By Wayne Leonard
Sunday, January 3rd
There was a panic at San Francisco International Airport. Laura and Tyler had driven Rudy there to catch a flight to Bakersfield for the opening of the COI tour. They had checked the bags and were waiting for the flight when it was announced that the flight was cancelled due to the infamous fog covering the San Joaquin valley. For three hours they waited to retrieve Rudy's luggage, which included his skates and costumes. The airline told them they were lost. After much ado, the bags were collected and they headed home to Oakland. They decided that Wayne and Rudy would drive down the next day, and that Laura and baby Tyler would remain at home.
Monday, January 4th
After a 5 hour drive Wayne and Rudy arrived at the Centennial Gardens in downtown Bakersfield. They were not the last to arrive. Skaters were still trickling in, victims of the fog. Randy Gardner gathered the group for run-throughs of the opening and closing group numbers. At about 10:00 PM Rudy did a run-through of his violin number so the lighting people could mark the spots. Finally, just before midnight, Randy let everyone go back to the hotel and to bed.
Tuesday, January 5th
9:30 AM: Randy calls for a full dress rehearsal. Lloyd Eisler looked a little odd, going through his program without his partner. Isabelle Brasseur had still not arrived due to the weather. Noticeably absent were Tara Lipinski and Ilia Kulick, both having switched to the Stars on Ice show. The rehearsal continued at a choppy pace as they fixed glitches in the lighting, sound and blocking. Finally they finished, around 2:00 PM. Rudy raced back to the hotel for a quick nap, then it was back to the auditorium for warm-ups.
5:30 PM: Eric Lang, the show's physical therapist, is taping electrodes and ice to Rudy's ankle. An old injury is bothering him. As he hobbles down the corridors, everyone wants to know what happened and how serious it is. Rudy assures all it's just a precaution and he will be able to skate. Eric is called away - Oksana Baiul has slipped and banged her elbow on a table. Tension increases noticeably as show time draws closer. The jokes and lighthearted chatter are replaced with stretching and skaters finding quiet corners to collect themselves. It's a relief that Isabelle has finally made it, and she and Lloyd are racing through the moves of their program and opening and closing routines.
7:30 PM: It is a sellout of the 9,000 seat auditorium, except for a few seats in the very back. The lights dim and the skaters take the ice. The energy level of the skaters and fans skyrockets. After the stirring opening, Tonia Kwiatkowski dazzled the crowd with her leather and stud costume and high-energy program. Punsalan & Swallow wow the crowd with a '70s medley of Sonny and Cher music with appropriate costumes. Finally it is time for Rudy to take the ice. He kneels in the center of the arena and the spotlights come on. His rich burgundy costume is the perfect complement to his well-received violin number. The crowd is silent during his eclectic performance, then rewarding him with thunderous applause when he finishes. He is panting when he exits the ice, and limps slightly from the soreness in his ankle. He and Eric retire to the Therapy room for more work on the ankle.
During the ice cut everyone backstage is talking about how well the show is going. Rudy emerges with a smile on his face, obvious pleased with his performance - his injury is bothersome, not debilitating. The second half of the show begins and the performed are turned on even more than the first half. The audience is treated to some the finest skating I have ever witnessed. Rudy's Village People routine, always well received, draws a standing ovation and cheers. The skaters that follow also have "on" performances, and the show ends on a high.
The skaters work the crowd with back stage passes as they exit. Rudy
has pictures of Tyler he shares with everybody. Back at the hotel, Tom
Collins has a wonderful spread of food for the skaters and their entourages.
The party is short, though. It's after midnight and the bus leaves for
L.A. at 9:00 AM, after which is a flight to Boston for the show in Portland.
Rudy collects his flowers, stuffed animals, and other belongings, says
goodnight and goes up to his room for bed. After about two minutes he falls
into a deep, well-deserved sleep.
"Saw Rudy last night in Bakersfield, CA. His Village People performance brought down the house. I really appreciate his attitude and artistry. He's a great entertainer. His performance alone was worth the price of admission!"
"Galindo did his violin routine ( it takes gut to wear that costume) and his Ymca program. I thought I was sick of his YMCA program, but I loved it. It was fun and he skated great."
"RUDY GALINDO: Violin Concerto: Hit all his jumps, including a triple- triple. Zhulin choregraphy much more apparent here than in Tonia K's "Black Cat". Two great spin sequences, made much more interesting with voilin bow prop. Got huge ovation from audience."
"RUDY GALINDO: Village People Medley. As usual, the hit of the night. An older man was sitting in front of me, wearing a black baseball cap with "morals police" embroidered on the front. I thought, oh, *this* guy must reall love this number. (Yeah, right!) But, when it was over, he was whistling and clapping and stomping his feet as loud as anyone else. Go figure. :-)"
KLIMOVA & PONOMARENKO: My sympathies went out to K & P for having to follow Rudy...
Saw Rudy last night in Bakersfield, CA. His Village People performance brought down the house. I really appreciate his attitude and artistry. He's a great entertainer. His performance alone was worth the price of admission!
Portland, ME, January 8
"Rudy Galindo, who has blossomed into a versatile and popular entertainer, got the audience fired up interpreting Hot, Hot, Hot.
"Rudy Galindo drew the first standing ovation of the evening skating to Violin Concerto. It is a wonderfully creative piece, which interweaves the prop, a violin bow, very effectively. The program, although pleasing to watch on television, made a greater impact when viewed in person. He got a second standing ovation in the second half reprising his popular medley of songs by the Village People."
---From Blades on Ice, by Marcia Burchestead
Durham, NH, January 9
"Rudy Galindo: Violin Concerto: Wow! This is not to be missed. I haven't had the patience to watch this program to its end on tv but, in person, I could fully appreciate the integration of costume and choreography here as well. Looks like Zulin has the knack. Anyway, the audience loves Rudy and he skated well.
"Rudy: Electrified the arena with his YMCA. I had been a little tired of this until seeing it again live. It's great and the audience participation was incredible."
Providence, RI, January 10
Saw you skate in Providence RI today. You are the best of them
Love your Village People act. Keep up the good shows...
Albany, NY, January 13
"Rudy Galindo--also received big applause--for his violin/maestro
number and for the YMCA medley." ---susanalb
Rochester, NY, January 15
"Having seen the COI show in Rochester, I was struck by the energy and crowd response that were evoked both by Rudy Galindo and by Brasseur and Eisler.
"Rudy threw in more jumps, and triples, consistently than the other skaters did (of course they're all exhibition programs so no one needs to do triples), and the crowd responded to the level of energy and excitement that he generated."
Hershey, PA, January 17
"Philippe and Rudy got the biggest ovations, it hurt your ears, it was that loud! D' artanan and Sat. Night fever for Philippe, and Village People and violin piece for Rudy."
"Rudy Galindo - Rondo Capriccioso
Speaking of costumes, this one looks much better in the dark than it does on TV. The illusion fabric disappears in theatrical lighting. This program is a favorite of mine.
"Rudy Galindo - Village People medley
Talk about the crowd going wild; he brought the house down."
Wheeling, W VA, January 18
"Rudy Galindo - There's something about Rudy that projects out to the top row of the house. An energy and a presence on the ice that's hard to resist. He did the violin and the Village People numbers. Fell once, but nice programs. I can't say that either of the costumes left much to the imagination as far as close fitting goes."
Columbus, Ohio, January 22
"Even if one thinks a Village People medley is silliness run amok, it is still hard to not be drawn into Rudy Galindo's program when viewing it live. The fun he had on the ice was contagious, and the audience caught the bug. Galindo fired off a number of double Axels and triple toes and contributed his usual collection of spins including his trademark shotgun spin. The performance was a showstopper if there ever was one. The crowd responded with enthusiasm not seen anywhere else during the show."
---Nat Lathy, from his review of the entire Columbus, Ohio, COI
Winter Tour performance, American Skating World (March, 1999)
Toledo, OH, January 23, 1999
Some of the other crowd pleasers from the COI tour were Rudy & Phillipe for their disco routines (Toledo is a BIG Disco Town)...
---Steven E. Wolfe
Peoria, IL, January 26
[Peoria Journal Star, February 2, 1999 From a letter to the editor about Theo Jean Kenyon's review of "Champions on Ice," Jan. 26 at the Peoria Civic Center Arena]
"I was at 'Champions on Ice' last night, and I just wondered if
we were at the same show. When you talk about the (audience) favorite being
Dorothy Hamill...from where we were sitting, the only one who got a standing
ovation was Rudy Galindo, and you neglected to even mention him in your
Tulsa, OK, January 30
"A number of the skaters got partial standing O's in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but the only skater that got a real standing "O" from the entire audience was Rudy Galindo for his "Village People."
"We had a very enthusiastic audience so I thought that was a great tribute to Rudy's showmanship."
Hampton, VA, February 4
"Punsalan and Swallow, Liz Manley, Tonia K., K and P, Rudy Galindo, and Josef S all skated one program.
By far the loudest ovation was for Rudy and his disco number, which is getting very worn out, in my opinion but it does seem to be a crowd favorite."
Greenville, SC, February 5
The 16,000 seat Bi Lo Center in Greenville (where JP Pros was also held just after the arena was completed) was completely filled for this Champions on Ice tour visit. Several people were turned away (some bought tickets to Stars on Ice, which comes in late March!). It will be interesting to see if the other Carolinas tour stops have the same fine attendance. There were no outright standing ovations, but much sustained and supportive applause for all of the skaters.
Rudy's Village People was especially energetic, full of jumps, and reached the very last seats in the upper tier, which were filled. His reception seemed to me to be the longest and most enthusiastic of the evening, but it may have been my own ovation! Because the show was running so long, several of the skaters only did one number, Rudy among them. And that was the only disappointment about Rudy! The people with me had only seen the Village People once before on television, and they nearly laughed themselves out of their seats. And (cringe!), they did all of the arm motions!
Others that I particularly enjoyed were Dorothy Hamill (she can still out- project Rudy a little), Kasakova and Dimitriov (the quality of their skating is impeccable), Punsalan and Swallow (the Sonny and Cher number is so entertaining), Boitano (sort of enjoyed the "Funky Mama" number which is so different for him, as are the jeans!), Victor Petrenko's Michael Jackson program, and, although I'm not crazy about Oksana Baiul's programs, it's great to see her skating and general fitness so much improved.
Nancy Kerrigan was a surprise show up, while Philippe Candeloro wasn't there.
Rudy spent more time than any of the skaters making the lucky
fans who went backstage as happy there as he had on the ice. He must have
talked and joked with people for 20-30 minutes, taking time with everyone
who wanted it.
Charleston, W VA, February 10, 1999
Viktor and Rudy also brought the house down. Their toe-tappin, finger-snappin tunes got the crowd going and on their feet.
COI TV - February 14
" I just love RUDY, I could watch that villlage people program over and over, I enjoy it so much because it is fun to watch.'
"Rudy's nephew is very cute!"
"I could see Rudy's Village People till I'm blue and the face and I would still love it."
"Loved to hear Rudy gushing about his sister's baby. But I would have liked to see the violin number again instead of Village People for the zillionth time."
---Ellen B. Edgerton
"I am also one who could watch Rudy's Village People medley over and over. I think it is so funny and who cares if it is a little over the top. Everyone knows those songs and he just hamms it up."
"The only true standing ovations were for Rudy and for B&E's Ballroom Blitz. Rudy got the loudest applause from the audience." [comment about the actual Columbus performance]
"Does anyone know if Rudy will be changing his program for the Summer tour? I saw him do the Village People number last year on the COI tour, and I was really hoping for something new!!"
"abr, I would LOVE for Rudy to do a different program for the Summer Tour!"
Greenville, SC, February 5; Fayetteville, NC, February 13;
Charlotte, NC, February 14; Greensboro, NC, February 19
Somewhere I read that if you keep your cat population to five or under, you can get by with being considered merely strange, but if you go over five, you are branded eccentric. I'm not sure what going to four Champions on Ice shows qualifies for, but it's probably in the five+ cats category! All were within a few hours of where I live and in places I normally go several times a year, if that's any excuse. The most interesting thing to come of these excursions, which took place over a period of two weeks, were some firm conclusions that only repeated viewings could provide. General Observations
1) COI appears to be doing just fine in terms of audiences, at least in the Carolinas. Greenville's 16,000 seat Bi Lo Center (where JP Pros was held just after it opened) was completely sold out with many turnaways at the box office. The SOI show scheduled there in late March benefited from many sales to customers who couldn't get into COI. Charlotte's 10,000+ seat Independence Arena was sold out on Valentine's Day, although a desperate parking situation due to a simultaneous performance of "Chicago" in the large auditorium next door, made many people late in getting to their seats. Fayetteville was about 3/4 full (it was sold out last year), and I was told that was because of President's day. Fayetteville's Fort Bragg apparently clears out on long holiday weekends. Greensboro didn't open it's top tier, which allows for 20,000 at ACC basketball games. A snow and sleet storm, considered a natural disaster in North Carolina, obviously affected attendance, but not seat sales. Even so, many people arrived as late as 9 when the snow had abated, and the 10,000 seats showing were about 2/3 full, excellent for a NC snowstorm. I also read that Augusta, GA's 7,500 seat facility was sold out way in advance of the show.
2) The show lasts a minimum of three hours. By Greensboro, some streamlining had been done in moving the skaters on and off the ice, and it was kept to 3 hours. The quality of the skating and performing is as ample as its length. Grumbling about ticket prices could be heard before shows, but many more comments about really getting their moneys worth were evident after them.
1) Cast changes from the listed skaters were minimal and were the expected big names Candeloro wasn't in Greenville; Boitano was off commentating on Nationals for Fayetteville; Eldredge was present only at Greensboro. Usova and Platov weren't at any of the stops, nor Kwan, of course. Everyone else in the program was present at all shows. Those who skated one number only were Klimova and Ponomarenko, Galindo, Bonaly, Manley, Punsalan and Swallow, Kwiatkowsky, and Sabovcik. Tom Collins apparently prefers upbeat numbers, and Rudy and Liz Manley both complied with the Village People and Tower of Power "Give it Up" programs and didn't do their other ones which had been popular with audiences this past fall ("Rondo Capriccioso" and "Uninvited").
2) After four shows, I had a pretty clear picture of my favorites, although positive things could be said of all of the skaters. Besides Rudy (see end), who was the reason for my engaging in this four show foolishness (!), the following stood out for me in no particular order
Boitano: just because he's so good... Additionally, Brian has looked so happy on the ice the past two years that he makes you love watching him for that. The "Funky Mama" program is different and even improvisational, and shows another side of him. I liked it--and the jeans--and seeing Rudy, who was watching Brian at Charlotte, dancing and moving obliviously with the music in the skaters' entrance! The Sinatra number finished off the show with style.
Punsalan and Swallow: Love the Sonny and Cher sixties medley--the costumes, and the nonchalant kind of out-of-it attitude in their movement as well as expression made it fun for those of us who remember. Nice indirect remembrance of Sonny, as well.
Dorothy Hamill: She's every bit as able as Boitano to drink in an audience, her moves are worth a million jumps, and her strength is phenomenal. The costumes are the most flattering and attractive of all of the women, I thought. She did the Mamas and Papas "Dedicated to the One I Love" and "Clair de Lune."
Katarina Witt: I love her choices of music and the programs (Sarah Mclachlan's "Angel" and Bell, Book, and Candle's "Rescue Me"), although she isn't close to mastering the art of relatively jumpless skating as Hamill is. She brought a lot of husbands and boyfriends to the performances.
Oksana Baiul: Her determination and apparent dedication is admirable and wonderful to see. Although a lot of her landings weren't "clean" she fiercely held on to them--and they seemed to get better and more certain. Her speed is incredible. I don't care for the histrionics in either of the programs, but respect that that is Oksana. More power to her. And she was so triumphant when she performed well, which was most of the time. (Did "Toccata" and the Mariah Carey telephone thing--"My All.")
Petrenko: The Michael Jackson number is ever so entertaining. Even for a reluctant Petrenko watcher.
Kazakova and Dimitriev: Oh, WOW! I could never understand why the audiences weren't out of their chairs after both of their programs, the first to a Sinatra medley, and the magnificent "Sad Waltz" program second. She has become a radiant performer, and he presents her flawlessly. The moves are amazing and gorgeous. How she can smile in those positions is beyond me, but she does.
Brasseur and Eisler: They have always been entertaining, but their performances on this tour made me look at their pure competence. Lloyd Eisler is also a master of presenting his partner, and I thought their rapport was more pronounced than ever before. The first number ("Still the One") is gentle and pretty. The second "Ballroom Blitz" number will knock your eyeballs out (and do a job on your ears, too). Incredible!
Rudy: Yes, like most skating fans, I've seen the Village People lots of times, even though Rudy only introduced it in January, 1998. And I was disappointed he wasn't doing the violin number on most of the Tour. So I decided to look at it strictly from the point of view of most of the rest of the audiences, who had likely seen it only a time or two on TV, or maybe never before.
Something I hadn't particularly noticed about Rudy became obvious watching him perform four times like this--his professionalism. He prepares himself physically and mentally to go out and do the program as it's constructed. He doesn't develop it as he goes along, a la Philippe, or even Victor. He connects with the audience, all audiences, with the opening smile and salute. He doesn't play with the audiences, but to and for them, gives them 2-3 triple jumps a night (and any number of double axels), the expected signature spins, and a darned good time to people who obviously appreciate it. He calls very little attention to himself as a personality, inviting the audience into the performance. As a result, there is little variation in audience response to Rudy. They scream when he does his opening thing, again when he comes out in the sailor suit, and uproariously when he finishes his program, and they do it everywhere, every time. He presents an integrated, technically competent (even demanding) program and makes a particular gift of it to each and every audience. As the girl next to me said, after somewhat unexpectedly enjoying Rudy's performance, "They love him, don't they!"
People have called Rudy's programs "gimmicky," but I don't think
so. They are carefully planned, meticulously performed, and directed to
the in person (and television) audiences, which are really Rudy's primary
obligation as a professional. Perhaps the future of skating's popularity
lies in an approach like Rudy's.
Charleston, W VA, February 10
"Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice...."
Well, the world didn't come to an end, but Charleston, WV was treated to a highly entertaining combination of the two elements when Tom Collins Champions On Ice appeared at the Charleston Civic Center arena on Wednesday, February 10, 1999. This top-flight show featured 16 of the world's most decorated figure skaters in a tight, fast-paced exhibition of the sport at its best.
With so many of skating's top names on this Winter Tour, it's difficult to single out any one individual or pairs/dance team above the rest. Even though the Charleston performance was at more than halfway through a 40-show schedule, the energy and quality of the performances was the kind you'd expect from an opening night.
One of the standout performances of the first half came from Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow. Their "Sonny and Cher" program, complete with tie-dyed costumes and a Cher wig for Liz, was one of the most entertaining performances of the evening and a crowd favorite. A beautifully skated program, combined with a sense of showmanship makes this couple a delight to watch.
Three generations of Olympic gold medalists provided high spots during the show's first half as well. Dorothy Hamill skated a beautifully, lyric program, to the strains of "Dedicated To The One I Love". Oksana Baiul followed with her program to music by Bach.
Baiul's skating, since her well documented stint in alcohol rehabilitation last year, has been erratic at best. However, she turned in a solid performance of this program which, she has stated in interviews, is supposed to reflect her life story. Seeing it live really sold me on this--when the music switches from a traditional orchestration to a synthesizer-driven version, punctuated by cheering, it's easy to picture the Lillehammer audience from 1994 and the pink-clad heroine who diverted our attention from the Kerrigan-Harding debacle. Except for touching her hand to the surface of the ice on one jump, she skated with finesse, grace, and a real sense of drama.
Katarina Witt rounds out the trio of women's gold medal winners and she offers a lovely subtle closure to the first half of the show with her program to "Angel".
Another first half standout performance came from Olympic gold medalist Victor Petrenko. A skater who's always had a variety of entertaining programs since leaving the eligible ranks, he's also quite the showman who loves playing to the crowd. Dressed as a waiter in an upscale restaurant and skating to the strains of "Harlem Nocturne", he easily won over an appreciative Charleston audience (and delighted one lucky fan, who won a bouquet from tour sponsor FTD).
While the first half of the show was thoroughly entertaining and well- received, it wasn't until after intermission that the audience REALLY started going nuts. Following two solid performances by Josef Sabovcik (skating to Rod Stewart's "Weak") and Surya Bonaly ("Allegra"), Rudy Galindo took to the ice to perform his Village People program. No matter how many times you've seen it on TV, it's a real thrill to see live and in person. A mildly appreciative (to that point) audience responded enthusiastically--you could see people doing the "YMCA" moves all over the arena, clapping and singing along to the music. It's a crowd pleasing routine, skated with energy and a real sense of fun. I've always said you can tell when a performer genuinely enjoys being in front of an audience--and that's exactly what you get when you watch Rudy. He earned the first standing ovation of the night and I'm not too proud to tell you I was one of the first on her feet. My only disappointment is that he didn't get to come back and do the violin program which, IMHO, is the most artistic of all the long programs I've seen this season among both the eligible and ineligible ranks of skaters.
Dorothy Hamill made a second appearance and easily skated what had to be the "star spot" of the evening. While she may not do programs with seven triple jumps a la Surya Bonaly, "Clair d'Lune" is Hamill at her lyrical, artistic best. A real joy--dare I say honor--to watch.
More fireworks came courtesy of a second appearance from Victor Petrenko, skating his Michael Jackson program. The emphasis here is on capturing Jackson's distinctive dance moves and Victor has definitely put in the time in front of MTV/VH-1. Much like Rudy's Village People number, this program is a real crowd pleaser.
Even though I've never followed ice dancing and pairs closely, I was familiar with the team of Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler. After this show, I'll be paying a lot more attention to them! Their program to Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" (if you've seen the movie "Wayne's World", you've heard a cover version of this song) is pure high-energy athleticism. This is one number you definitely need to see live and I hope they will keep it if they remain on the Spring/Summer leg of the Collins tour.
Oksana Baiul and Katarina Witt made repeat appearances during the second half as well. Oksana performed to Mariah Carey's '"My All" and my only concern was whether or not she was going to trip over the telephone receiver she uses as a prop. Again, she skated a solid program with grace and dramatic flair. Witt's second number is performed to "Rescue Me" by the group Bell, Book and Candle and unfortunately, she was the only skater to fall during the Charleston performance. But, with the grace that only a true professional can muster, she got up, made a shrugging gesture as if to say, "what can you do"? and went on with her program.
The show winds up with the full cast skating to a medley of Top 40 hits (be warned if you're sick to death of "Titanic" and all its ilk, it starts out with "My Heart Will Go On"). A nice touch during the bows came through corporate sponsor FTD--each member of the cast came out with a small bouquet of flowers, which they presented to audience members. Although I was close to the ice, a group from the local skating club beat me out for the free blossoms.
Just a note for you fellow Galindo fans
out there....if you have the opportunity to go to COI and want to get your
programs or other memorabilia signed, Rudy was one of the few skaters who
came out and signed autographs for the fans in Charleston. Actually,
he was the ONLY one who really took the time to start at one end of the
line and work his way down to the other end, until someone from the tour
staff came over and told him the bus was ready to leave.
Thanks, Rudy. You really made my day!
Augusta, GA, February 15
"In the second half of the show, 1996 U.S. champion Rudy Galindo raised the rafters skating to a medley of Village People hits.
"Wearing a white U.S. Navy outfit, Mr. Galindo had the crowd clapping along to In the Navy and spelling out the letters to disco anthem YMCA.
"For the song Macho Man, he ripped off the sailor shirt to reveal a sparkling U.C. flag-adorned tank top."
Augusta Chronicle, February 16
Mobile, AL, February 26, 1999
My only regret is that Rudy, Felipe, Josef, and Surya only skated one program each. They are surely favorites of many people and I would have liked to have seen more of them.
Shreveport, LA, February 28
" Rudy Galindo...gee I wish he had a new program. But, I gotta be honest...this Village People program is so popular. It just brought the house down and that makes it a lot of fun to watch *again*!"
"We took five members of our family to the Champions show none of which had ever seen a live performance. It is incredible how much different it is watching it on tv and actually seeing it in person. The show was a sell-out and sure enough it was just about completely full. They really had a terrific turnout. All the skaters had really good performances but I was particularly impressed with Rudy. He did my favorite routine of the village people songs and he was absolutely wonderful. Rudy was really well received to because the crowd went wild. He definitely got one of the best receptions."
Memphis, TN, March 3
And Rudy. Dude! At the energy--and cheek. I thought it was kind of ironic he skated to "Macho Man", but he was awesome. I loved watching the crowd do the YMCA thing too. He was a real crowd pleaser.
---Johnny Van Horn
" as for rudy, the judges may not appreciate him but the memphis audience sure did..."
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Last updated October 6, 2001