by Deborah Starr Seibel
Now that the Disney Kid has beaten the Karate Kid, all bets are off. With Tuesday night's elimination of Ralph Macchio, it'll be Chelsea Kane, Kirstie Alley and Hines Ward in next week's Dancing With the Stars finale. But even show insiders are at a loss, trying to figure out who will ultimately sashay home with the prize.
"I gotta believe it's gonna be either Chelsea or Hines," says second season champ Drew Lachey, one of those rare birds who maintains the physical conditioning required to come back to this show and do what he did Tuesday night: Reunite with his pro partner, Cheryl Burke, and dance. "Chelsea and Hines are the strongest dancers and can do more in the freestyle."
But even Lachey is hedging his bets, because he is, after all, not including Alley — a well-loved comedian and a sympathetic Everywoman struggling with weight issues — as a potential winner. "That's the big X-factor," he says, "Kirstie's fan base. But she and Maks (Maksim Chmerkovskiy) are really gonna have to bring it, athletically, to compete with the other two."
Warren Sapp, Season 7 runner-up, isn't buying that at all. "I love her," he says of Alley. "Hines is my boy, but I just love Kirstie because she doesn't care! She lets go! You can see the confidence coming out of her pores!"
True enough, as Alley, standing only a few feet away, jokes with an interviewer at exactly that moment that her game plan next week is "to beat Hines Wards' ass." She admits only that he's an appealing dancer. "He's a frickin' dreamboat," she says, in mock frustration.
Sapp looks at her with admiration. He's totally up to speed with the show, even though he says he has to make up stories to break away from his football buddies to watch on Monday nights. Is it so difficult, even now, after so many football greats have competed on the show? Sapp laughs and shakes his head, yes. "Real men don't dance and don't talk about dancing," he says. "But I love this."
Thursday, May 19, 2011