Buzz Aldrin Dancing for Space — and Beyond
Buzz Aldrin may have earned the lowest score — a 14 — on the Dancing with the Stars season premiere, but the legendary astronaut is determined to stick around the dance floor a little longer. Not just to improve his hoofing skills, but to promote awareness about the space program. "[Dancing] is a very strongly supported culmination of being in the public eye and doing things that I think are appropriate for a 'moonwalker,'" the 80-year-old tells TVGuide.com. See what Aldrin, who's paired with Ashly Costa, hopes to accomplish during his Season 10 run, why he doesn't like the "moonwalker" label and what you can expect from his upcoming 30 Rock appeareance.
TVGuide.com: How's the foxtrot going? I'd think that would suit you better than the cha-cha did.
Buzz Aldrin: Oh, I think so. It's a little smoother. Now I know what the whole situation is, and I'm kind of mentally adjusted to everything. ... I think our cha-cha went quite well in comparison to the rehearsals. There is always a little thing where you think you could've done it just a little bit better. But the crucial things, I think I corrected, and I really can't think of something that I could've done better. I'm not in a body that's 30 or 40.
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TVGuide.com: Ashly said she's concerned about you memorizing the steps. Are you having a lot of trouble?
Aldrin: In the cha-cha, it's the transitions and looking in certain directions, being snappy about it. There were abrupt head changes from one position to another. As I've grown older, I've found I really get a great deal of satisfaction out of challenging myself to do a number of things according to a very efficient routine. If it was signing autographs or in the shower shaving, I do that in a very evaluated, thinking-ahead way. I've always been amazed at how dancers could remember what they're doing one after another so quickly. They're thinking three steps ahead.
TVGuide.com: Some people think, at your age, you shouldn't do Dancing. What do you have to say about that?
Aldrin: Well, I have a bevy of supporters who were all in favor of my doing this. I just can't really take enough time to thank all of them right now. But I didn't really do this for me; I did it for the viewers. I hope they will remember the great things we did in the space program, and [see that] somebody is still around thinking very actively about what we should do now and what we can do in the future. I've got 10, 20 years left to promote it. I expect them to be rejuvenated in thinking about me and to go, "Hey, we better listen to this guy. He's been around." ... On April 15, there will be a space summit in Florida, and it's going to clear up a number of things and maybe [identify] the points of views that need to be compromised and worked out regarding the future of our space program.
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TVGuide.com: Is dancing really harder than walking on the moon?
Aldrin: [Laughs] Of course! I learn a lot by watching other people. Most of the other contestants are experienced in the way of moving physically around, whether it's running out to catch a pass or being on ice skates, where you must have outstanding control of your weight and center of gravity relative to the ice. Their jobs are dependent on performing well in front of the public, but my job is not. My chances are greatly enhanced if I show that I'm enthusiastic, enjoying myself and trying to do things beyond my previous capabilities. I'm trying to inspire the older folks and even the young people or middle-aged people. They can see what they can look forward to in later years of life.
TVGuide.com: You sort of did a moonwalk in your cha-cha, but I hear you don't like being called a moonwalker.
Aldrin: People always ask me if I'm going to do it, but I don't know if I'm going to be here one week to the next! The dance step is sort of a backward shuffle, and one thing you don't do on the moon is move backwards. It could've been called the Saturn walk or the Venus walk or the Mars walk. But it's called the moonwalk. ... I'd rather be called a "moon lander" or a "lunar ambassador" because I think all of us who reached the moon were ambassadors who carried out a presidential commitment.
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TVGuide.com: Derek said you're a party animal. True?
Aldrin: [Laughs] Oh, no, you're talking about my wife — she's the party animal! She likes to go, change her mind about leaving and stay a little longer. I like to come back at a reasonable hour. I'm not a cocktail conversationalist. It's kind of a trite phrase, but I live close to Beverly Hills and there aren't many fighter pilots in Beverly Hills, much less moonwalkers!
TVGuide.com: You danced at the West Point hops. What do you remember from those?
Aldrin: Well, I wasn't the person who just couldn't wait to go to the cadet hops. That really didn't turn me on. ... I went to a few, but I was [at West Point] to learn discipline. I became a pole vaulter. That requires a great deal of discipline, not too far removed from dancing. Your feet have to go in just the right place so when you put the pole in the slot, you do that with the right precision. Dancing is similar to that. In the space program, we rehearse over and over again to deal with things that could do go wrong. In dancing, you work on things that aren't going quite right. You don't concentrate on things that are going well. Everything goes under mental discipline.
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TVGuide.com: You just shot a 30 Rock guest spot. What can you tell us about that?
Aldrin: That was wonderful, carrying on a conversation with very professional actors I greatly admired. I felt very honored to be paired up with something that also has another connection to me. I had to think about it a little bit. The first thing I thought of was 3rd Rock from the Sun. Then somebody said 30 Rock, and I was like, "What does that mean?" "That's 30 Rockefeller Plaza." That's where my father worked! ... I'm playing myself. It's a facetious bit, poking fun at people, I guess, who get fired up a bit too much — I may fit into that category — and when they get frustrated, they start yelling at the moon. I ask Liz, "Hey Liz, would you like to yell at the moon with me?" That was a lot of fun.