Security was exceptionally tight in the ballroom for the season premiere of ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Beefy guards were seated in the audience and stood, ready to take action, both before and after transgender activist Chaz Bono took to the floor with his partner, Lacey Schwimmer. "I didn't pay attention to any of it," Bono said after the show. "I just wanted to do a good job dancing."
Bono has been the subject of controversy as the first transgender star to be cast on the hit reality show. But he's made a point of concentrating on learning to dance and blocking out the comments that his inclusion on the family show is inappropriate and could be confusing to children. "I have a very thick skin," he said. "And I've been doing activist work since 1995. So I've faced a lot of haters. I'm really good at blocking it out and just doing what I need to do."
It wasn't his gender that caused a problem Monday night; it was his stamina. As the cast lined up on the dance floor at the end of the show, Bono was sweating, fighting to catch his breath and looking like he was going to faint. As the evening's last dancer, he had barely finished his cha cha when host Tom Bergeron went over the voting numbers for the twelve couples. "Everybody else gets to finish and have a second to recover," said Bono. "But we finished, had to run up the stairs [to the post-dance interview area with co-host Brooke Burke Charvet], then run back down the stairs. I was tired!"
Meanwhile, many involved are jazzed by the new season's potential. Judge Bruno Tonioli was over the moon. "Nobody was terrible!" he raved, excited because the latest crop of celebrity hoofers could be "full of surprises. You don't know who's gonna take it away, and that's good for our show."
"Was it just me?" asked pro Jonathan Roberts, who is married to pro Anna Trebunskaya. "Or was that the best season premiere ever? So many good dances."
Actor Ralph Macchio, who had a ringside seat, was excited because his former pro partner, Karina Smirnoff, has a great new partner in actor and Iraqi war vet J.R. Martinez. "She used to tell me that I was a gift from God," said Macchio. "But now, she's got [someone even better]. He could take the whole thing."
But no one got more rave reviews than fashion guru Carson Kressley, who brought the ballroom to its feet after dancing a joyous, over-the-top cha cha with Trebunskaya. His technique needs a lot of work and he didn't finish in first place — that honor went to Martinez and singer Chynna Phillips, who both scored 22 out of 30. But he got a respectable 17 and a ballroom full of smiles. "Anna has been so kind and patient," said Kressley. "She's like Mother Teresa, except with better hair and make-up. And she's alive."
What did you think of Dancing With the Stars' season premiere?