Enough of politics. I need a break from the lies, the spin, the meanness — and that’s just the media. It’s time for a palette cleanser and, with Dancing With The Stars having kicked off its 23rd season, I’ve got that emotional refresher lined up.
A quick explanation about why I happen to like DWTS so much: DWTS is all about what I call “getting it right.” People start something new and, through perseverance and a good attitude, they get better and better. Some get so good that they go on to win the mirror ball.
I love watching this kind of trajectory, whether in real life or in fiction. My fondness for improvement explains why I don’t like any of the much-lauded crime shows such as The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. Those shows are all about people getting it wrong. The best thing that can happen is that the bad guys die, and that’s not very uplifting. A “getting it right” show is about hope.
Also, I really like watching the pros dance. They are seriously good and, as long as the dancing doesn’t get too vulgar, it’s a pleasure to watch them move.
Since last night was the first show of the new season, I thought I’d just take you on a journey of the “stars” and tell you what struck me about each star’s personality and performance. I’ve followed the DWTS website as a model and listed the stars in alphabetical order, by their first names.
Amber Rose: The first thing I think of when I think of Amber Rose is threesomes. Yup. That has nothing to do with DWTS, obviously. Instead, it reflects the fact that one of the first and last things I ever read about this woman who came to fame as a girlfriend of Kanye West (yuck) and now has a TV show of some kind is that she had a threesome and hated it because it lacked intimacy. Talk about too much information! Still, I’d rather my children, if they read about Rose, learn without having to experiment for themselves that intimacy trumps quantity every time.
Oh, I was supposed to talk about Rose’s dancing. She told her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, that she worked as an exotic dancer. It became clear that the emphasis had been on exotic, rather than dancing. Rose has one of the most amazingly voluptuous figures you can imagine, with a bountiful bosom and a shelf-like derriere. With those assets, it’s actually hard to move well, especially for a foxtrot. Nevertheless, Rose has the potential to be a good dancer. I don’t see her coming in the top three, but I think she’ll last for a while.
Calvin Johnson, Jr.: Johnson is one in a long line of football players who are huge DWTS fans. I’d like you to read the first paragraph of Johnson’s bio and then I’ll tell you my thoughts about his dancing:
Calvin Johnson Jr. was born in Newnan, Georgia. He is known to many as one of the NFL’s best wide receivers of all times. Most people in the football world know him as “Megatron.” He is also a philanthropist and a family oriented man. Johnson’s journey to where he is today is credited to his parents, Calvin Johnson Sr. and Dr. Arica R. Johnson. They instilled in Calvin at an early age that putting God first, maintaining good grades in school, being obedient, possessing good character and striving toward a purposeful mission in life are some of the necessary ingredients to life success.
Johnson glows. He’s huge — endlessly long legs, size 15 feet — and a little ungainly given his size, but he’s lit from within. He won’t win the mirror ball, but he will last quite awhile and, if his character continues to shine through as it did in the opening episode, he will add grace to the show:
Jake T. Austin: Austin was a child actor in a Disney show called The Wizards of Waverly Place. As is true for all child actors on Disney and Nickelodeon shows, he overacted something awful. Sadly, he doesn’t bring that same energy to his dancing. He’s not bad, but he’s not good and, worse, he’s not interesting. Still, he may show some spark as the season goes on, so I won’t write him off.
Jana Kramer: Kramer is an actress and country singer. She’s quite pretty and has a long, leggy figure that can be a dancing asset. She’s in the midst of a divorce so she can be expected to weep periodically. She didn’t strike me as memorable, although she’s good enough to last at least past the first few episodes. Unfortunately, she’s paired with Gleb Savchenko, one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen, but with the personality of a gigolo. (I’m not saying he is one; he just oozes that certain slightly sleazy something.)
James Hinchcliffe: Since I don’t follow auto racing, I didn’t know that Hinchcliffe was a well-known race car driving, nor did I know that he was in a very scary accident in 2015 during which he sustained serious injuries. I did pick up a few things from watching DWTS: He’s funny, smart, and moves very well, with good rhythm and light feet. He has a good chance to end up in the top three. He’s also likely to enliven the season because I have a suspicion that his goofball persona hides a practical joker.
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds: Edmonds is a phenomenally successful multi-award winning musician and music producer. I’d never heard of him. He seems like a likable enough guy, sweet really, who has a lot of grace. I think he has potential, although he didn’t really float my boat too much.
Laurie Hernandez: Hernandez, 16, was one of the champion gymnasts at the Rio Olympics. It was apparent there that she’s not only an incredible athlete, she also has lots of charm.
Hernandez is partnered with Val Chmerkovskiy who is, I think, the best dancer on the show. The only person happier during their first dance than Hernandez was Val. He knows he has a winner on his hands. Unless something terrible happens (God forbid), Hernandez has a lock on first, with the rest of the stars battling for second and third place:
Marilu Henner: I don’t know about anyone else, but when I think “Marilu Henner,” I think of Taxi, the long-running sitcom in which she was one of the stars. That was a sweet and funny show, and she contributed a great deal to it. That’s Henner, the actress. I’m not so sure about Henner, the DWTS star. She giggles like a teen, has the face and neck of a woman older than 64 (too much sun tanning?), and has an elegant, fit body. Her dancing was surprisingly good, which is nice, because she’s partnered with Derek Hough, second in skill only to Val. Still, that giggling. . . . It just put me off.
Maureen McCormick: Yes! It’s Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Marcia “Oh, my nose!” Brady. Well, if Henner’s giggles put me off, McCormick’s constant tears of joy put me off even more. I understand the emotional fragility — she was one of those child stars who went off the deep end and had a long, hard road back to sobriety and stability — but I still found that her endless tears left me feeling unpleasantly like an emotional peeping Tom. Her dancing? I don’t remember.
Florence “Mrs. Brady” Henderson was on hand, and looked lovely, despite having had just a little too much plastic surgery.
Rick Perry: Who cares that Rick Perry can’t dance? He’s delightful — funny, goofy, self-deprecating, and fizzy with positive energy. I think those virtues might help him last more than one week on the show despite his elephantine galumphing on the dance floor:
Ryan Lochte: Meh. No discernible personality. Trying hard to appear contrite, but mostly just appearing desperate and self-centered. During the taping, there was a hoo-ha when someone rushed him on the dance floor, but it didn’t show up on camera and, thankfully, no one was hurt. He won’t last.
Terra Jolé: There are two things you need to know about Jolé. First, she’s a “little person” with true dwarfism, meaning that her arms and legs are very short compared to her head and torso. Second — and this is the one that blew me away — she had a baby just a month ago. In my defense, I threw up 24/7 for 9 1/2 months with each baby, so maybe that’s why it’s impossible for me to imagine, despite seeing it with my own eyes, that someone can dance the jive a month after their birth. Nevertheless, putting my own experiences aside, I believe that a lot of women would find dancing a month after having a baby to be a daunting task.
Jolé, however, has huge amounts of energy, lots of style, and she’s out to prove something. Good for her. I’m not sure, though, that Jolé will be able to prove her way into the top three. The reality is that her build will make it increasingly difficult for her to have the speed and do the movements required as the dancing becomes more sophisticated. She’s partnered with Sasha Farber who, although the shortest of the male pros, still towers above her. He handles that fact with grace, subtly adopting poses that bring him closer to Jolé’s height.
Vanilla Ice: Vanilla Ice was one of the first big-name white rappers. Unfortunately, with the fame and the lifestyle came drugs, lots and lots of drugs. He also tried to commit suicide twice, once as his career was fading and once when it seemed entirely over. He pulled out of the abyss, though, and has made a successful and varied career for himself doing just about everything, including music.
Ice is a good breakdancer, which was worked into his debut cha cha, but I didn’t get much of a sense of him, either as a personality or a dancer. At least he didn’t cry. He should last a while, and it will be interesting to see if he grows on me as a personality and grows on the floor as a dancer.
This has the makings of an interesting season despite Hernandez’s apparent lock on first. As I said, I watch the show to see how people develop: Do they work hard? Do they have good attitude? Can they go, as some have, from never having danced before, to being wonderful dancers? Do they nauseate me with endless weeping? Seeing those questions answered as the season progresses is what makes DWTS one of my favorite shows.