Tuesday, April 16, 2013 | 2:05 p.m.
A week after being kicked off ABC’s hit “Splash,” Las Vegas resident and comedian Louie Anderson returns on tonight’s episode, catching everyone unawares. We do know the Palace Station headliner will dive from the highest 33-foot board along with the other contestants still competing on the show.
It’s the most daring and dangerous challenge to date. But neither Louie nor 2012 Miss Alabama USA Katherine Webb will explain in advance why he’s back. ABC executives and producers have invoked a veil of security and closed-lip silence until the broadcast.
I can tell you after talking to several contacts that NBA icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar might be forced to leave the series because of an injury sustained during rehearsal, and it’s possible that Louie has been brought back to replace him.
Katherine, who posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in February, had a mini-Las Vegas weekend vacation away from the show, and I caught up with her after a photo session in the pool at Steve Wynn’s Encore Beach Club. The supermodel and TV personality who also hit Andrea’s told me:
“This is now my fourth time in Las Vegas, and I always love being here. The first time was in 2008 when I came to watch the Miss USA Pageant before ever thinking of entering it. The second time was back here last year to be in it.
“I’m hoping I will get back to Planet Hollywood for this year’s pageant June 16. I am going to try. I don’t know what my schedule is going to be like, but I want to support the Miss USA system because I wouldn’t be where I am unless it was for them.”
Katharine, who recently moved back home to Alabama after a show-biz stint in L.A., talked with me about her sizzling Sports Illustrated shoot: “It was so classy. I loved the way that the Sports Illustrated team listened to me about what I felt comfortable in -- dating A.J. McCarron and being part of the University of Alabama football team, I definitely wanted to be a representative of them, so I was able to wear A.J.’s jersey. I was able to represent how it is that I came to where I am today. It was so much fun, and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Our conversation turned to the tears she shed on last week’s “Splash” when Louie was sent home a half-point behind her own low score. She told me about her emotions and kept the revelation about Louie’s return secret:
“He is such a sweet man. He has such a pure heart, and, on top of that, he is such a joy to be around. He is hilarious, and, at the same time, he really makes you feel special. Each person he comes in contact with, he makes feel special. I just knew with him going home I wouldn’t be able to be around him in training.
“And on top of that just seeing his progress of where he was when he started to this point and how much weight he has lost, and how much he really wanted to prove to America. It was amazing. Within the first six weeks of practice, he lost 40 pounds, and that was incredible.”
I asked Katherine about the injuries everybody sustained. “I already have mild scoliosis in my upper-mid back, so just landing wrong into the water really hurt. For any diver, you land in the water and you get back up again, and you try to perfect your dive. So in training, I would land wrong, but it put too much pressure on my back. I saw a doctor, and he gave me recommendations. And you will see on the show coming up what happens.
“It gets more difficult in the weeks to come because you are challenged to do even riskier dives. With risk comes success or failure. It has been an experience. But before you ask for more, let me just say it is a case of stay tuned!”
While at Encore, Katherine relaxed in a sexy bikini atop a lily pad while frolicking with other daytime revelers. Our thanks to David Becker of WireImage for his great photo gallery.
No diving practice, though, at Encore, as it isn’t permitted in the three-tiered pools. The swimming worked up an appetite for Katherine and her group. At Andrea’s, chef Joseph Elevado served hamachi, big-eye tuna and crispy rice, dim sum, wok-fried broccoli and wagyu beef and lobster. There was an ice cream tower for dessert. Afterward, Katherine danced at adjoining Surrender to Bassnectar’s set to work off the meal.
Katherine also watched “Le Reve -- The Dream,” which features cast members taking a jaw-dropping 80-foot dive from the theater’s ceiling into the water. Maybe Katherine was watching for poise and skills to learn for her 33-foot high dive tonight with the return of Louie! We’ll have tonight’s photos on Twitter on Wednesday and a report of Louie’s surprise on Thursday.
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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