Gladys Knight, Tristan MacManus

She may have been handed her walking papers, but bet on this: The producers of Dancing With the Stars won't let Gladys Knight go far. Win or lose, she owned Motown Week, at least according to her adoring fans. "I don't want her to leave," said one man in the audience, "but if she goes, that'll be OK, too, because then she can come back and sing."

There was so much about Knight that was old school, and reeking of class. She turns 68 next month. She is the grandmother of 16, and the great-grandmother of three. But during the competition, you never heard her complain about aches, pains or fatigue. You never heard a word about her bum left knee. "I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee awhile back," Knight told TV Guide Magazine before the competition began, "and because of that surgery, I've got a little arthritis in my knee. And when I start working, yes, I have a problem with that knee. And I have knock knees. So sometimes the directions that you have to take to learn a dance, it's a little strenuous."

That's as far as she'd go. And during the competition, all she'd say was, "No excuses." But ask her now if the knee is still bothering her and she'll tell you the truth. "Oh, yeah. You let it rain! Let it get really cold, like it is right now, and it's hard to move that bad boy out of the bed. Never mind coming home from dancing."

Knight says she finally agreed to be a part of the competition — not really knowing if she could do it — because it's the one television show she absolutely, positively can't miss. "I don't watch a lot of television mostly because it frustrates me with my schedule," she says. "Things that I get into, I can't watch all the time. So what's the use? But this is one show that I've watched from the beginning because of its entertainment value. And I respect those dancers so much."

Which of her own songs makes her want to dance? "There are a couple," she says. "Because you know we [Gladys Knight and The Pips] were more noted for our ballads and our mid-tempo things, like 'Midnight Train to Georgia.' When I'm dancing, I like funk. I like the real hard-driving stuff. If I were to pick one, it would be 'I've Really Got To Use My Imagination' or 'Love Overboard.'"

Knight says the best part of the competition was they way she was treated. "I like the way they were dealing with me," she says. "Because it's not like I'm the matron here. I was just one of the girls. They don't treat me different and I like that."

And the hard work didn't bother her a bit. "I got my work ethic from my dad, who was a workaholic," she says. "It was pumped into us when we were younger: If you want to be set apart, you can't be run of the mill."

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