What do you do when you've missed the big cast party because ABC puts you on the red eye from Los Angeles to New York (to appear on Good Morning America) on the night you've won Dancing with the Stars?
If you're two-time Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves, you fly back into town and throw your own little Hollywood soiree (with the help of Brazilian rum-maker Leblon) at the swank Sunset Tower Hotel for about 100 friends from the cast and crew, including Sabrina Bryan, Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin. "I've been traveling so much that I want to make sure I enjoy [the victory]," says Castroneves, who was in Las Vegas yesterday for Floyd Mayweather's fight and has made numerous media appearances in the last 10 days in New York and Orlando.
Castroneves' pro partner, two-time Dancing champ Julianne Hough, was on hand as well, looking gorgeous in a black-and-white cocktail dress. But she was also strangely pale after spending a week on vacation in Hawaii. "It rained the whole time!" says Hough, laughing. "All the fake tan (from the show) came off in the ocean and there was no sun, so this is my real color."
Castroneves and Hough got a chance to catch up while the flashbulbs popped. The two have just confirmed the specific dates where they'll be performing on the Dancing with the Stars national tour: Indianapolis (Jan. 18), Nashville (Jan. 19), Tampa (Jan. 21), Jacksonville (Jan. 22), Fort Lauderdale (Jan. 23), Providence (Feb. 9) and Philadelphia (Feb. 10).
Hough will fly out to Nashville on Monday to continue working on her first country album. "I like how real the people are in Nashville," says Hough, who's now had two seasons on a hit show to observe the Hollywood scene. "I'm not saying the people here are fake. But there, everyone is so laid-back and down-to-earth. It's all about the talent and people loving each other's talent. Whereas here, it's almost like backbiting and trying to get on top."
And trying to handle the white-hot light of fame. Castroneves says he's had some time to digest the end of his engagement and the way it came out in the press. It was posted by his former fiancée's publicist on media outlet TMZ.com the morning after his big win. The rumor mill went into overdrive that he was having a serious relationship with Hough. (He isn't.) And he was taken by surprise that the end of his engagement, something he considers a very personal matter, was made public. "I'm not used to [that kind of attention] and I didn't expect it," says Castroneves. "I didn't feel betrayed or anything like that. I just didn't understand the way it came out. I haven't seen too much (of the speculation in the press) because I've been so busy. I think if you read about it or try to look for it, it would probably be a negative."
Asked whether his participation on the show enhanced his life or, in fact, cost him, Castroneves says, "What happened is something that you can't predict. I always think of the glass half full instead of half empty. I think it all happened for a reason."
But he's still smiling like there's no tomorrow, still happy about his trophy-winning dancing feet and all the new friends he's made. On Monday he flies to Indianapolis to hold a dinner party for 500 people in his racing world "to thank them," he says. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be enjoying all this."
The Indianapolis crowd, says Castroneves, has been relentless in their kidding of the new champ. "The team was making fun of me," he says. "They said, ‘Is your head too big for your helmet? Do you need sequins on your helmet?'"
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