It was proving to be an unusually long taping at Dancing with the Stars. Starting at 3 in the afternoon and not wrapping until 7 at night, Tuesday's results show was a demonstration of what can happen when a headline act cancels at the eleventh hour and everybody else has to take up the slack. The missing link? Guest star Gloria Estefan, who was supposed to perform but had to rush home to Miami on Monday after her mother, Gloria Fajardo, was taken into the hospital for emergency stomach surgery. "You have to take care of your real life, first," says Dancing judge Carrie Ann Inaba. "This is just TV."
But in this case, big TV, and a top-ten show that's become a ratings monster. Which meant that Dancing executive producer Conrad Green had an important three-minute hole to fill. Luckily, he knew a great entertainer who wasn't booked Tuesday night: Wayne Newton. "Mr. Las Vegas" may not be the world's greatest dancer, but he reminded the crowd why he's been a fixture on the Strip for so long: pure showmanship and a warmth that radiates to the very last rows. It didn't hurt that audience favorites (and season two champs) Cheryl Burke and Drew Lachey were also called in to dance to his famous tune "Danke Schoen."
The audience was notified to come in an hour early so producers could pre-tape the elaborate music and dance numbers. And while some were initially disappointed not to see Estefan, the queen of Getting on Your Feet, Newton easily got them in his corner. Choreographer Wade Robson's "Thriller"-like group dance also woke everybody up. As the hours dragged on, host Tom Bergeron kept the mood light by bantering with warmup Cory Almeida and making fun of the unusual real names of two people in the audience (Purette and Macajo). Then Bergeron gave everyone fair warning: "If this is your first time here, we do this every week. We piss off the audience before the show."
Finally, at 6 o'clock, it was time to go "live." Tuesday nights are a double-edged sword for the stars and their partners. They don't have to perform (except for the couple who does the encore performance), but they have to wait all day — and go through extensive hair, makeup and wardrobe all over again — to find out if they're going to spend the next week in a dance studio or go home to their normal lives. This season, the celebs are fighting tooth and nail to stay in the game. Never before have we seen so many high scores so early in the season. And never before have so many been willing to push the envelope — and test the judges' patience — by doing illegal lifts. "I don't blame them at all," says Inaba. "These are wonderfully talented people and they just want to show their stuff. But not yet."
Inaba made a point of marking down couples who skirted the rules. "If Cameron [Mathison] had not done that lift, he would've had a 10," she says. "And Jennie, too, and Jane." Seymour, in fact, stuck to her guns on Tuesday, proclaiming that her feet — which clearly looked like they were sailing above the parquet — never left the ground. As she chastised Inaba on-camera during a taped segment, judge Bruno Tonioli watched the monitors and got the vapors. He was taken aback by Seymour's strong language and willingness to talk back to a judge. He was actually fanning himself and saying, "Ooooooh," as if to say, "This is one tough cookie."
But Inaba was sticking to her guns, too. "The rule is in place to keep everybody safe," she says. "Because we don't want the older people — who may not be as agile — to go for lifts feeling that they have to compete with the younger people who are doing them. And this is a live show. People could get hurt. And we don't want anybody to get hurt. That's why they have to save the lifts for the freestyle at the end. On this show, you have to earn the right to do those lifts."
Trust me, the stars are earning every step the hard way. Take a look at just one day during last week's brutal rehearsal schedule for Sabrina Bryan, who's in first place. The Cheetah Girls star flew to New York to promote the group's new album. "Our training this week was very crazy because I was doing the morning shows on TV," says Bryan. "So I was up at 3 a.m. to do hair and makeup, then going to the shows, wrapping the shows, then doing magazine interviews and photo shoots." That's before she and her partner, Mark Ballas, started dancing. What time did that happen? "We'd start at 6 p.m. and work until about 11 or 11:30," says Bryan. "Mark is so amazing because he can pump me up when we're both dying."
And it doesn't matter that it's 11 o'clock at night, they've flown across the country and she's been up since three? Ballas shakes his head, no. "I always think of myself as a machine," he says. "When I have to dance, I have to dance. I'm not gonna half-ass it, ever. When my foot hits the floor, it's time for business."
As for Floyd Mayweather, it's time to get back to the business of fighting full time. He and his partner, Karina Smirnoff, developed a deep friendship over the course of seven weeks. But that, too, didn't come easy. "My opinion of him changed, drastically," she says after the show. Smirnoff looks at Mayweather. "When you walked in and you were all loud, I was like, 'Gosh, darn it, what am I going to do with you?'"
Mayweather smiles. "A lot of people think I'm just a lot of loud talk," he says. "But I'm more than that. I wanted to stay on the show for Karina. Come on, she's the best. Once you get with the right team, great things can happen."
And what did he learn about dancing? "I learned that in hip hop, you can make many, many mistakes. But as a ballroom dancer, you can't many any mistakes. That's the difference between amateur dancing and professional dancing."
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