Whoosh! Issue 67 - April 2002


Page 3

Simon Prast
Director of the Auckland Theatre Company


I'm looking at three images: the posters for The Blue Room, and A Streetcar Named Desire, and the brochure shot for The Rocky Horror Show. And there he is, 'The Heartthrob,' 'The Hood,' 'The Mad Transvestite Scientist.' Talk about range!

But of course, he had range to spare. Artist; athlete; warrior; wag; joker; juve-lead; larrikin; lord. He was all of these and more. Those movie-star looks. That rock-star voice. And such great legs, even in fishnets and f*ck-me shoes as big as canoes. Kevin Smith, 'Kev.'

Along with most of New Zealand, I met him first in 1989 when he joined the cast of Gloss. Producer Janice Finn had scoured the country in search of testosterone with talent and couldn't wait for us all to meet this gorgeous hunk she had found in Christchurch. Could we wait?!?

Soon enough, in he walks: smoldering definition of 'tall, dark and handsome'. Sleepy-sex eyes. Improbable lips. Marlon Brando, only younger and taller. Omigod! How you wanted to hate him.

Turns out you just couldn't do it. Turns out this 'Eyeful' barely glimpsed a man whose content was more beautiful than his form. The brain outboxed the brawn; the humor was sexier than the smile; the heart was bigger than the chest that contained it; the spirit more generous than the lips. Misquoting lyrics from a show he would never sing: "What a guy! Makes you cry! And I did: KEVEEEEE!!"

We shared the sad histories of the end of Gloss and the end of the Mercury. I can see him at the wake for the Mercury, standing at the back of the room, arm around his bosom-buddy Geoff. Both are swaying with the booze and singing actor-songs of injustice and farewell. A couple of years later, they did this double act sober as the Handsome Princes in Into the Woods: "Agony: how it cuts like a knife!"

During the 1990's, he grew his hair and became the star. Hercules; Xena; websites; fanclubs; action dolls; Beverly Hills; swimming pools; movie stars.

He was voted New Zealand's Sexiest Man. Every year! For ten years!!

Our paths crossed only a couple times but nothing had really changed in him A little grey around the temples now but he still lived in Ellerslie. His own tribe had increased. Three sons. And he still wore jandals the size of canoes.

Millennium comes. Hercules goes. He signs with ATC [Auckland Theatre Company] for The Blue Room and A Streetcar Named Desire. I can see him at the poster shoot for The Blue Room with his pal Danielle. Both so beautiful and both couldn't care less. They shriek and shout obscenities and cry with laughter before moving in for the shot that will sell us ten thousand tickets.

He was nervous about returning to the stage. It had been a while and the script demanded ten characters of different status, age and love-predicament. He needn't have worried. His ten men have dignity, danger, desperation and desire. Fans fly in from around the world to catch him in his Calvin's.

On one night of unscheduled audience participation, a punter worse for wear stalks on during a scene change and snatches them. He takes it in his strides. On the final night, I sit with 900 people and watch the two of them dance through it. It doesn't get any better. Anywhere. When the Calvin's hit the floor for the last time he turns. A millisecond flash and it's gone. There is an audible gasp from the crowd. A swoon. Outrageous. Hilarious.

And then Streetcar. You get to know people when you direct them, their essence and their demons. Some deny access. Elizabeth Hawthorne, Danielle Cormack, Michael Lawrence. And Kevin Smith. 'Kev'. Fearless. In the broken world of this subtle, disturbing masterpiece, they take no prisoners.

We rehearse the inevitable showdown. In he comes as Stanley Kowalski, 'survivor of the stone age'. As the scene plays his eyes get darker and the veins in his arms swell until it seems they will explode. And then he snaps. Combustion. Over goes the table and there stands the animal ape, an aweful, awesome, raw beauty. He backs her into a corner and is over her. She is pleading for her life but he is overpowering, the sound coming out of his mouth primal and terrifying. He hoists his prey aloft, carries it to the bed and then forces his savage brutal victory. End of scene. Ghastly silence.

Amid the rehearsal room wreckage of tables and crockery lie the two actors. Finally, and with such delicacy, he lifts himself off her. So gently, he offers his hand which eventually she takes. As they put our world back together again, the two consummate actors embrace in love and respect for a job well done.

He sang at our 2002 season launch. It was the last time I would see him. I'm on the podium introducing the end-of-year musical The Rocky Horror Show. I know he's up next but I haven't seen him in the costume. The lights snap out. The RKO fanfare plays. And then, suddenly in the spotlight, there he is. A vision. Kevin Smith. Kev. Beads. Corset. Suspenders. Fishnets. The f*ck-me shoes as big as canoes. "Whatever happened to Fay Wray, that delicate satin-draped frame?"

The voice is satin-draped. Wicked. Beautiful. He segues into "Don't Dream it. Be it", slowly building intensity with each repeated refrain, in total command of his talent and his audience, bidding us to follow him. "Don't dream it. Be it. Don't dream it. Be it"

Gone now. Gone but never forgotten. Precious boy. Rarest of men. He gave more than he took. He was blessed and we shared his blessings. A Prince. Kevin Smith. 'Kev.'

I leave it to Shakespeare.

Goodnight sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Danielle Cormack
Actor, "Ephiny", Xena: Warrior Princess


All the people here today and his friends and colleagues around the world are testament to the fact that we all felt a connection with Kev. Whether it was through being a family member, a friend, or that even though you might never have had the opportunity to meet him in person, you have been touched by his performance, his words, music or humour. Our lives are graced with a Beautiful Man and a truly rare talent.

It was mirrored by his commitment to his profession, his love of his family and friends, his courage to keep getting up there even in the face of adversity, the risks he took, his unconditional support for his fellow cast and crew members, his knowledge and unprecedented humour, his quest for perfection and the frustration he experienced by trying to achieve that.

So Kev - As a colleague and work mate you are going to be sorely missed and even though it has been noted that you were on the verge of 'greatdom' please know - and let us all note- that so many of us believed that you had already achieved so much more than you were given credit for.

As a friend, like so many others, I am devastated and angry that you are not here, but I also know that you left us all with THE most valuable gift - The memory and experience of having known you and having you in our lives. So although this is a tribute to a great man, let s also make this a rip roaring send off, because I am sure that if you know Kevin like I am sure that most do he wouldn't have wanted it any other way. So in the words of The Smithy himself "Get thee to a Distillery"!

Renee O'Connor
Actor, "Gabrielle", Xena: Warrior Princess


I've been putting off trying to write something about Kevin for weeks now. It feels that by writing about him, in the past tense, I am forced to accept that he is really gone. How can this be? A man who personifies humanity and epitomizes invincibility dies before his time? A man who so loved his family, that you could see his sense of happiness in every smiling wrinkle on his face? Kevin would give me a good-natured ribbing for saying he had a wrinkled face, and yet here was a man who was absolutely gorgeous and genuinely self-effacing at the same time. I'll miss the comedian, the gentle giant, the Adonis, the family man, the rugby fanatic, but most importantly, I'll miss a friend. Kevin Smith, you will always be one of a kind, and I will continue to cherish the few, precious years that I knew you.

Renee O'Connor

Danielle Walther
Aide to Kevin Smith, 1998 Burbank Xena Convention


I heard the news of Kevin's death moments after I read a news report that he'd been injured and, as the news sunk in, I went from shocked to totally shattered. How could such a loving, laughing man be dead? As I spoke to online friends via email and phone the news became more real - they were going through mourning just as I was. Because of Kevin, many friendships were made and/or deepened, because of his death I felt I should renew those friendships. During one of these difficult conversations a dear friend likened Kevin's death (for me) to the death of a high school friend - someone you haven't seen in several years but who you knew and liked. She then pointed out that the length of time you've known someone has nothing to do with the amount of grief you experience when they die.

Kevin had a profound effect on everyone he met. His sense of humor and his zest for life reached out to those around him. He had a talent for remembering names and faces months, even years, after he'd first met someone. His utter sincerity and ability to put people at ease endeared him to others. It's ironic that such a man could be cast as a bad guy so often and that a man so full of love for his fellow man (and woman) could play the cold-hearted, manipulative God of War. He never wanted to direct; he only wanted to support his fellow cast and crew. He was secure in his place in the big picture and trusted everyone else to do their job to the best of their abilities. He was modest and was easily embarrassed if someone overly praised him.

Kevin was a passionate man, full of conviction - so much so I bet he could have even taught someone like me to like rugby as much as he did. He enjoyed his vices - beer, wine and cigars - but never let them stop him from his responsibilities. He gave his time to worthy causes, such as the ALAC campaign (to reduce drunk driving in New Zealand) where he was in a television commercial, radio advertisements and a brochure.

Kevin deeply loved his wife and children, as anyone who heard him speak about them could attest. Sunday was better known to him as "Susie's day" - a day she had for herself as a woman and not as a wife & mother. He often took care of his children when they were sick even if he himself were also feeling ill. He knew the value of spending time on himself - "Kev time" - while being disciplined enough to wake up at 4 AM to go work out with his friend & agent, Robert Bruce.

Kevin was not afraid to laugh at himself and his wholehearted smile could light up a room. He was a comedian who never hesitated to throw himself into whatever a Theatresports audience demanded of him. He had a rich, powerful voice and used it most with his group "The Wide Lapels" which played covers of bad 70's music. He also played covers with his mates Joel Tobeck and Danielle Cormack as lead singer for "The Bards Band" which played at many Creation Entertainment conventions.

Kevin gave me a new standard of what a man should be. He played hard, loved hard and lived his life fully. I treasure the time I was privileged to spend with him.

Thanks, mate.


Jeremy Callaghan
Actor, "Palaemon/Pompei", Xena: Warrior Princess


What a terrible loss. I met the guy once, Pasadena 2000. I was immediatelly drawn to his warmth, charisma, and talent. The guy sang like an angel. He was also a comic and dramatic genius. My love and support to his family.

Lori Joyce
President, Joel Tobeck Fan Club


Kevin was a very cool person, flat out. He had may wonderful characteristics, many flaws, great talent, great humility, a great heart. He was a regular bloke with extraordinary talents, the greatest of which was to touch people and make them feel important. If you've met Kevin, you've made a friend. That was how he made everyone feel. What a gift!

I've read many stories of how Kevin has affected people's lives. I am no exception. I have friendships that have endured beyond Hercules/Xena, most notably Beth Gern, Kevin's fan club president and Bret Rudnick, esteemed WHoosh! writer and Danielle's [Cormack] fan club president. Meanwhile, Kevin was the greatest supporter of Joel's [Tobeck] fan club, and it was through the fan club that I first talked to Robert Bruce (oh, that voice!!!). It is also through Kevin that I now have an e-mail friendship with Geoff Dolan. I wouldn't have started my website, Actors Down Under, or learned about so many wonderful Aussie and Kiwi actors if it wasn't for Kevin. When we first met in 1997, I told Kev about the site. He thought it was a cool idea and suggested a couple of his mates to add to it. Since then, every time I've talked to Kevin in person or by e-mail, he's mentioned someone else to add or told me who belonged to what agent so I could get more information, or suggested I watch some movie because there's "some really great stuff there". Actors Down Under has grown to list over 350 Australian and New Zealand actors. Kevin deserves the credit for turning me on to a good thing.

Kevin was one of those guys that was full of life, that lived life to the fullest, that was always considerate of others, that always put the needs of his family first, even when he was away from them. I think it was Kevin's goal to be a Hollywood star, not for the stardom itself, but so that he could get the high paying gigs, maybe do a major movie every year, and spend all the rest of his time at home with Sue and the boys. It was his obvious devotion to his family that drew me to him in 1997 at WarriorCon and earned my respect with it's endurance. Not a meeting went by without some talk of Sue and the boys, what they were doing, some funny thing that one of them had done or said, how much he missed them when he wasn't home. They were the heart and soul of everything he did.

I have a ton of memories of Kevin. WarriorCon 1997: the photo session in the poorly decorated hotel room where he joked about Canadians being repressed and pulled down the hem of his shirt to "nothing showed" in the pictures. Orlando in 1999: doing karaoke, sitting by the pool guessing how old Robert was based on our own age, talking about Joel, learning the ins and outs of rugby; Dinner at Kobe with Kev, Bret Rudnick, Beth Gern, David Benkendorf and Amanda Miller; Bret and Kevin introduced us to sushi; We talked about everything under the sun. San Francisco 1999: the cabaret, a wild night experiencing Tim Omundson's "town", more explaining of the finer points of rugby. San Francisco also gave me my first (and only) glimpse of Kevin's temper, and my introduction to his deepest sensitivies. I now look back and feel honoured to have been allowed inside his head that far, to be a shoulder for him to cry on, and I'm glad he was comfortable enough to let me support him when he needed it. It also showed me the deep and enduring bond of friendship between Kevin, Joel and Danielle.

And what an awesome performer! I can't write something about Kevin without mentioning his amazing musical talents! Anyone who saw Kevin perform at a convention couldn't help but be blown away by his incredible talents. What few people in fandom know is the power behind that voice. During the rehearsal for the San Fran cabaret, he belted out a few notes "Broadway style" and I was just awe-struck. There was a quality there that just doesn't come through in Rock 'n Roll. So rich and deep…like Kevin. The total package.

After San Fran, I stopped going to conventions for various reasons, but kept up with Kevin by the dreaded e-mail (i.e., Kevin was a lousy "online date"; his e-mails always began with "sorry for the delay" or "I know I'm tardy, but…"). We kept each other up on things, shared information and insights, griped about rugby results, gave virtual "high fives" when the All Blacks won, and worked out Kev's "appearances" for Joel's fan club. His constant ribbing of Joel kept me in stitches! French kissing an egret? Who'd have thought! (To read some of Kevin's comedic talent, go to http://www.actorsdownunder.com/joeltobeck.html) and follow the "Guests" link). Kevin always talked about Joel or Danielle or Geoff, what they were up to, what gigs they had going on. He'd mention a mate of his that wasn't on my site.

"Hey mate you never added Calvin [Tuteao] to your site…"

"Willy's [De Wit] not up yet…"

Sometimes, my reply was "who?" and Kev would rhyme off movies for me to rent, or give me the name of an agent.

Never an e-mail went by without at least one mention of Sue and the boys, usually the very first line. My last e-mail from Kevin is extremely poignant now, I received it February 1. The first line is: "Unfortunately Sue and the kids didn't come to Beijing . It's been nearly five weeks since I saw them last so I'm hanging out to get home."

I think that's what I love most about Kevin. His love for his family, his devotion to his wife and sons, his long-range plan to be able to spend more time with them. They were his life, his strength, his hope and his joy and he was the first one to tell you that. And not only with words. It was in his eyes, his smile when he mentioned them, that look he got on his face when he pulled out the picture he had with him, and the fact that he was always thinking of them.

From the day Kevin left us, I've suffered from writer's block. I can think of a hundred memories of Kevin but can commit none of them to paper in a way that does them justice. You can't tell a "Kev story" without seeing that smile, the boyish grin, the twinkle in his eye, the laugh lines ... but it just doesn't translate onto paper. Nothing does Kevin justice.

He was, and is, a special person who touched my life, and those of many others, in a profound way. I am so glad I was given the opportunity to know him, to experience his friendship, talent and joie de vivre. And while I have tears streaming down my face, I also wear a smile because that, more than anything, is what Kevin brought to my life.

I'll miss you, Kev.

Kieren Hutchison
Actor, "Talus", Xena: Warrior Princess


The last time I saw Kevin was at a pub on Bondi Beach, after a night of trying to keep up with him Guinness for Guinness. Bad idea.

I feel robbed because after meeting each other on set in 1998 and years of knowing each other in passing, we had come to a point very recently where I would call him a real friend. Or as he would have put it, a "Top Bloke". The guy was halirious, it makes me unbearably sad to think I'm not going to get to catch up with him again and share our injokes or create some new ones.

I feel honoured to have known him. I think of his life as a huge success story, personally and professionally, and he's someone I'll always admire and aspire to be like. Miss you matey.

Kieren Hutchison.

Kevin Sorbo
Actor and director, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys


"He's gone." Those were the words of my good friend, Michael Hurst. That's all he could say to me on the phone before breaking down and crying for our lost mate, Kevin Smith. I had already heard the sad news from another dear friend, Eric Gruendemann, but Michael's two words brought reality to my denial and I, too, broke down and cried. "He's gone."

Kevin Smith was my friend in so many ways. As my golfing buddy, we shared hours of entertainment as he hacked his way from bush to bush, rarely seeing the fairway. As a poker pal, he drove me nuts with the need to light a cigar and stink up my house. And as a co-star on the set of Hercules, where we met eight years ago; where we started and defined and polished our friendship.

He played my half-brother, Ares. Laughing our way through long days of filming, rehearsing fake fight scenes that still managed to beat us up, and debating who had the better workout program at the gym. Kevin was a pro through and through. One of the most talented and funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Belying his muscled body and leading man good looks by breaking the typecast and having a brain to match the brawn. He was a class act and he will be missed.

My prayers go to his wife, Sue, and his three boys. May God bless them and help them through these tragic times. I also pray that we, Kevin's friends, learn from this tragedy. I pray that we remember how precious life is and how our lives can be altered so profoundly by one person's death. I pray we remember that kindness, patience, and gratitude go a long way in making for a healthier life. And I pray we remember that hugs and "I love you"s are important because you never know when, or if, you'll get the chance to do those things again.

"He's gone," and a part of all of us is gone with him.

Kevin Sorbo

Lucy Lawless
Actor, "Xena", Xena: Warrior Princess


Upon hearing of Kevin's death a great many people felt compelled to ring one another-- to connect. Even if it meant complete silence,--- speechlessness on both ends of the line. This was no piece of celebrity gossip. Kevin genuinely touched people as if he was a close and special friend. The news came as a personal blow even to those who only met him once in passing or had seen him on stage.

Often we modified our grief thinking 'their loss is greater' or 'she knew him better'. But does this honor Kevin? What he meant to us and means to us still? To love Kevin is to have known him and to have been touched by him.

So grieve honestly and fully. For out the other side of this Bitter Heartache lies joy, gratitude and a profound sense of privilege for having known this man.

Shine on Kevin, shine on.

Lucy Lawless

Robert Tapert,
Executive producer, director, and writer, Xena: Warrior Princess


Back to back messages on the answering machines confirmed our worst fears -- Kevin Smith had died. Standing in our study, Lucy [Lawless] and I hugged, cried, and cursed his loss. We were all crushed. What must his family be going through?

Since first hearing that Kevin was seriously and perhaps fatally injured, it had been a week of hope, prayers, and hushed phone calls. Now the worst was confirmed. Immediately my mind rolled over all of my personal encounters with Kevin. Memories flooded the mind trying to somehow 'quantify' a relationship, to sum it up. As I tried to recall the first time Kevin Smith and I shook hands, it became apparent that I could not recollect this first face to face encounter.

I do remember when I first Kevin Smith on screen in Desperate Remedies -- October 22 1993. I knew that he had that something special that could fill the screen. Without having met him, I knew that I would never enter into another project without this Kevin Smith somewhere in mind. It would be a few years before we first met in person, but once again I can not remember that day. Certainly at some point we shook hands and exchange introductions. He was at our wedding, we ate lunch on set many times, we worked together to create a show to star him as a companion piece to Cleopatra 2525. He came to our home and swam in our pool. Unable to fix upon this memory it soon, became important to honor Kevin's artistic contributions.

In the weeks following his death, I watched old episodes of Young Hercules, Hercules, and Xena to jog my memory. Then I watched in order to convince myself that his great talent has some lasting legacy. The episodes did not seem to do justice to the talent that was distinctively Kevin's. Only OLD ARES HAD A FARM made me feel that the gift that had been presented to me in Kevin Smith the actor was not wasted. It is futile to enter into all the could'a, would'a, should'a scenarios that seem to go hand in hand with the loss of a friend and colleague. The truth is that even a hundred episodes of action, comedy, musicals, and drama would only begin to reveal the depth and scope of this man's talent. Kevin Smith was and is an integral part of the whole Hercules/Xena experience -- a timeless and ongoing journey.

My personal forgetfulness will never alter the magic Kevin created on screen and the relationship that we shared. Kevin, you make us laugh and cry. You charm us, make us feel. Your generosity was felt both on and off-screen.

We will never forget you Kevin. You are truly a legend.

Thank You

Melissa Good,
Writer, Xena: Warrior Princess


It's been a very long week just past. I just got back from the Pasadena Convention of 2002. I hadn't really intended to go to the convention at all, to begin with. I had a heavy work schedule this month, and it's difficult for me to travel because of my mother's illness.

But. Sometimes fate works out in mysterious ways. I found myself sent on a business trip during that very week of the con, to of all places, Southern California. Not one to temp fate more than once, I gave in and extended my trip to cover the con weekend -- knowing at the very least I would get to see friends and celebrate the magic again of this show that somehow brought together so many from so far for so long.

So I was glad I was going. There would be new t-shirts, old friends, and to top it all off, Michael Hurst and Renee O'Connor in an evening performance of Love Letters. And there were -- new t-shirts, new sweatshirts, lots of old friends. But there was also a cloud there, a cloud of knowing that a member of the Xena family was hurt, and in a far off place.

There were four characters I really wanted to get to write for when I joined the Xena writing staff. Two I figured were a shoe in (Xena and Gabrielle). The other two were Ares and Aphrodite. I got my chance to write Ares on my second script [COMING HOME], and giving Kevin a place to shine as a god made mortal was one of the truly delightful experiences I had in the whole process. He did a fine job with it too -- his Ares falling into madness, then being wrenched out of it by the horror of killing Xena was wonderful. He took the script and ran with it, and I was in turn humbled and amazed by the result.

A fine actor. A genuinely decent man who was funny and self deprecating and a true professional in the difficult job of being an action adventure star. I remember him being happy that Ares finally got to ride a horse. I remember him laughing when Lucy [Lawless] kicked his sword out of his hand a little too hard and almost took out a light shield. I remember Kevin and Lucy, with the day's light fading and time short, running through one of the most difficult passages of dialog in a single take because they were just that good at it, and knew each other just that well.

So I had my fingers crossed and was praying for him when I heard he was hurt, in a strange place far from his friends and family. I hoped such a strong man, who had been so full of love and life could pull through and make it back home.

It was cold and windy when I left the convention on Friday, heading back to get a jacket this southern nerd didn't realize would be needed. A page stopped me as I drove out of the parking lot, and when I looked down, all it said was: "Kevin died today".

A lot of people have related what Saturday was like, and I agree with all of them. It was a coming together, and sharing of grief of people who knew and loved Kevin the person, with people who knew and loved Kevin the image on the screen, and it was truly wonderful. For that one moment, in that auditorium, the line was gone between stars and fans, staff and viewers, TPTB [the powers that be] and us. We were all just people who in that moment, had lost a friend.

It was a difficult emotion to quantify. It was difficult to understand why something like this would happen to someone like Kevin. It is difficult to cope with the knowledge of what Kevin's wife and children must be going through, to lose such a huge part of their lives.

The only easy thing to understand is why our first reaction was -- 'what can we do to help?'. It's what we always do. I once said this was the most loving and giving group of people anywhere, and that's been proven time and time again - and will be now as the convention goers already have started the ball rolling, and the rest will continue to add to it through Sword and Staff, or personal donations, or other fund raising that will surely start up soon.

As I flew home today from the convention, a thought occurred to me. I travel a lot, and no matter how wonderful the place I've been is, I always am grateful to see the Everglades flash by under the wings of the plane and hear the captain say 'Welcome to Fort Lauderdale'. It means I'm home. I think anyone who travels a lot must feel that way, and I wondered if Kevin felt that way about being in China, so far from his home in New Zealand and his family. I wondered if he'd been looking forward to seeing the Auckland harbor and hearing voices that sounded like his did and being able to watch the All Blacks on television again.

For a moment, I felt very sad, because I knew this time, Kevin didn't make it back.

But then I thought about it, and because I've been there and seen New Zealand, I know that where Kevin is now must be awfully familiar to him, and very much like home after all.

Peace be with you, Kevin.

Robert Bruce,
Agent for Kevin Smith


I think the thing is, with all his fame and popularity, he [Kevin Smith] never changed. He was always Kev. Rather than Kevin. Close friends, family, they all say Kev. And I think that's the testament that every actor who has known him has said. 'The guy was so humble'. He had it all, but he never ever pushed, never flouted it, he was just Kev. And he loved to be just himself, and then when he did a job, he would be whatever character. It's like the ultimate. If you could be, where 'I'll just be me, and then I'll go and I'll do my gig', a lot of people can't do that. Because ego takes over, you see it with a lot. And it never did with him. And I think that would be, people would want to remember him as Kev. People loved him, just loved him. People would come up to him, kids would come up, and he always had time, just always had time. Just good old Kev. That would be, that would be it.

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