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Photos: Louie Anderson survives ABC’s ‘Splash’ debut with courage; Katherine Webb advances; Keshia Knight Pulliam out

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Adam Taylor/ABC

Keshia Knight Pulliam, Louie Anderson, Katherine Webb, Rory Bushfield and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the premiere of ABC’s “Splash” on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Premiere of 'Splash' on ABC

Brandi Chastain, Louie Anderson, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Rory Bushfield, Nicole Eggert, Greg Louganis, Ndamukong Suh, Chuy Bravo, Drake Bell, Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, Katherine Webb and Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett on the premiere of ABC's Launch slideshow »

It looked as if it was going to be a total disaster. Instead, Louie Anderson proved all the naysayers wrong. He even wowed the judges on Tuesday night’s premiere of ABC’s “Splash.”

It was an extraordinary act of determination to succeed. He’d never dived before he began training just two months ago in Southern California. In fact, until five years ago, he didn’t know how to swim.

Palace Station comedy headliner Louie had a stunned audience in silence biting their nails as he climbed up the stairs to the 10-foot-high diving board. He told hosts Joey Lawrence and Charissa Thompson that he was jumping to honor U.S. troops overseas, as his father was a military man.

At the last minute, Louie stopped on the edge, and everybody thought his worst fears were realized. Instead, he dazzled and dumbfounded his fellow contestants, trainers and judges, saying he’d climb higher for the first time to the next level -- 16 feet.

Then the split second he jumped, it was the cruelest moment in television as ABC cut away to commercials, and the at-home audience had to wait 3 minutes of agonizing suspense. It seemed an eternity before the show resumed, and Louie flew off fearless with an old-school swan dive followed by a resounding splash.

“It was insane compared to what I didn’t even know a few weeks ago,” said Louie. He won an average 7.25 in the judges’ voting, and the audience gave him more good marks.

Our preview story of “Splash” was posted Tuesday. Incredibly, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 65 and 7 feet tall, also dived last night -- backward with a back flip. Extreme skier Rory Bushfield won the high marks of the night from the 33-foot board -- the height of a three-story building.

The bottom two divers were 2012 Miss Alabama USA Katherine Webb and actress Keisha Knight Pullman, who lost and was sent home after making one last dive for fun. Louie gets a break in next week’s show because the other five contestants, including Playboy Playmate and reality TV star Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett, will be diving.

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.

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