The KISS frontman is “the most amazing mentor I could ask for. He is busy with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame right now,” she notes, referring to KISS’ induction into that rarified group April 10, “but after that we’re going to get together about it.” Meanwhile, another producing entity has been pitching a reality show centered on Shelleylyn and her world, called “‘Sex, Food and Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ Food is the new drug.” She notes, “It’s a matter of finding the right home.”
“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.”
“Dancing With the Stars” pro Tony Dovolani admits he and his latest partner, talk show host Wendy Williams, have some challenges ahead as they prepare for the March 21 premiere of the show’s 12th season. For one thing, Williams is a super curvaceous 5-foot-11 in stocking feet — “about two inches shorter than I am,” Dovolani says.
“She has real issues. She’s a mom, she’s 46 years old. She’s at that point in life she feels she’s either going to do it now or not.”
And though Williams’ show was dark last week, and she and Tony were able to put in five-hour days of practice at a studio near her New Jersey base, this week the show is on and it’s a different story.
“She has a contract to honor, or course. But she’s one of those indestructible women. She’ll be able to do both,” he says. He also says, “I’m so glad she decided to take on this challenge. I’m very excited to help her achieve something she never thought she would; to be able to do these dances and be graceful and beautiful doing them. She was always the tall girl in school,” he notes — and she knows what it is to feel awkward.
Dovolani adds that he’s found Williams “a very pleasant surprise. She comes in really embracing this. As she puts it, she wants everything — the makeup, the hair, the costumes….She’s picking things up pretty nicely.”
Williams made hay with the awfulness of Kate Gosselin back when the reality show star did “DWTS” — with partner Tony Dovolani. Now that Tony is her partner, Williams has brought up the Kate debacle a couple of times “and asked my opinion of it I think it was that Kate had so much going on in her life this was one more thing she shouldn’t have done. Kate wasn’t all that bad. She had her drama, but if you turned off the cameras, she was okay.”
That’s pretty kind for the pro who once was driven to briefly quit trying to work with the seemingly whiny and uncooperative Kate. “Well, look,” he says. “I think she’s very insecure as a person. But she has kids who one day are going to read all kinds of things about their mother, including negative things. I don’t want to be one of those who says something negative.”
“Dancing With the Stars” pro Tony Dovolani says that with his current celebrity partner, “The Hills’” Audrina Patridge, “I’m so happy I can’t tell you. It’s very refreshing after 10 seasons to feel this way. With Audrina, I just feel rejuvenated, I enjoy choreographing for her. We laugh all day.”
So, is having the young and lovely Audrina a payback for the angst he had to go through when partnered with the oh-so-challenging Kate Gosselin last season?
“Oh, even with Kate, I don’t think it was that bad,” says Dovolani, who’s widely considered a nice guy – but did, at one point, temporarily walk off the Gosselin job when she kept questioning his teaching. He adds, “As long as I have somebody who is driving, who wants it really badly, whatever they lack in talent, I can always make them dance.”
But with Audrina, everything is going better. “You know she has no dance background – no performance background – since she’s from a reality show. She came to me as raw as they get. But the thing is, she goes into it headfirst. The way she approaches things – she never gets angry, never gets frustrated with herself, just keeps going ahead. Nothing comes easy to her, but the way she approaches her learning is really amazing. She’s like a sponge, no inhibitions. She doesn’t hold back. She trusts me completely as a teacher. And I feel like I have a real dance partner. It’s not just dancing with a celebrity.”
Audrina’s family has been “very supportive,” he says. “They’ve been around a lot. I even met her grandmother.” As far as her boyfriend, Corey Bohan, who initially balked at all her rehearsal time, says Dovolani, “It can be hard for people who don’t understand the industry to accept the time demands, but he’s come around. He’s been at every show. He even told me, ‘I massage her feet so she’s 100 per cent.’”
Dovolani’s also getting support from the home team, of course, and was happy to be able to nip back to New York City for a quick visit with his wife and three young children.
“My daughter Luana surprised me with a dance at home. She performed the Waka Waka theme from the World Cup that Shakira did verbatim – and she’s five years old! I got to experience the first time she had a dance lesson…It was pretty amazing.”
Her two-year-old brother is dancing, too, says Tony. “He imitates her….I came home to a houseful of dancers. As a dad, what a proud moment.”
And as a husband, “My wife Lina said, ‘I love it when you smile. You haven’t taken the smile off your face since you started to dance with Audrina.” Aww.