Tuesday, March 19, 2013 | 3:04 p.m.
Splash on ABC
There’s a 50-50 chance that comedian Louie Anderson will be chosen as one of the first five celebrity contestants competing on tonight’s premiere of ABC’s “Splash.” If so, there’s a 1 in 5 chance that he’ll fail to face his fears of a high-dive board and will be sent home in the first head-to-head elimination.
If not, those will be the similar odds one week from now with the five other remaining celebrities. The 59-year-old Las Vegas resident has been training for more than seven weeks before tonight’s diving stunts in front of a live audience. He admits that he’d never dived before the training for the program and only learned to swim five years ago.
“It’s insane what I’m doing,” he laughed. Louie, who has given up his residency at Palace Station for the TV show, said he weighed more than 400 pounds when he first arrived at the Pasadena, Calif., pool.
Tonight, he’ll reveal how much weight he’s dropped. “Losing weight and getting healthier with the intensive training was very appealing,” he said. “I signed up the minute I’d watched a tape of the European version of the show.
“It’s kind of like ‘Dancing With the Stars’ in water,” he laughed. “But it’s far more than diving. It’s about people being able to push themselves, but in this case they push you right off the platform. It is about facing fear and terror. It’s terrifying standing up on a platform -- you can’t go back down the stairs. There’s only way out -- off the diving board.”
Louie is “splashing” with Las Vegas regular Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett, who appeared as a guest on Monday night’s “DWTS” new season premiere. He also gets to be in the Olympic pool with 2012 Miss Alabama USA Katherine Webb. She was body painted for the 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition after ESPN football commentator Brent Musburger had cameras focused on her while he talked about the luck of collegiate quarterbacks.
Other swim-testants are NBA Hall of Fame legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Detroit Lions star Ndamukong Suh, actor Drake Bell, actresses Keisha Knight Pulliam and Nicole Eggert and extreme skier Rory Bushfield. “Chelsea Lately” sidekick Chuy Bravo, who will still be on the show, won’t be diving because of injuries sustained during training. He’s been replaced by soccer star Brandi Chastain.
Louie told his hometown Minneapolis-St. Paul Pioneer Press: “Everybody’s got their battle scars. My scariest moment is when I did a dive and I got turned around in the water, and I was going down instead of up. I freaked out, and I couldn’t get out of the pool; I panicked. I got plucked out like a wet mackerel. I was angry, frightened and embarrassed. I kept asking myself what I was doing here.
“I don’t know why I thought I could do this because I’d never dived before. I said I’d do it as long as I could be the fattest one. I didn’t want to dive against other fat divers; we’d empty the pool. When we were kids, my mom wouldn’t even let us go to the lake. She was terrified of the water. She didn’t want us to drown.”
Olympic gold medalist and diving legend Greg Louganis has been training the swimmers for the past two months in Southern California. USA Diving Team Director Steve Foley and Olympic gold medalist David Boudia will join Greg as judges of the 30-foot platform high diving, synchronized swimming and other in-water challenges when the stars are teamed up. All are swimming for charities.
David said: “I’m excited to see the celebrities who probably have never used a diving board outside of a backyard pool understand the real difficulties and challenges and the commitment you need to get really good. They may not be my competitors in Rio in the 2016 Olympics, but I know that they will develop a new appreciation for our sport and become advocates to inspire young drivers.”
Louie could earn a new TV show of his own as a result of his work on “Splash,” but for now he’s focused on winning. “My goal is a trophy. How else am I ever going to win a trophy in an athletic competition? I want to outdo myself and go farther than I or anyone else thought I could go.”
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.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.