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In step with their personalities

March 28, 2007|Claire Zulkey | Special to The Times

Although it's still unclear exactly why viewers of "Dancing With the Stars" were treated to an extra bonus week without any elimination, it's kind of nice to have every star pigeonholed before they all get voted off. It's sort of like seeded teams in the NCAA tournament: We all expect certain players to do well, but we've picked our underdog favorites.

There isn't much controversy right now about the skill levels of the dancers, so for those in the lower rankings, this is the time to show off their sparkling personas and the winning chemistry they have with their dance partners. It just so happens however that the best dancers also have a lock on the best personalities and seemingly best relationships with their professional partners.

Speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno and his partner, 18-year-old blond pixie Julianne Hough, are cute together. Joey Fatone performs -- and jokes -- like the kind of consummate entertainer who will probably pack 'em in in Vegas when he's 87. And boxer Laila Ali surprises with her seemingly genuine saucy attitude and saucier dance moves. Although Ali and her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, seem to have a fine rapport, she really seemed to get along well with Fatone, as they mugged for the camera before the commercial breaks. Don't worry about Chmerkovskiy, though: In what seemed like an odd burst of being star-struck, co-host Samantha Harris, with all the subtlety of a coed at closing time, cozied up to him after his number.

In the meantime, basketball player Clyde Drexler and supermodel Paulina Porizkova maybe aren't naturals on the dance floor, but both have appealing personalities -- Drexler seems to have a heart of gold, and Porizkova more spunk than a woman that beautiful should be allowed to have. No wonder Ric Ocasek married her! Even country singer Billy Ray Cyrus is charming in his own way -- when he's not reminding us that he's Billy Ray Cyrus.

Then there are those who struggle. Former Miss USA Shandi Finnessey overcompensates for lack of chemistry and dance skills with Brian Fortuna by impressively filling out her outfits. "Cheers" and "Toy Story" actor John Ratzenberger seems nice enough but it's never a good move to rely upon mini-sketches to eat up performance time. TV host Leeza Gibbons, meanwhile, is letting us know that she's going to talk about whatever she damn well pleases on this show -- turning 50, her website, turning 50, her ailing mother, and even turning 50. She seemed incensed when her dance partner dared speak -- we can only imagine how it must have burned her up when "Beverly Hills, 90210's" Ian Ziering trumped her sick mother story with his dead mother story. Take that, Leeza!

We'll give Heather Mills a pass, though, for her own particular charity mentions -- after all, she did warn us from the beginning that she was, above all, a charity activist. And she danced the hell out of that mambo.


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