Years later, I mentioned the moment on a skating message board, and someone actually mailed me a VHS tape with a very fuzzy clip, in which I'm just barely visible for a few seconds. I've checked YouTube but sadly, it is not available there. Brian Pockar's wonderful performance is, however (although the sound & action are slightly out of synch, & it ends before you see him collecting the flowers... no doubt my girlfriend & I are in that one too, lol). Orser won in the end (I could see him backstage, jumping up & down in excitement when he realized he was the repeat champion), and there's another YouTube clip from that event in which Johnny Esaw, Mr. CTV Sports of the time, interviews both Brians.

I saw Brian Orser skate many times over the years years before he finally retired (& turned to coaching). One of my favourite memories was seeing him & Brian Boitano skate an exhibition number together at Maple Leaf Gardens (not long after their own epic Battle of the Brians at the 1988 Calgary Olympics) to "King of the Road," one-upping each other in a spectacular "anything you can do, I can do better" dual of triple jumps. He's still one of my all-time favourites. : )

16 years later, in January 1998, I attended Nationals again, this time in Hamilton, Ontario, just prior to the 1998 Nagano Olympics (with Aunt Flo memorably in tow). One thing I didn't mention in the post I wrote about it: while we were there, Quebec and eastern Ontario were hammered by an apocalyptic ice storm. Weeks later, tens of thousands of people were still without power. At the arena, the sizeable Quebec contingent was abuzz. Several people sitting in the row behind us left the event early to go home & survey the damage; others scoured the local Canadian Tire outlets for prized power generators to take back home.

It was the bizarre beginning of a rollercoaster year for me.


  1. I read this and went "awwww".

    I grew up watching figure skating - my mother used to coach it.

    I'm more of the Kurt Browning era, but I have always loved it.

    I suspect that I feel the way about show jumping that you do about figure skating. . .

  2. I loved this post. How cool that you have that moment on tape :) I had a semi-crush on Brian Boitano. I remember my family and I watching his profile during the Olympics: it was set in San Francisco (near where we lived) and featured Brian going to various restaurants and cabaret clubs with one male friend. I was excited that he lived nearby, but my dad said, "I'm afraid he doesn't play your team." I had no idea what that meant.

    Thanks for sharing these memories: you paint the past and its details so well.

  3. ... and I read this and went 'awwww' too with a huge smile on my face because of the lovely, intense memories of those BCR days and the fanbooks that lead me to a connection with J in the UK and two lovely girls in Canada :) :), one of whom I am still in touch with and who fills me with awe when I think of how cool and brave and clever she is!!! J9NZ

  4. @Mrs. Spit: Also love Kurt & have seen him many times too -- including the night at Maple Leaf Gardens where he proposed to his now-wife, Sonia, the prima ballerina, at centre ice, swept her over the boards & skated away with her in his arms. : )

    @JJifaffe: too funny; I guess it was a more innocent time then, wasn't it?

    And @J9NZ: You are pretty cool & brave & clever yourself too, you know. ; ) So glad we have stayed in touch these 35+ (eeek!) years!!

  5. Bay City Rollers!! That takes me back! Happy First Date Anniversary.

  6. Mazel tov! I love reading about you and your hubby, too sweet!

  7. Happy First Date-o-versary! Hubby & I celebrate ours as well. And it's very cool you got to spend time at the Canadian nationals for skating. One day, I'd love to do that ...