If you were watching closely on Monday night, you saw 12 new stars make their grand entrances down the twin curving staircases — and two of them tripping. And it wasn't the women having trouble with their long gowns and high heels: It was All My Children star Cameron Mathison and Las Vegas legend Wayne Newton.
"I think they're terrified of the women," said Dancing with the Stars executive producer Conrad Green the next morning. "I think the men's knees went to jelly when they walked out. So many people are cocky before they enter the ballroom. But it's actually quite intimidating."
So the season is fast shaping up like this: The women are stronger dancers than the men. "The women are just fierce, says model Albert Reed, who did a gyrating Elvis imitation in his cha-cha in an effort to level the playing field. "We really knew what we were up against."
And that's just the way it was planned. Green says that initially, when the producers decided to break the first two performance shows into men versus women, it was a toss-up as to who would go first. "But then we decided to have the girls go first [on Monday night] because we wanted to see the guys sweat," says Green. "We thought, 'These women are really good, and that would be a really good opening show. The guys will be really intimidated.' And it's always better to see the guys sweat."
They sweat, all right. Two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who pulled out the highest scores of the night, was a bundle of nerves all day. "He wants to practice some more," says his partner and last season's champ Julianne Hough. Hough is running around the outdoor trailers where the stars get their hair and makeup done. "Have you seen him? I can't find him."
In fact, just an hour before the show — and after the men had finished their dress rehearsals and the lights had been turned off on stage — Mathison, billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban and champion boxer "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather were still on the dance floor, in the dark, practicing with their partners. "I'm getting ready for the championship, baby," says Mayweather, who threw a few punches in the direction of the band as his initial warm-up.
Newton sits quietly in the makeup trailer, getting a touch-up. "Last night was agony," says Newton. "I know for a fact that three of the guys left the show last night and went back to the rehearsal studios. I probably would've, too, but I was just too tired. I knew that I wouldn't accomplish anything. But really, the women have given us one tough act to follow."
"I'm nervous and excited and exhausted," says Mathison, pacing outside. "Typically, I crash and then I get my energy back up. I hope it comes back up."
"I think with the men, it's not going to be about the dancing," says Newton's partner, two-time champ Cheryl Burke, relaxing before the show. "It's going to be more about their personalities. Their personalities are stronger than the women's."
So tonight, the men had to sell those personalities, and the women got to sit on the sidelines and enjoy the show. "My friends are all freaked out," says Jane Seymour, still reveling in her good reviews and getting body makeup on her bare shoulders above a dazzling blue evening gown. "They can't believe that I could do what I did."
Her pro partner, Tony Dovolani, can't believe his good fortune. He gets to sit in the audience, too. There are no pro routines to perform, and no anxiety to assuage in his partner. "Jane is just made for ballroom dance," he says. "And because we just get to enjoy ourselves tonight, it will be the most relaxed night, ever, in the history of the show."
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