Tag Archives: “Dancing With the Stars”

Cloris Leachman Talks ‘DWTS’ Redux: ‘I Insist On Coming Back’

            In case you haven’t heard, Season 15 of “Dancing With the Stars” will be the show’s first season of returning celebrity contestants.  Well, get ready, because force of nature Cloris Leachman tells us, “Oh, I insist on coming back!”

There is a catch, though.  The 86-year-old performer, already the eldest among the “DWTS” stars when she competed four years ago, reminds us that “When I did it, I had a bad knee, and they would give me a shot in my knee.  I had about three, and it’s not good to have too many of those shots.  So I had a knee replacement after the show was over for me.”  Now, says Cloris, who made it through six out of ten weeks before being eliminated from the show, “My knee is still sensitive and it doesn’t bend all the way as my right knee does.  So I’m sorry about that, but I want to go back and finish the last four!”

She laughs her wild laugh, then archly declares, “I must be there, that’s all there is to it.”

In fact, Cloris — who notes that ABC has a viewer poll concerning which stars should come back — says she is spending part of her time between filming seasons of Fox’s “Raising Hope” working on getting back into her best physical shape.  That way, “I can be ready for anything.”

Does she have a particular regimen?

“I don’t like the word ‘regimen,’ so no,” Cloris replies.  “I like to find out the latest thing in any department, and then I like to try it, no matter what it is.”

She also has parts in two movies coming up to shoot this summer (“The Home” horror flick set in chiller, and a drama that may get a title change) and another couple of films awaiting release (“Gambit,” “Adult World”).

And then there’s the talk of chances that her performance as the outrageous, only occasionally lucid Maw Maw character on “Raising Hope” might get her more Emmy attention.  Cloris already has nine Emmys, the most of any actor, out of more than 20 nominations — but says her excitement about the awards hasn’t diminished at all.  In fact, she feels it “more than ever.”

She also says, “If I have nine, why not ten and make it an even number?  It would be easier for everyone to remember.”  But seriously, “I’d be thrilled out of my mind.”

‘DWTS’ Chelsie Hightower: Using Setbacks as Fuel

“Dancing With the Stars” pro Chelsie Hightower and her celebrity partner, Disney Channel cutie Roshon Fegan, just managed to squeak through the past two weeks’ of eliminations — but the beautiful 22-year-old blonde dancer insists that’s only fueling their passion to succeed.

“I think just being in that position does it to you in and of itself,” she says.  “You feel the emotions when you’re not getting the scores from the judges you were hoping for — but that can propel you.  It lights that fire even more.  You want to come back and show them that you’re supposed to be there.”

Chelsie adds, “That’s really my philosophy of life.  If you have a setback or disappointment, come back even stronger, so they won’t have the option of a negative response.  I’ve always lived my life and my dancing that way.  Use failures or bad things to propel you, then you turn them into something positive.”

Along the way, Chelsie has had star partners ranging from Michael Bolton to “The Bachelor’s” Jake Pavelka and Olympic snowboarding star Louie Vito.  However, she tells us, “in terms of dance aptitude, Roshon is the best partner I’ve had.  He focuses in on everything and retains it. And he keeps growing all the time.  It’s fantastic.  He’s great, he really is.  He’s so much fun — always positive, no ego, great work ethic.  Fortunately, this show is about hard work.  He really does come in with a great attitude every day.”

Will it be enough?  We’ll know by May 22.

NEXT STEPS?:  Speaking of “Dancing With the Stars,” Melissa Gilbert, who has been expressing huge gratitude toward her large and loyal fan base for bringing her this far in the competition, would like to find another series home once she hangs up her dancing shoes.  She envisions an ensemble series.  “I’d be content to have younger people carry the show and then I come in and sprinkle my fairy dust and leave,” is how she put it.  She could see working two or three days a week on a show, which would still give her time to be with her children and continue her burgeoning writing pursuits.

Gladys Knight ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and New Record, Too

Gladys Knight is not only in the TV spotlight as a “Dancing With the Stars” contestant — she’s also planning for the launch of her first album in six years, “Another Journey,” next month.  Among the helping hands producing the recording is “American Idol’s” Randy Jackson, who won a Grammy for co-producing her “At Last” album in 2001.

“Yeah, I’m still working with big Dawg Randy,” says the legendary Empress of Soul with a laugh.  “That’s my buddy.  I’m finally coming out with that album.  People kept asking me for it.  I really thought I was through with recording, to tell you the truth.”

She says she’s been amazed to hear Gladys Knight and the Pips songs being sung by contestants on “Idol.”  “It does my heart good to know I did something that’s lasted all these years, and that they feel the music we did is worthy enough to choose to perform at such an important moment in their lives.  That’s how I feel about it: ‘This is your time to shine, and you chose my song.'”

Now is her time to shine as a dancer.  Asked for a progress report on her training, she says, “I’m doing pretty good.  I’m kind of shocking myself, because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do this.  I think a lot of it is due to my partner, Tristan (McManus), and how he teaches and how patient he is.”

Is Gladys a natural dancer?  “Noooo.”  She laughs. “You would think so, honey, with all them Pips dancing around me all the time, but they never let me dance, you know?  I used to want to learn the routines of the Pips and in the beginning I did.  Then Pops said, ‘Ok, look.  This is how it is, Baby.  You’re a lady.  So you’ll strut and the Pips will dance.’  And that’s how they set it up.”

The 67-year-old grandmother of 17 has been keeping up her concert tour schedule, training with McManus while on the road.  She is in the midst of a two-week break as we speak, expecting to get back out for gigs in Canada and Mississippi after tonight’s and tomorrow night’s shows.  “Is that crazy or what?  But when I perform, our engagements are set months in advance and there were things I just couldn’t cancel,” she explains.

Where does all her energy come from?  “Well, I try to eat right, and, you know, exercise is always good for you.  I had fallen off the wagon, so to speak, in terms of exercise, but dancing gives me my cardio.  It’s working out pretty good.”

‘DWTS’ Pro Tony Dovolani Bonding With Martina Navratilova

            “Dancing With the Stars” pro Tony Dovolani has had a wide variety of celebrity partners through the past 13 seasons of the ABC show, returning Monday (3/19) but never one he’s felt more in common with than Martina Navratilova.

“We completely relate on every level,” Tony declares.  “We’re both living the American Dream.  After coming here from other countries, we both love the American way.  We’ve both competed for the U.S. in international competitions.”

Dovolani came here from his native Kosovo at age 15, and is certainly at home here.  “Put it this way.  My kids are totally American,” he says.  His many achievements outside “DWTS” include 2005 and 2006 World Rhythm Championships.  Of course, 59-time Grand Slam title winner Navratilova also came here as a teen; she famously asked the U.S. for political asylum at age 18 and was subsequently stripped of her Czechoslovakian citizenship.

Beyond the shared Eastern European roots and elite competitions, Dovolani deeply admirers Navratilova on a personal level.  Asked how she compares to past partners such as Chynna Phillips, Wendy Williams, Jane Seymour, Kate Gosselin and Melissa Rycroft, he points out, “None of the others have gone through what she’s gone through.  She has a different soul, a different way,” he adds of Navratilova, who is also a breast cancer survivor.  “It’s not just that she’s a gay activist, but she came out at a young age at a time very few people came out, and she said, ‘Accept me for me.'”

As the Health and Fitness Ambassador for AARP since 2007, again Navratilova is challenging social barriers.  In fact, she’s made it clear that one of the reasons she is taking on “DWTS” is her hope to inspire other 50+ people to get out of their comfort zones and try new things, in addition to staying in shape.  They’ve been practicing four or five hours a day, he says, working to overcome the fact she’s not a natural when it comes to dance.

“I asked for an athlete because I wanted to see what it was like to work with one of these champions,” he says, “and I couldn’t be happier than to have gotten Martina.”

Melissa Gilbert Credits Back Surgeon for Her ‘DWTS’ Try

Melissa Gilbert

Former child star Melissa Gilbert credits her back surgeon for the fact she’s become one of this coming season’s contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” — and not just because he healed her broken back.  “It actually started with him, because my final day [of post-operative appointments] was the day that Jennifer Grey won.  He’s her surgeon too,” recounts the amiable actress.  “He started saying, ‘Now YOU need to do it.’  I said, ‘I’m glad you think my back is healed enough so that I can do that.  If I injure myself, though, you have to operate for free,’ and he laughed.”

You can count on the show highlighting her story of conquering tough physical challenges.  As you may recall, Melissa toured the country through much of 2008 and 2009, playing Ma Ingalls in the popular stage musical version of Little House on the Prairie.  For months, she was in extreme discomfort, but somehow, she finished the tour.  When she returned home and went to the doctor, “I found I had broken my back.  I knew the disc was herniated.  I didn’t know the back was actually broken.  If I had, I’m sure the

doctors would have said ‘Don’t go.’

“After the surgery, it was a really long recovery, and I didn’t get cleared to work really until February of 2011.”  Gilbert, who has written about her past battles with alcholism, enlisted the help of Dr. Drew Pinsky to guide her as she dealt with her intense post-surgery pain, due to her concern she might become addicted to opiates.  She would take her Dilauded, Percocet and muscle relaxers, and then take two days away from the pills “and just tough it out.”

By summer, she was pain-free.  And, “There’s nothing I can’t do.  I can do Pilates.  I can run.  I can jump.  I can do yoga.  I can do whatever I am asked to do.”  Including “Dancing With the Stars”!

There’ve been rumors — and tabloid stories — of her taking on the show before.  Last year also saw the breakup of her 16-year marriage to Bruce Boxleitner, and “The National Enquirer wrote some ridiculous story about me healing my heart by doing ‘Dancing With the Stars.’   They had me studying tape of other stars who had done it — which was funny, because at the time I was shooting my movie at the time,” she says, referring to last December’s Hallmark Channel movie, “The Christmas Pageant.”

As for why she’s taking on the show, Melissa tells us: “It’s just because it seems like a real challenge for me.  And you know me — if something scares me, I’m gonna do it, and this kind of scares me because I’m now part titanium.”

IF YOU ASK US:  It’s been a tough year for Oscar.  This year’s show was book-ended by the Los Angeles Times expose that delineated the Academy membership as 94 per cent white, 77 per cent male, and with a median age of 62 — and the New York Times piece that laid out a variety of indicators showing that the Oscar show’s glory days are over.  (And the ultra hard-campaigning Harvey Weinstein’s relatively little-seen films winding up at the forefront of the Oscars again and again hasn’t helped ratings.)   Scathing reviews such as the Hollywood Reporter’s “Oscars Become Badly Paced Bore-Fest” had to have hurt — and a little extra salt in the wound came in Forbes’ report that Best Original Screenplay winner Woody Allen not only wasn’t present, he watched the NBA All Star Game instead.  Of course, with Woody, nobody was surprised.

The rest of America — businesses and individuals alike — has had to get used to once-unthinkable cutbacks, shakeups and forced reinvention to survive in these tough times.  Now it’s the Academy’s turn.   Most obviously, it’s time to take the craft awards out of the primetime Oscar show — and to make a concerted effort to diversify membership.  Take all the negativity surrounding the 84th Oscars and use the energy for positive, deep and meaningful change, not just a few more young faces on the show.  It can work!  After all, America, like Hollywood, loves a good comeback story.

Barbara Bain

HELLO, AGAIN:  Esteemed veteran actress Barbara Bain is enjoying her turn in Claire Chaffee’s comedy, Why We Have a Body as directed by cast mate Tanna Frederick.  “It’s an extraordinarily heightened approach, a bit like a cartoon — fanciful.  It makes me think of Terry Gilliam’s films,” says the actress, who rose to fame as the sexy and soignee spy Cinnamon Carter in the original “Mission: Impossible.”  She adds, “It’s hard to believe this is Tanna’s first directing job.  My reaction was kind of, ‘Wow, look at what she’s done with this material.’  I was very impressed.”  That’s saying a lot, particularly since Bain has been spending much of her time in recent years directing plays as well as acting in them.

Bain is playing the globe-trotting, not-so-wonderful mother of two grownup daughters who are going through turbulent times in Why We Have a Body,  which is running at Santa Monica’s Edgemar Center for the Arts through April 8.  One daughter’s a career criminal, the other is married, but having a lesbian affair.

Meanwhile, she’s also in the indie film “Nothing Special” with Karen Black, about a woman trying to have a normal life while dealing with bipolar illness.  The film’s awaiting a distributor.  And she has a series of six one-act plays at the Beverly Hills Playhouse ahead on her agenda.