Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | 12:37 p.m.
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Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus
The radiance and happiness that shone from our hometown Empress of Soul Gladys Knight on “Dancing With the Stars’ ” Motown salute Monday evening might well turn to sadness, heartbreak and emotional farewell tears on the results show tonight.
Even her proud partner Tristan McManus, who was angry with the three tough judges’ comments, is predicting that they’ll wind up in the dance duel, where Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli might eliminate them.
Despite Gladys, who celebrates her 68th birthday May 28, looking stylish and sophisticated on the dance floor, the judges gave her only 21 points out of 30, the lowest of the night. Worse, Tristan and she were first to be eliminated in the Motown Marathon, which closed the program, giving them only 3 extra points.
“I guess there’s a strong possibility we’ll be in the dance duel. But it doesn’t really matter. Think of it this way: Gladys opened the show, so if we end up in the dance duel, Gladys will close the show, as well,” Tristan said. ”I think that would be a tribute in itself. The Motown legend would open and close Motown Week. At least with this dance duel -- even if people don’t like it -- it’s a chance to say farewell then. It’ll be a jive.”
Motown Week also could have been called Vegas Week with Gladys, Smokey Robinson and great performances by our Imperial Palace headliners Human Nature all on the ballroom floor loudly cheered and applauded by a standing-ovation audience that included Berry Gordy Jr., the label’s legendary founder. Martha Reeves and the Temptations also performed. Tonight, Las Vegas regulars Boyz II Men perform a Motown medley.
It was fitting -- but problematic -- that Gladys and Tristan were picked to start the 2-hour Motown special; they danced a rumba to “My Girl.” Tristan lashed out at the judges on his Entertainment Weekly blog this morning: “We were hoping for a faster dance, but the rumba’s what we got. We got a great song, and we got to dance to the Temptations. I was annoyed by some of the comments the judges made. They put me in a fierce bad mood afterward. What Bruno said about wanting a steamier dance -- I thought that was stupid.
“It wasn’t about being steamy and hot, and no one wants to see me steamy with Gladys. I don’t think it was appropriate. They said, well, maybe you’re not the best dancer, and things needed to be steamier. Being steamy doesn’t make anyone a better dancer, either, does it? That’s just a gimmick.
“That’s what really annoyed me. It was a tribute to Motown, and that’s what we did. So the way we took the rumba was that the passionate side and the love that you’re supposed to portray in rumba, that was directed toward Motown. It should have been marked on the dance and not marked on flamboyance.”
The judges tried to soften their voting blows with a few kind comments. Len said, “ If I could judge with my heart, you would be top of my leaderboard. You are the most charismatic dancer.” Bruno said: “It’s undeniable -- you have star quality.” Carrie Ann summed up: “If any night is going to belong to anyone, tonight is going to belong to you.”
Actor and rapper Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower’s rumba was only 2 points higher at 23, and actress Melissa Gilbert with our “Le Reve -- the Dream” choreographer Maksim Chmerkovskiy at 24. With viewer voting, it is conceivable that those two couples could be in the dance duel and that Gladys would escape to dance another week.
My pick from the start to win, mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins and pro partner Mark Ballas, were the highest of the night, notching 29 and another 10 points in the cha-cha marathon for being the last couple standing. They tied with actor Jaleel White and Kym Johnson in the dance voting, but Jaleel and Kym were 3rd in the marathon and received 8 points.
This morning, the largely accurate Wynn sports book director Johnny Avello predicted that Gladys will escape elimination and that it will be a duel between Roshon and Melissa; Gladys will last another week and finish 6th. Johnny also picks Katherine to win, followed closely by Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers and Latino heartthrob actor William Levy.
(Johnny had our Rio magician headliner Penn Jillette as the front-runner on “Celebrity Apprentice” this month, but Penn was unexpectedly “fired” by Donald Trump on Sunday night, putting Penn in 7th place. However, Penn’s bosses, Caesars Entertainment, on Monday donated $250,000 to Penn’s charity of choice, our Opportunity Village -- the amount Penn would’ve received had he won “Apprentice.”)
Tristan summed up: “I wanted to try to put Gladys in as many colors as possible, and she really liked purple. The Temptations wore purple all the time. The whole look itself was, again, part of the tribute. I love dancing for people, and Gladys loves dancing for people. It’s not a stressful thing. It’s something to enjoy. “
Whatever happens tonight on the results show, Gladys still has to fly to Detroit on Saturday and cross into Canada to perform at Caesars Colosseum in Windsor, Ontario. If she is eliminated tonight, she also will fly the red-eye to New York to appear on “Good Morning America.”
We’ll be back Wednesday with the results and another photo gallery from the ballroom floor. Next week, the seven contestants battle in Classical Week.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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