"She was so down-to-earth," says judge Bruno Tonioli moments after Dancing With the Stars' Monday show, still savoring his time sitting next to guest judge Cher. "She's adorable. She just says what she thinks and she doesn't care what anybody thinks. I loved her."
The two met for the first time hours before the show. What were his first impressions? "She's just a great lady," Tonioli says. "We talked about Italy. Great sense of humor. Total professional. It's like you've always known her. I've always found that with great talent, there is never a problem because they're sure of themselves, they know who they are. And then you put the two of us together and you know something is going to happen."
Tonioli says he wasn't the least bit intimidated working with Cher, even though he ranks her among a very small pantheon of truly great stars. "She's up there with Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Tina Turner," he says. "But if you're intimidated, you become self-conscious and contrived. And you can't do that on television; you have to do your job."
Was he concerned that Cher isn't a ballroom expert? "Not at all," Tonioli says. "She's worked with dancers all her life. She's cast thousands of dancers for her shows. So you're part of the same world. You can tell if something clicks."
One of the more surprising aspects of Cher's time on set was that there wasn't a battalion of hair and make-up artists fussing over her during every commercial break. Once or twice during the two-hour show she got a little touch-up, but that was it. "She was just very relaxed," says Tonioli. "She doesn't have to prove anything to anybody. My God, she's got an Oscar, and Emmy, a Grammy. She just had a good time."