Over the years, my wife Laurie and I have had the privilege of skiing with a lot of different people from all walks of life. The other day she made a list of some of them. The people on the list ranged from Diana Golden, who won 37 gold and silver medals in the Handicap Olympics and World Championships, to the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. When I saw his name on the list, it brought back a lot of great memories.
In 2002, the man who then owned the Yellowstone Club closed down the resort for three days so that Benjamin Netanyahu could ski here. Netanyahu had his wife and three bodyguards with him. One of the guards was on skis and the other two were on snowboards. Everyone knows it would be tough to become a good skier or snowboarder living in Israel and spending eight years in the army.
The limited skill really started to show up when Bebe (Netanyahu’s nickname) and I started skiing together. Bebe graduated from MIT as an architect and learned to ski in the Northeast when he was a student there. We had a great time the first day, when he was getting back on skis for the first time in several years. As Bebe speeded up with each run his bodyguards had a more difficult time keeping up.
A typical chairlift load for us consisted of Bebe, former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, the main bodyguard and me. On one run down to the bottom of the Lake Lift, there is a steep portion and we all stopped halfway down to wait for the bodyguard.
He skied down in a classic, snowplow position, which he could maintain easily because of his many years of physical training in the Israeli army. However, at the steep portion, he just kept accelerating, so I started hollering at him, “Put more weight on your left ski!” This was so he would turn towards an intersecting ski run and start heading up it, eventually coming to a stop. About the fourth time I hollered, “More weight on your left ski!” he fell and exploded in a giant yard sale – the largest and strangest one I have ever witnessed.
Stretched out down the hill were his hat, gloves, poles, goggles, skis, and all of the hidden defensive armament and ammunition that a bodyguard would always carry around. It would be divulging international secrets if I listed them all, but I could not figure out how anyone could conceal so much and still look like a normal person skiing down a hill. He was one very embarrassed bodyguard as he scrambled back up the hill retrieving all of his bodyguard protection armament and his skis, poles, goggles and gloves.
A few runs later Bebe was telling me, “My back is hurting so bad that I am going to have to quit for the day.”
I’m a person who had spent most of my life with a backache because of a bad fall playing basketball in college. The backache finally went away because of a great physical therapist in Vail many years ago, so I said, “Maybe your backache is caused by the same thing that caused mine over the years, nervous tension? And I can’t imagine any job that would give you more nervous tension than being the prime minister of Israel. I think, if it’s OK with you, we could lay you down on a table in the warming hut and I could apply the same gentle pressure that David Honda used on me in Vail and you will be able to ski the rest of the time you’re here.”
Ten minutes later he was stretched out on a table in the warming hut near the top of the chairlift. Three Israeli bodyguards stood within arm’s length of me as I pushed Bebe’s one knee down over the edge of the table and with his other foot against my shoulder I pushed it in the other direction.
Later, I had a moment of regret for several reasons. I had been practicing chiropractic medicine without a license. What if his vertebra really was out of place and I made him a paraplegic instead of a skiing companion for the afternoon? What would his three bodyguards do to me if I messed up?
The prime minister of Israel was stretched out on a table in a restaurant near the top of a chairlift where the half-dozen employees, three bodyguards and Jack Kemp watched.
I just considered Netanyahu just another human being needing a couple of relaxing days of skiing, but I know that everyone who watched that bizarre back adjustment thought I was certifiably crazy to do it.
Ending well, Bebe and I, together with Jack Kemp and a bodyguard team got to enjoy two more days of blue sky, powder snow and sunshine. Today, we miss Jack so much and I’ll bet Bebe and his three bodyguards would all like to be skiing again in Montana on one of those perfect, blue sky, powder days.
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