Dish Of Salt: Harry’s Last Tango (September 29, 2006)

by Laura Saltman

Ok, let’s be honest here, I love that the dancers have been breaking the rules the last two weeks on “Dancing with the Stars”. It makes for great TV. Watching Len Goodman go after Mario Lopez as he sheepishly hangs his head in shame is priceless. Sure, getting perfect tens would have been fun but a good tongue lashing is way better!

Besides, the controversy has not hurt Mario’s fan base one bit. The audience goes absolutely nuts for Mario at the tapings, more so than anyone else. All the rumors that he is romancing his dance partner, Karina Smirnoff, doesn’t hurt his popularity either. People love a good scandal and the producers were right to play into those rumors with the taped piece on Tuesday night. I guarantee the implied romance between Willa Ford and Maksim Chmerkovskiy helped keep them off the chopping block this week too.

I knew as soon as Willa’s name was read that she was safe, Harry Hamlin would be the one to go. Willa told me last night she was one hundred percent sure it was she who would be going home, “Yeah, I think everybody figured it was a free week. Everybody was getting the free pass, no one is going home this week. I came out fighting. I wasn’t going to give it up and America pulled through for me for the first time, it was amazing.”

Next week she and Maksim will take on the waltz and I was not afraid to tell her that she could be in trouble. The folks around here all agree that if she wants to stick around, Willa needs to keep sexing it up. People want to see some skin and being put in one of those frothy waltz gowns will not win her any points. Plus, its a boring dance to watch. I don’t think she agreed with my assessment but she did say of her dress next week, “We’ll work the dress out. Whatever it is it’s going to be very tasteful and very glamorous and very like old school Hollywood.”

Jerry Springer also learned last night, while I was interviewing him, that he too will dance the waltz next week. He has been saying all along that he only did this show so he can dance with his daughter, Katie, at her wedding. He only wanted to stick around to learn the waltz and he’s getting his wish. Always the jokester he told me, “They will have to run a crawl at the end of the screen, this is the waltz otherwise people wont recognize it as such!”

In case you are wondering, Jerry does want to stick around though he feels guilty when other people have to go home, “I’m enjoying it and I’m working and trying as hard as I can. So you are seeing my best effort. It’s just that I’m not a very good dancer and I feel bad for the others because they are really good dancers.”

As for the dearly departed, Harry’s wife, Lisa Rinna, was probably feeling the sting more than he. I caught her immediately afterwards getting teary eyed and then assuring Harry that it wasn’t his dancing telling him, “There is no rhyme or reason.”

What a sad but nice moment when Ashly DelGrosso was overcome with emotion and couldn’t speak, “Because I was so grateful. I couldn?t. I didn’t?t expect it first of all. If we get the boot, I’ve done this three times, you know, I should expect this but I was just so grateful for the dedication he put in and when she asked that, I couldn’t?, I couldn’t?. I’m very grateful for Harry’s dedication. I’m so grateful to teach him. I’m so grateful to have this relationship and to be part of their family and everything. It was such an amazing journey and experience for me.”

Seems like a nice friendship has developed here and Harry has some very kind words for his dance partner too, “To be able to dance with Ashly for six or seven weeks, what a godsend. This girl is the greatest teacher, the greatest spirit and the greatest person and I have gotten to know her, so that?s a blessing right there and it?s a huge win.”

After the show I went toe-to-toe with the judges to ask them if they thought they were being too tough. Why for instance was Vivica’s cartwheel last week not considered a lift while Edtya’s was? Len Goodman came right at me. I love a fiery debate, " A lift is when you pick someone up. If I pick you up, that?s a lift. If you stand there, and do a cartwheel its not a lift, no. I want them to push the boundaries and be entertaining. I don?t want them just dancing around like Muppets. I want them to do as much as they can but I don?t make the rules up and the judges, we are just there to put the rules into the effect and if you break the rules then you are going to be penalized. And if they think I was hard this week - if they break those rules again - well, then they will know what because in a normal dance competition it wouldn’t be Harry who got kicked off. If you suddenly in the tango, release hold you are disqualified, you’re out. There is no I’m sorry, you’re gone.”

Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba joked that if someone breaks the rules next week, they may have to start giving them minus scores, “Minus two. Minus three. Get out. Let’s just hope no one does that next week. That?s not a good choice to make. At the end of the show when they do the freestyle, then they can do anything they want but while the show runs, you have to have parameters by which you stand. What, are we going to do pole dancing next week? Stripping?”

Now there is a competition I’d like to see Mario in. Of course, if you saw him on “Nip/Tuck” this week you’ve already seen the goods!

Finally, just a little secret from inside the taping. The performances the last couple of weeks have been pre-taped. So, when Tom Bergeron and Samantha Harris throw to the stage there is no one there. The audience is then forced to give a standing ovation at the end of the song, even though nothing is happening right in front of them. I, however, don’t stand in protest! Remember after the Paso Doble performance when Samantha was interviewing Willa, Vivica Fox and Sara Evans backstage and the boys all of a sudden showed up to join their dance partners like they had just gotten off the dance floor? They didn’t. They were in the backstage room the whole time. I loved how they tried to play it off like they were out of breath! They weren’t. Fakers!

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