Articles: 2000-


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"I didn't want to hide this illness. I didn't want to live a lie. I've always wanted to be truthful."
"I know this: I'm enjoying life so much, I'll do anything to survive."

                                                               Rudy Galindo to Christine Brennan, USA Today, April 5


From The Liberty Press, February, 2000, "Breaking the Ice, an interview with figure skater Rudy Galindo," by Milton W. Wendland

Rudy Galindo shocked the world of competitive figure skating at the 1996 U.S. Championships when he became the oldest gold medalist in 70 years, at the age of 26. The victory was a triumph for the skater whom many had written off after his much-publicized split with pairs partner, Kristi Yamaguchi. It was also a victory of sorts for gays and lesbians because Galindo is one of the only openly gay figure skaters.

What makes Galindo's story especially valuable to gays and lesbians is the dedication and perseverance it has taken for him to get where he is. The list of obstacles he has overcome border on the melodramatic birth into an impoverished Mexican-American family, the death of his father, the loss of both his brother and two coaches to AIDS, and a period of substance abuse and bad relationships during his first years out of the closet.

I visited with Galindo while he was in Boston touring with Champions on Ice, a skating showcase that will be in the Wichita and Topeka areas at the end of January.

Your sister has been your primary coach since you started skating and you two are very close. Does that explain your recent move to Reno, Nevada?

My sister's husband has a sports bar there and I already had a home there because of that. Since she's my coach and is living there now, I kind of had to follow. I like it because I get to see my nephew a lot.

Any eye toward having children yourself? Are you seeing anyone?

No, I'm not seeing anyone. There are people I know that come to the shows, but I'm so into skating right now and I don't want to start something up and have to end it right now. And no children! I thought about it, but right now my sister has Tyler and she's having another baby, so I'm enjoying that. I like being an uncle. For now at least!

So, why skating? I have read about your dedication - 4am practices, too poor to afford new skates - and I wonder why skating?

I love the artistic side of it. My sister is older than me and she skated and I would watch her and I just loved the motion and the body action of it. I would stand in front of mirrors and glass doors and do all these poses. And while I was young, eight or nine years old, I started really winning some competitions and that was fun.

In your own life you have had some rough times - in your autobiography Icebreaker and in other interviews you have alluded to a time when you were abusing drugs and alcohol, and you connect that to some early gay relationships. I think that situation is not unique to you - it seems that a lot of gay men - particularly those who come out between 18-25 - seem to have similar problems. What saved you?

Skating. But more than skating, my family and friends because I told people and they knew, and my sister especially asked 'Why? You've got a competition coming up!' or whatever. I just woke up and realized that skating was what I really loved and what I had put so much time into and what was making me a living. And now I see some friends kind of doing the same thing and I laugh and cry for them at the same time.

Flashier costumes, Elvis' [Stojko] irreverent moves on the ice, skaters using techno music, and then you with your goatee skating to YMCA and Over the Rainbow and being opoenly gay - a lot of skating fans liked the changes from the traditional skating programs - but a lot of other fans did not. There was quite a backlash.

I'm going to keep pushing the ticket. People in the audience don't want to see the same thing over and over. I think being gay helps in a lot of ways because I'm more comfortable with myself and any move I might want to put into my routine. I'm more willing to try a different or new move. And I push the gay ticket a little in my program. People are sometimes startled by my programs - you know, 'Why in the world are you doing that move?' or 'What kind of music is that for skating?' I pick music I like. I mean, I think about the judges and the audience, but I can't skate to music I don't like, so once I pick it I keep it. But I keep getting hired, the audience loves it, and it works.

What music are you using now in your program with Champions on Ice?

I'm doing a Prince medley - 1999, Let's Go Crazy, and Baby, I'm a Star. It's going over really well. It's just as popular as YMCA which everyone loved and I'm getting a great response.

Have you seen much of Kansas before?

Our schedule is pretty hectic. We don't get to go out much at all because by the time we get home after a show it is 2am, and we do five shows with one day off. When you think about going out or something, it's just no way. There's not enough time. I've been to Kansas City before. We had a little tradition in Kansas City - a place called the Corner Cafe. When Tara (Lipinsky) was on the tour, she and I and some others would go there.

Icebreaker was a story that inspired a lot of people and satisfied some of your fans' intense interest in you and your background - up to that point in time. What can we expect in the future from Mister Rudy Galindo?

I'm gonna keep skating! Later I would love to start a training center in Reno. I would love to coach young kids. And I'd like to write another book. Especially with the book - people at booksignings and people writing to me to tell me they are glad to hear my story, that it has helped them come out a little to coworkers or to their families. I'm taking notes on my tours and I'd like to write another.

Will the next book be juicy?

Oh yeah!

Evansville Courier & Press, January 28, 2000, "Poetry on Ice; Skater Rose From Modest Beginnings to Find He's a Champion--and Still Modest," by Rebecca Coudret

His life story reads like a soap opera, but on the ice, Rudy Galindo's world is pure poetry. Even when he's makiing the crowds howl with laughter. Or when they stare in awe at the grace and agility of his trademark moves.

"My background is--well, a little different," Galindo said with a laugh during a cell-phone call from the "Champions on Ice" tour bus; the troupe was traveling from New Jersey to do a show in Pennsylvania.

"You aren't going to see a lot of Mexican-American skaters--anywhere, but especially at this level. I was a singles skater, then a pairs skater (with Kristi Yamaguchi; they were national pairs champs in '89 and '90), and now singles again."

Singles, yes--and a winner of the title of United States Men's Singles Champion in 1996.

"And I guess everybody knows that 'openly gay' label by now," he said, then laughed and added, "That's not even news anymore. I mean, it doesn't bother or concern me that people know I'm gay. It's who I am, and it's easier for me to live a full, active, happy life by being honest with myself and about myself."

Over the years, as the young skater was perfecting his skills, the Galindo family sacrificed so their talented member could continue skating lessons and training; they lived in a trailer, and Galindo rode his bike to the rink in his hometown of San Jose, Calif.

As the work was paying off, Yamaguchi split with Galindo--and it was time to hit the ice alone.

"It's hard to skate by yourself when you're used to being a pairs skater," Galindo said. But, he admitted, the solo route is more fulfilling.

"It took me six years to win the title, but in one year, I went from eighth place to first."

Galindo, who was 27 in 1996, was the oldest skater in 70 years to win the U.S. title, and he did it in spite of tremendous personal loss shortly before the championships, both of his skating coaches died of AIDS. His father died of a heart attack in '93, and in '94, his brother died, also of AIDS.

While all of this weighed heavily on his emotions, it also provided the fuel that propelled him through the competition.

"I knew I was skating well as the performance went along, but I didn't think I could do it, and certainly didn't know how the judges would see it. The music ended, and--it was like a dream."

For the last 30 seconds of his performance, the crowd was on its feet, cheering him into the final notes of "Swan Lake"; the ovation lasted another three minutes--and on national TV.

"It seems now that it went so fast, and then it's like I was being pulled in every direction. It was amazing!"

After his gold-medal winning performance at nationals and a bronze-medal win in the world championships, Galindo turned professional.

In addition to the money he makes (good-bye, doublewide), Galindo sees his life now as part-skater, part-role model for "gay teens who are confused or having trouble understanding their preferences, for Mexican-Americans who think they can't make it because they or their parents weren't born in this country, and for any young skater who thinks obstacles can't be overcome and dreams can't come true."

*** Galindo's performances have run the gamut of music, including old standards ("Over the Rainbow"), golden oldies ("YMCA," one of his most popular performances), classical works ("Swan Lake") and this year's number (the one he'll do at Roberts Stadium Friday night), a medley of songs by the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

"It's a light one, a fun number with some surprises for the audience," he said.

Galindo said one of the most rewarding aspects of his life on the road--he hasn't had a break since August--is signing autographs at the end of a show.

"When people say they read my book ("Icebreaker," Pocket Books; hardback and paperback) and it helped them, that's just a wonderful feeling.

"After the show, as we're going back to the bus, people line up and we just kind of go down the line and sign autographs and talk a little.

"It's just so much fun to hear people's comments."

*** The past never quite leaves this rags-to-riches skater; his choreographer isn't a high-priced former skater.

"Sharlene Franke is a dance choreographer," he said.

"We've been working together for a while now, and she's been doing all my show numbers. Most (choreographers) charge a fortune, but Sharlene is not too expensive. She's good, she knows and understands what I want to say while I'm skating, and we work together well."

That means including Galindo's trademark leg-in-the-air "shotgun" move.

"What's really flattering is to see a bunch of Russian amateurs now including it in their programs," he said.

Galindo also saves a few bucks by designing his own costumes.

"I know what I want the costume to add to the performance, and it's easier to design it myself than to try to describe my feelings to someone else."

But the most important connection is with Laura Galindo Black, who is "my coach, my sister, my best friend.

"She plays a lot of roles in my life--and she's the love of my life."


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