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Entries in LA (1)


Some Steel Balls With Your Ice T?

During the fall of 1992 I learned that if you sleight Ice T, you had better bring your A-game.

To understand you need to know what happened on April 29th, 1992. The LA-Rodney King riots had taken place and much of the country had been talking about the events. Some wondered about what it told us about race relations in the United States, and others just wanted to decipher what specific events led up to the riots that occurred in LA. Ice T, theIce T well known musician and actor had just finished his summer tour on the maiden voyage of Lollapalooza the year before and his name was already bright in the limelight over the release of the song “Cop Killer”, which had appeared on Body Count’s debut release that was released in March, just one month before the LA riots broke out. As a social commentator and a well known former Crips gang member he had been requested often to appear on speaking panels and engagements at college campuses.

It was during this speaking tour, while at the Erb Memorial Union (EMU) , located on the University of Oregon campus, that my life collided with Ice T. Erb Memorial Union is the main student gathering place at the University of Oregon. It has a ballroom where I was once able to catch Public Enemy, Mudhoney, Faith No More, and Babes In Toyland perform, but the main purpose of Erb Memorial Union was to be a main location for student activities and government offices, as well as the school radio station. A comedy classic filmed on the University of Oregon campus.One of the more prominent features is the Fishbowl (the student cafeteria) that was made famous when it was used as the location for the food fight scene in the John Landis 1978 film classic, Animal House.

Anyhow, while I was attending the University, the hot spot of the EMU was the basement arcade and gaming center. It had your usual array of collegiate diversions: arcade games, pool tables, darts, photo booths, etc. We would often visit the arcade as a way of passing time until a concert or event began. On this fall night in 1992 I had stumbled down the stairs, and was drawn to a mass of people who had gathered around the extremely popular Mortal Kombat arcade machine.

As I drew closer it became evident that Ice T has at one of the machines. He apparently loved playing violent video games as a form of stress relief before concerts and speaking engagements. The only problem was, and I say this with all due respect, he was absolutely horrible at them.

On the plus side, because of his fame, new opposing players kept stepping up and propping quarters on the console, offering Ice T free games, for the opportunity to brag to their friends that they had “Finished him” on the classic Midway game whose fatal finishing moves led to the founding of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), but that is another story.

If you asked any of my friends, they would tell you that I have never been what you would call “great” at playing one on one fighting games. So, imagine my relief when I discovered that my kamikaze method of striking a random buttons as quickly as possible was also the preferred strategy used by Ice T.

Everybody seemed to being having a great time. The vibe was so great, and I was so relaxed, that after Ice T had died for the final time during his game I accidentally spoke. It was like watching a car crash in slow motion, I heard the following words tumble from my lips, “Its a good thing you have some kind of music career because you suck at playing video games!” The room temperature dropped. The sound of the raucous crowd evaporated, until there was merely a chorus of chirping crickets. I felt a hollow form in my stomach. Sweat gather at my brow and down the back of my neck, as Ice T (and the rest of the 50 or so witnesses) slowly turned their head in my direction. The crowd pressed behind me meant that I had nowhere to run. Ice T stepped up close to me and scrutinized me. I recall that during our encounter, I never saw him blink. He seemed to gauge what kind of man I was, and I don’t remember whether I flinched or not, but after an eternity he said, “For a white boy, you certainly have balls of steel.”

His stony expression melted for only a moment, he smiled, and gradually like cars in a traffic jam, everyone returned to their raucous nature as he stepped back to his post in front of the game. Shortly thereafter, during the next game, he made a finishing move with his character that resulted in the removal of his foes’ head. At the conclusion of the move he looked over in my direction and gave me a meaningful glance. I surreptitiously gave him the thumbs up and considered how I might sneak out of there. Fortunately, I was rescued. The speaking panel was about to begin, and his assistant had come to retrieve him.

Final score:

Ice T – 1

Me - 0