It was frightening to be in the Dancing with the Stars audience last night. We've seen celebrities push their way through pain and fatigue. We've seen Jennie Garth crash and burn when she landed in a heap at the end of her second-week routine. But we've never seen a star pass out and lie motionless on the ballroom floor.
Here's what you didn't see following Marie Osmond's collapse: After host Tom Bergeron cut to commercial, Osmond's brother Jimmy and her children rushed to her side. Her manager ran onto the floor, as did the paramedics. She was lying on her side, knees bent, not moving. Her partner, Jonathan Roberts, was holding her head in his hands. "Marie has so much fun all the time that I didn't know if she was pretending to fall down," he said. "But all of a sudden, I felt her whole weight going into my hands and I just freaked out. Things happened so fast. I felt her going and I thought she was goofing off. But when her head was in my hands and she was lying on the floor, I realized that her eyes were shut and she wasn't moving. There was not a muscle moving in her body. And her son and her two daughters were saying, 'Mom, Mom, wake up!' And they were taking her pulse and everyone was just freaking out because she wasn't moving."
There is no way you could know this sitting at home, but here's what had everyone scared: Osmond was down for a good 30 seconds. It seemed like 30 years. Executive producer Conrad Green was there in an instant, running into the ballroom. "When you've got a live show and one of your contestants collapses, you tend to run pretty fast," says Green. "I was obviously very concerned."
"The air just went out of the room," said cohost Samantha Harris. And, of course, the room in question was a ballroom full of 500 people, and it was deathly quiet. As you watched this circle of people around Marie, her manager fanned her with a wad of papers. You could see her knee move, slightly. And then both knees. "And then she started moving and her eyes opened," says Roberts. "And she looked around and I saw that she realized where she was and she said, 'Oh, crap. I fainted on live TV.'"
Roberts said that a million things were running through his mind. "This competition is so tough this season with these celebrities working so hard. And we had flown to Canada this week on the red-eye, and she performed two different concerts with her brothers. She'd already gone through a rough week. And she has a little bit of asthma and all the fires in Malibu affected her. She told me earlier today that she was feeling a little light-headed. And I could tell about halfway through the dance because some steps went wrong and her breathing was getting really bad."
In fact, Osmond had been experiencing breathing difficulties throughout the day. "She said she had been inhaling some of this bad, smoky air [from the wildfires]," said Harris. "And then you have a hot room, hot lights, a sexy dance and bam."
Osmond has such a goofy sense of humor that it wasn't clear at first that her collapse wasn't a pratfall. "Half of the ballroom thought she was kidding," said Harris. "And the other half didn't know what to do."
But as the seconds dragged on and Osmond didn't move, it became clear that this was no joke. Head judge Len Goodman and judge Carrie Ann Inaba looked sick. Bruno Tonioli put his face in his hands, as though he couldn't bear to think of what might be happening right in front of him. The judges stayed seated because there was already a small crowd of people around Osmond. Everyone was frightened. "I don't think it's the first time she's ever passed out," said Green. "The heat, she said, and the smoke from the fires, a lot of these things had affected her, and obviously she's just done this huge, strenuous dance. I'm not sure what her breathing issues are, but we're going to find out. We'll be talking to her doctors tomorrow. I think it was more a case of [her forgetting] to bring an inhaler with her — an inhaler that we didn't know about. But we'll talk to her tomorrow and get a proper assessment and make sure she's safe."
"It was really scary," said Jane Seymour, who had to dance just minutes after Osmond's collapse. "And when it happened, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was go out there and rumba. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to go to Marie because she's always there for me and then they said, 'No, you've got to go out there and continue." Tony Dovolani, Seymour's partner, was shaken as well. "It sounds cliché to say this, but the show must go on. That's Marie's life. And if anybody understands how this works, she does."
Finally, with Roberts' help, Osmond got to her feet unsteadily. She did a shaky little bow to the crowd. The room erupted in applause. Everyone, it seemed, could breathe again. Harris was waiting backstage. "Marie immediately sat down. She was a little sweaty because she had just danced, and she was still breathing a little heavily. But the only thing she could say was how upset she was that she was disappointing everyone else. She just kept saying, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' And then she said that she wanted her scores! And they're telling me in my earpiece, 'Just do the [post-dance] interview with Jonathan! Get Marie to the medic.' And I kept saying, 'No. Marie is telling me that she wants her scores! She wants to stand there and get her scores!' And Jonathan is saying, 'Don't worry, I'm going to hold her up and make sure that she doesn't fall again.' She said she felt fine but was a little bit weak."
"A lot of people are talking about being light-headed," said Mark Cuban, who spends the majority of his rehearsal week back home in Dallas. "There's no question about it, it's been tense here in L.A."
"It's been a terrible day, a very traumatic day," said Seymour, who lives in Malibu. "My husband [director James Keach] is fighting a fire right now. The police made us all leave yesterday morning, a mandatory evacuation, and he stayed. He hid there in the house and he's there now with the hoses. He's there illegally, and I'm extremely worried because he told me that the wind was coming in our direction."
It's been a season unlike any other on Dancing with the Stars. Major drama every week. Seymour having to fly back to England for her mother's funeral. Gloria Estefan canceling her performance due to her mother's illness. J.Lo having to tape tomorrow night's performance on Sunday because of an illness in her family. "That's what live television does and you just have to roll with it," said Green. "I'm just wondering when it's going to calm down."
Roberts, after the show, said Osmond was with her family and feeling fine. But he was worried now about a samba curse. "Last season Heather [Mills, his last celeb partner], fell over at the end of our samba. And now Marie? Whoever I get next, I'm going to tell them, 'No samba!'"
Audience warm-up Cory Almeida took a look around the ballroom. It's been one thing after another. "I'm out of here," he joked, "before the disco ball falls on my head."
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