I’m Randy Gardner. Tai Babilonia and I were a figure-skating team starting when Tai was 8 years old and I was 10. We won the 1979 World Figure Skating Championships and five U.S. Figure Skating Championships between 1976 and 1980.
AIDS had a devastating impact on the professional and competitive ice skating community, so Tai and I wanted to share some of our memories. One of our best friends was Brian Pockar, the U.S. Canadian Men’s Figure Skating Champion and a 1980 Olympian. He came to train with us in Santa Monica almost every year. He and I became really close buds, skating colleagues and confidants.
In September of 1991, Brian came in for Tai’s wedding and stayed with me a few nights. He asked me to take a walk with him down at the beach. We walked for a short time, and he said, “Randy, I have something to tell you. I have AIDS.”
I wasn’t that surprised, as Brian had lost weight, and his beautiful blue eyes and handsome face had started to change. He told me he didn’t think he had much longer. He lasted about six months, and he passed away in April 1992.
Brian was from Calgary, so his parents wanted him to be laid to rest up there. His funeral was the exact week of the Rodney King riots in LA.
I was asked to be a pallbearer and I wasn’t going to miss it. Tai and I were both going to travel together up to Calgary. With the riots, roads were closed, LAX was cancelling flights, and it seemed we weren’t going to be able to get out. We searched and searched for alternate routes, and the only one available was out of Ontario, about 90 minutes outside of Los Angeles. We grabbed a flight, an expensive one, and made our way up to Canada.
Brian was laid to rest in the most beautiful ceremony I’ve ever seen. “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables was played as he was lowered into the ground:
“He is young
Let him rest
Bring him home”
I visited Brian’s grave a few times after that whenever I was in Calgary. I talked to him and thanked him for his beauty, talent and friendship. A young man, and one I will never forget.
Brian Pockar, 32 years old.