Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Pope and the Pill

A brief digression from my usual pop culture musings…

Yesterday, Pope Benedict called on Catholic pharmacists to not only conscientiously object to dispensing emergency contraception, but also to educate patients about the moral and ethical use of drugs.

What I would like to know is whether the Pope is also urging members of the same profession to treat their male customers with equal disdain. When they refuse a woman her legally prescribed drugs, will they also demand that she haul in her male partner for a good old tar and feathering? When a man steps up to the counter to pick up his Viagra, does the Pope insist the pharmacist inquire as to whether the gentleman receiving the pills intends to use them solely for procreational sex with his wife?

Let’s forget about the Pope for a minute. Since when did pharmacists become the morals police? It’s their job to fill prescriptions. Period.

I have, in the past, held positions where I did things I didn’t particularly want to do. I used to work as an acquisitions editor where my boss basically expected me to screw writers and photographers out of a decent wage. I also served time as a corporate mouthpiece, where one person’s “spin” is another person’s “lie.” When performing those tasks—which were inherent in my job description—became too much for me to stomach, I quit.

If certain pharmacists feel similarly conflicted, I suggest they start looking for a new career.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not Ready for Prime Time

Sometimes when I’m watching the Oscars, I stop and ask myself, “Why?” Not why am I watching—I know it’s for the dresses—but why do movie stars deserve all this attention. More to the point, if we’re going to honor a group of employees or an industry for their outstanding annual efforts, why not throw a bone in the direction of people who aren’t pampered and fawned over daily and don’t get invited to spend the weekend at George Clooney’s Italian villa. People like, say, teachers or social workers or long-haul truckers.

I got my answer on Saturday, when I happened upon the Quill Book Awards.

The Quills are sort of the publishing world’s equivalent of the People’s Choice Awards: the general public gets to vote for the Book of the Year and everyday people—booksellers and librarians—decide the winners in all the other categories. The Quills are unlike the People’s Choice in that they have no entertainment value. (Hence the 6:30pm-on-a-Saturday graveyard timeslot.)

Granted, I tuned in near the end of program, just in time for the Mystery/Suspense award. (*If you’re dying to know who took home the Quill in this category, act like this is a book and scroll to the end of this posting.) By then, I’d missed honorees Al Gore, Amy Sedaris and Cormac McCarthy, assuming they were in attendance. Who knows, Business winner Robert I. Sutton, PhD, might have brought down the house with his hilarious acceptance speech. Or not.

All you need to know about the Quills is that they were hosted by the “Today” show’s Al Roker and Hoda Kotb (subbing for Ann Curry, who opted to ship off to Antarctica rather than endure these proceedings). The Quills web site (www.thequills.org) claims the awards “pair a populist sensibility with Hollywood-style glitz.” Yes, nothing says Hollywood glitz like a semi-rotund weatherman and his fourth-string sidekick.

If I had to put my finger on why this show was so dull, I guess I would say that while writing is actually considered a fairly glamorous profession (mistakenly, I might add), writers in general are not particularly glamorous or gregarious people. (If you think I’m being harsh, answer me why the producers opted to show nominated book jackets rather than nominated authors’ faces during the Quills telecast.) The same could be said of a lot of people in the movie industry—cinematographers, costumer designers, F/X wizards, etc.—which is why we all hit the snack bar or take a bathroom break when these awards are handed out during the Oscars.

The answer to my original question is that actors, even the lesser ones, know how to shine in front of the camera. That’s not a more notable or deserving accomplishment than teaching a child how to read, transporting a load of artichokes from California to Minnesota, or penning the book of the year. But I can attest that it does make for better TV. The rest of us are not ready for our close-up.

*Laura Lippman

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Big Chill

I’ve just discovered the U.K. celebrity website heatworld.com, thanks to an article in The Atlantic, which mentioned heat as one of the biggest offenders in the sizing down of celebrities. Sample content: “Guess whose freaky knee this is….” (Answer: Kate Moss.) Of course, I googled the site post haste. And then immediately found myself in the curious position of sympathizing with Posh Spice.

“Don’t you own a coat Posh?” heatworld’s headline screamed, accompanied by photos of the Spice Girl tottering around London in a couple of sleeveless ensembles. Shocking!

Now, I’m as guilty of gloating as the next person when it comes to celebrity foibles. I love me a good “stars without makeup” feature or “look who has cellulite” expose. Mostly because I’ve read enough interviews where Cameron Diaz or Jennifer Aniston or insert any female star has attributed her glowing skin to nothing more than a soap-and-water regimen or credits her highly toned body to good genes and a high metabolism. More like Photoshop.

But I draw the line at scolding Posh for choosing fashion over warmth. In fact, I admire her for it. And wish I could be more like her.

This week, we reached the point in Chicago where autumn finally beat back summer and temperatures went from the 80s to the 50s. We know that the 30s and the sub-zeros won’t be far behind. Sweaters and coats came out of the closet (or for those of us operating out of more cramped quarters, released from storage bins under our beds). It’s all so depressing.

I hate being cold. I also hate being hot, but I hate being cold more. I hate it more than cilantro, I hate it more than telemarketers, I hate it more than technical support personnel who don’t understand that to me, all wires are called “thingy” and “magiggy.”

So unlike Posh, I usually opt for comfort over style. My arms won’t see the light of day until next June. As the bitter winds of January blow ice off Lake Michigan, I’ll be waiting on an El platform for a train that’s never going to come—swathed in countless layers of long johns, wool and down—and I’ll look at my fellow females, outfitted in adorable skirts (no boots or hose, natch) and the flimsy sort of overcoats that J. Crew passes off as winter wear, and I’ll think a) “I hate you.” And b) “I hope your toes fall off from frostbite.” and c) “Teach me your ways.”

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Death Of A Tragedy

I now pronounce the California wildfires officially over. Or at least our interest in them. We gave it three days, time to move on.

Sure the flames are still burning and smoke is still swirling, but Matt Lauer has returned from the field to the studio. And we all know what that means—a story has just been downgraded from “major national tragedy” to “slightly more important than the segment about the convenience store clerk who fought off a gun-toting robber with an axe.”

We return you to our regularly scheduled programming: Where’s Madeleine McCann?

Friday, October 19, 2007

“Ellen” Should Never Have A Bad Day

Ellen DeGeneres has cancelled tapings of her popular daytime talk show, taking a few days off to recuperate from a “tough week.” Too bad she didn’t make that decision earlier and spare us all the embarrassment of “Iggy Gate.”

We’ve got staph infections gone wild, Russia looks to be throwing its muscle behind Iran, and killer tornadoes are sweeping across the country. And still the top story on most newscasts was the tale of DeGeneres’ dog adoption gone bad.

What made her think we should care?

Talk show hosts are a unique breed of celebrity, the majority of them moderately successful entertainers—stand-up comedians, B-list actors—who gain greater notice largely from interviewing other, more famous people. Quick, what was Regis Philbin doing before he became “Reege”?

We invite these people into our homes and all we ask in return is that they make us laugh (or, in the case of Oprah, change our lives) and book interesting guests. Depending on the host’s lack of reserve (think Kelly Ripa vs. John Stewart), we usually learn something about their private lives, typically via amusing anecdotes that exaggerate certain characteristics of the persona they’ve created. Oh that wacky David Letterman, caught speeding again.

Once given the cold shoulder by Hollywood and the general public after coming out as a lesbian, DeGeneres recast herself as the friendly girl-next-door. Her show, which debuted in 2003, was largely credited for putting the fun back in daytime TV. Her innocuous slice-of-life, seemingly off-the-cuff monologues provided a goofy contrast to the irony and political humor that typify late-night chat fests. She coaxed normally staid celebrities into playing ping pong or participating in silly sketches. Good lord, she made Nicole Kidman laugh.

And then came the serious miscalculation known as Iggy Gate. DeGeneres walked out onto the soundstage and in lieu of her usual monologue had a breakdown over a puppy. If ever there were a day to cancel a taping, this should have been it.

Some found the episode humanizing. I found it diminishing. And unwatchable, which, last I checked, is the opposite of the purpose of television.

There’s a growing trend in our culture to cut celebrities down to size. Magazines like People or In Touch work hard to catch the rich and famous in everyday situations, and devote pages of coverage to photos of “look, Julia Roberts goes to Home Depot, just like us.” But Ellen wasn’t off the clock. She came to work and turned her job into a platform for her personal woes. Ellen might have a bad day, “Ellen” shouldn’t.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Know When To Say When

The latest J. Crew catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. And while I was pleased to see that at least one of the featured models was a brown-eyed brunette, what I saw in terms of clothing confirmed what I have believed for years—fashion designers are out to get us.

Every season there’s some hideous new trend were all supposed to rush out and imitate—this is the year of the blousy top or the cropped jacket or the metallic shoe. It’s time to put a stop to this dictatorship. Women of the world, I ask you to unite with me against the latest horror. Just say no to colored tights.

I’m not talking about chocolate brown or heather grey. I’m talking about purple, and yellow, and fuchsia. Paired with little black dresses and equally garish-hued high-heeled pumps. It doesn’t look good on lovely winsome long-legged models. Imagine the effect on women who eat. Or are short. Or don’t have the face of Angelina Jolie to distract gawkers from what’s going on below the knee.

I’ve been the victim of my share of fads—ruffles in the ‘80s, grunge in the ‘90s, low-rise jeans in whatever we’re calling the current decade. I finally drew the line at skinny pants and haven’t looked back since.

It’s the designers’ job to innovate; it’s my job to decide what works for me. Colored tights? I’m sitting this one out.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

DWTS: Nine Is The New Seven

We’re three weeks into Dancing With the Stars and already the judges are throwing around 9s like they’re shares of Enron stock. At this rate, teams will be earning straight 10s by week 5 and the judges’ paddles will have to be retrofitted to reach 15.

Either the show’s producers have been slipping something into Len’s Kool-Aid or the current crop of celebrities—with a few notable exceptions—are nearly as good as their professional partners. Which doesn’t make for particularly compelling TV. If I wanted to watch ballroom dancing, I’d watch ballroom dancing (I’m not sure where, but I guess I could find it if I really tried). The whole point of DWTS, besides single-handedly resurrecting the glitter industry, was to take a fish out of water and turn it into a silk purse. In other, more logical, words, the amateurs were supposed to suck at first and the fun was in watching them improve. This season, most teams are performing at such a polished level—especially to the home viewer, who doesn’t notice pesky things like missed holds and sloppy ball-and-toe footwork—a certain drama is missing.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I kinda miss Master P.

Still, we are weeks away from awarding the magnificent Disco Ball trophy and anything could happen. Or as Drew less eloquently put it: The ending is not finished.

Rating the teams:

Sabrina and Mark: What more is there to say about Sabrina. The judges have already run out of the obvious superlatives—Cheetah-licious, Cheetah-tastic—leaving Bruno to reach into his magic bag of mixed metaphors and pronounce her a “sizmic event.” While I don’t speak Italian, I do speak Bruno, and he meant “seismic.” So her jive was earth shattering. But just shy of a 10, apparently, on the Richter-Tonioli scale.

Cameron and Edyta: I’m starting to think the band is actively working against this couple—a tango set to “And the Beat Goes On”? Just plain wrong. In his rehearsal footage, Cameron promised to “blow the judges away,” which is always a clue to viewers that the dancer will not. But that didn’t keep him from earning 8s. Since no one seems intent on seriously critiquing the dances, let’s move on to fashion. Edyta’s floor-length black lace number was almost tasteful in that it covered most of her body. What, is DWTS cutting back on the spray tan budget?

Mark and Kym: Mark doesn’t want to earn pity points for dancing with a hip replacement (hey, sounds like a great spin-off show). But he keeps bringing it up. Dude, it didn’t work for Heather Mills and she only had the one leg. In regards to his jive, it didn’t make me cringe. The judges kindly noted that Mark is doing well, considering he didn’t come to the competition as an experienced dancer. Really? I sort of thought that was the premise of the show.

Jennie and Derek: “The comeback of the season!” Bruno proclaimed. And who am I to quibble that it’s ONLY WEEK 3. Jennie shook off last week’s fall and the 90210 curse, succeeding where Ian Ziering failed—she danced a brilliant tango full of head snaps and high kicks and the kitchen sink. I had her pegged as a perpetual nervous Nelly (or Kelly) who would constantly out-psych herself but she proved me wrong. Which doesn’t mean that I’ve warmed to the Doublemint Twins. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but over there on NBC’s “Chuck,” the titular reluctant super spy tossed off a tango of his own—and did a sexier job.

Mel B. and Maksim: The gratuitous display of waxed chest hair continued, with Maksim’s smooth pecs in the spotlight this week. He also worked in a plug for his Vegas show “Reve,” which somehow was related to helping Mel learn the jive. Was it just me, or during their dance did Maks seem to save the best moves for himself? Just me, it turns out, because Mel’s footwork, which I found to be “stompy” vs. the required “bouncy” earned raves—or was it reves—from the judges.

Cheryl and Wayne: Wayne is quickly becoming the Sanjaya of this competition. He’s dreadful, but also sort of the only thing worth watching. This week we learned that Wayne has a stable full of 75 Arabian horses, and I’m pretty sure he cut the tail off of one of them for his own bizarre wig. I think he was going for Antonio Banderas but he wound up more like My Little Pony. Cheryl, taking a cue from the George Hamilton-Jerry Springer playbook, has taken to incorporating props into her routines. Trouble is, Wayne waved his little fan at her like he was sprinkling a salt shaker. Please, please, please don’t eliminate him.

Floyd and Karina: From the waist down, Floyd is almost palatable, but his upper body moves are, for lack of a better word, ugly. He’s got loads of ability but can’t seem to translate it into an attractive body position. The judges all but told Floyd that he has no technique, which no doubt annoyed Karina, who thought, “Why were they even looking at him?!”

Jane and Tony: Jane’s mother died last week. And I’m sure there’s a Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman joke in there somewhere, but I’m not going to be the one to make it. Or to begin to criticize her dancing. Of course she earned across-the-boards 9s, begging the question, what does a person have to do to get a 10?

Helio and Julianne: Oh no, Helio twisted his ankle in rehearsal! See Helio writhe on the floor in pain! See Julianne try to look concerned! Will they still be able to compete?! Um, yes. Turns out Helio’s costume was the one in need of first aid, his pants suffering a torn knee during an impromptu slide off the dance floor at the end of their routine. I don’t know if Helio’s ankle was bothering him or if the sibling duo of Julianne-Derek are only allowed one good bit of choreography between them per week, but this pair was slightly off last night. The dance came to a couple of curious halts, and then there was the little glitch at the end. Which leaves the two perfectly poised for next week’s comeback of the season.

Marie and Jonathan: Is it just me, or is Jonathan starting to look like Donny (and no, I will not, ever, refer to this pair as Johnny and Marie)? Natch, the elder Osmond showed up at his li’l sis’s rehearsal. Hey, what’s it feel like to ride Marie’s sequined skirt-tail for a change? Her lips said she was happy to see him, her eyes said she’d be happy to banish him to “The Surreal Life.” Finally Len, or maybe it was Bruno, said what I’d been thinking all along, they thought Marie would be a horrible dancer. Yet, lo, she’s not. And they are still so stupefied by this turn of events that they failed to notice the pair’s tango looked like a whole lot of standing around. In my non-professional opinion.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What’s Rock Got To Do With It?

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced the nominees for this year’s slate of inductees. Madonna, among others, is on the list. I suspect she’ll earn entry into this increasingly crowded club, but does she deserve the honor?

I say no.

The Hall of Fame was founded, in part, “to recognize the contributions of those who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” This is how artists like Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis—folks I wouldn’t typically associate with an amplifier or cow bell—made the cut.

I appreciate that rock and roll owes a heavy debt to R&B for its early invention. But once you open the door to pioneering singers and musicians who helped pave the way for R ‘n’ R, as opposed to actually playing R ‘n’ R, it’s hard to slam that door shut on other, more recent artists, whose style of music bears little resemblance to the genre at hand.

I’m talking about Bobby Darin, Frankie Lymon, Gladys Knight, the Jackson 5. All certainly deserve a place of honor in the popular music pantheon, but last I checked, it wasn’t the Pop Music Hall of Fame (don’t get me started about what to do with rap artists). True, Madonna pushes envelopes and pisses off parents, a founding precept of rock and roll. But last I checked, no one would mistake Madge, better known for her stage performances, marketing savvy and adopted African child, for a bona fide rocker chick. I don’t care if she has learned to play a chord on the guitar.

In deciding who to nominate and induct into the Hall, I would let the Grammys be my guide. Has an artist been nominated in or would their work be considered for any of the rock categories—regular, heavy, or alternative? If not, then sorry. I don’t care how many records someone has sold or how much they’ve influenced other artists. Madonna has spawned an entire generation of highly skilled lip synchers. We’re supposed to reward her for that?

The true sham will be if the Material Girl finds herself enshrined in Cleveland while John Mellencamp is left waiting, again, for “next year.” The dude has a song titled “R.O.C.K. in the USA” for god’s sake. (If Bob Seger, the Bruce Springsteen of Detroit, is in the Hall, logic dictates that Mellencamp, the Bruce Springsteen of the Midwest, deserves a slot as well.)

The R ‘n’ R Hall of Fame dug itself into a hole by heavily emphasizing the “evolution” and “development” aspects of its mission in the early going. Now its definition of who belongs has become so broad and so open to interpretation as to have been rendered meaningless. The point of rock is that it isn’t pop, it isn’t R&B, it isn’t jazz. It is uniquely and distinctly itself, which is why we create categories in the first place—to distinguish one thing from another.

I know rock and roll when I hear it. Does the Hall?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

DWTS: Elimination Shocker!

Or was it?

Yes, Albert “Dark Horse” Reed was booted off before Wayne “The Waxman” Newton. But students of the show (and we are legion) know the results have nothing to do with talent and everything to do with the fan base—the one contestants bring with them to the party and the one that they earn during the course of the competition.

I believe the message the viewers/voters have sent over the past two seasons is that no one likes a supermodel. It’s hard to root for someone who already has so many advantages in life, and let’s face it, beauty is an advantage. We have nothing against good looking people per se—see Cameron Mathison—but we don’t care for the separate sub-species who specifically identify themselves as prettier than the rest of us. They’re super models, some sort of genetically engineered master race that isn’t quite human. Witness their ability to survive without consuming food.

Call it a form of prejudice, but right or wrong we assume that life has already been plenty kind to Albert Reed. We look at him and we see the Prom King. We look at Wayne Newton, who didn’t even get to go to the dance (tidbit courtesy of his Week 1 interview), and we see a guy who’s trying really hard to overcome his insecurities. Just like us—or as much like us as The Waxman can be.

We want our DWTS champions to be men—or women—of the people, regardless of the fact that they are in a position to win the mighty disco ball trophy precisely because they are not. (We apply this same illogic to presidential elections.)

Eventually voters will run out of excuses to keep Wayne in the running (but not, I predict, before they axe poor Mark Cuban—what’s less relatable than a billionaire). Until then, The Waxman rules.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

DWTS: Two Much

The most underrated element of “Dancing With the Stars” is the opening Parade of Couples Down the Stairs of Death. For example, last night we learned that Cameron Mathison had, in the past week, managed to squeeze in a few lessons at the Albert Reed school of vote mongering: bare chest equals votes. And we learned, without him even taking the dance floor, that Wayne Newton sucks more than we thought. How? Partner Cheryl Burke’s costume. With its dazzling peacock headdress and feather-boa sleeves and skirt hem, her get-up screamed, “I will do everything in my power to keep your eyes on me and off the stiff.” Good luck with that.

Before we get to the performances, I have to admit that while I adore DWTS, fatigue has already started to set in. Between last week’s triple play and last night’s over-stuffed two-hour extravaganza, I found my attention waning. I know ABC needs the programming, but there’s so much fat in this show—like the obligatory network promo for shows destined to become failures (“Cavemen”)—that I’ve started taking Lipitor. Do we really need yet another segment featuring yet another etiquette coach guiding yet another supposedly graceless celeb in the fine art of walking with a book on her head? Even Drew was skeptical: “Did she actually do anything or just stand around?” And speaking of Drew, we know that Samantha Harris is on maternity leave—let us enjoy the moment and stop threatening us with her return.

On to the couples:

Mel B. and Maksim: I forgot how good Mel was in Round 1 and was surprised how well she adapted to the quick step. I was more surprised by her relatively tasteful costume—I keep forgetting she’s British, which we all know is code for “classy.” But I was positively shocked that for the pair’s musical selection, bandleader Harold Wheeler & Co. attempted A-Ha’s “Take on Me,” which has to feature the highest note ever sung in pop history. They did not reach it.

Mark and Kym: The rehearsal footage showed Mark and Kym practicing in Chicago. My dream of Mr. Cuban purchasing the Cubs edges closer to reality every day. C’mon Mark, baby needs a pair of World Series tickets. Regarding his actual dance, I would have thought Mark and the mambo would be as incompatible as marshmallows and artichokes, but he actually didn’t leave that bad of an aftertaste. The judges were a bit harsh—whenever they start praising you for your hard work, you know you’re Billy Ray Cyrus and they want you gone by Week 4. But I say, put Mark on Season 2 and he’s a semi-finalist and if you don’t agree, I have two words for you—Jerry Rice. I give Mark extra props for losing the goatee—welcome to 2007!—and for smiling through the judges’ criticism. Or was it just a Hillary cackle?

Wayne and Cheryl: Did you know that Wayne is 65? Thanks, Cheryl, for enlightening us. Were you amazed…that he’s not 85? (I’m totally inspired now to head out and buy my dad a pair of camouflage cargo pants.) Of their dance, all I can say is, Wayne, I’ve seen Mark Cuban, and you’re no Mark Cuban. How to describe his final leap as anything other than bizarre. When I saw it in the rehearsal footage, I thought Wayne was jumping for joy that practice was over—I didn’t realize it was part of the routine. Good thing his face is frozen in a perma-smile, as the judges are not of a mind to give him a free pass.

Marie & Jonathan: Donny’s in the house!!! And so is Jimmy!!! Or is it Wayne??? I get it—Marie designs dolls, Jonathan is a wax figure. They make the perfect couple. You know, back in the day, I wanted to be Marie Osmond. Or Valerie Bertinelli. And now they both just sort of annoy me. Which is a shame, because Marie turned in a sweltering mambo, prompting Carrie Ann to comment, “You are one hot cougar. (I don’t know where, when or how women in their 40s who haven’t let themselves completely go to pot became known as cougars, but I want the term banished. Yesterday.)

Albert and Anna: Not content to rest on his supermodel “good looks” (quotations completely mine), Albert pulled out the old “I’m dancing this one for grandpa” trick. He then proceeded to rehearse in Capri pants and a porkpie hat and I have no idea how this routine turned out because I switched the channel to “Chuck.”

Helio and Julianne: The love affair continues. Last week’s message boards kicked up an ant hill of controversy, with some posters expecting Helio’s Brazilian-ness alone to carry him through the Latin dances. I don’t want to get into a whole nature vs. nurture debate, I just know that the dude can dance, no matter the steps required. Where Julianne and last year’s winner, Apolo Ohno, often seemed like a couple of teenagers excited to be staying up past their bedtime, she and Helio look like they stepped out of an old MGM musical. I want them to live happily every after.

Jennie and Derek: “I’m going to look at Derek like he’s a big strapping man,” quoth Jennie, and if she managed to succeed, it has to go down as her greatest acting performance ever. I honestly forgot this pair was competing. Put two bland blondes together and they sort of cancel each other out. Until “the bum incident” as Len kindly termed it. I would call it “falling on your ass.” The slo-mo replay showed Derek was at fault—a ruling that did nothing to loosen Jennie’s facial muscles. Call it the curse of the 90210 overachiever. Like former contestant and castmate Ian Ziering, Jennie seems to be taking this competition waaaaay too seriously, in an “I. Will. Succeed.” kind of way.

Cameron and Edyta: Cameron isn’t that bad. He’s just not that good. His patented move—leg stretched, arm pointed at a Saturday Night Fever-esque angle—looks like it was learned in a bullfighting ring (which, come to think of it, might bode well for the paso doble). But he’s so pretty—even Bruno noted, “You look like Superman”—I want to keep him around for awhile.

Floyd and Karina: Floyd makes a person appreciate Laila Ali, who managed to float like a butterfly, not crouch like a boxer. Still Floyd un-hunched a little vs. Week 1 and the pair turned in a decent quick step. Which, in typical Karina fashion, ended with her landing on the judges’ table with her ass in Len’s face. Because it’s all about her.

Jane and Tony: I hear ya, Jane. I got no hip action. And I don’t think wrapping a snake around my neck would help me much, either. Who dreams up these rehearsal aids? PETA? “You see, snakes make excellent dance partners.” Bruno characterized the pair’s mambo as a “tea party at Wimbledon” and the very proper Len demanded more “raunch.” You know what that means: Time for Tony to show Cameron and Albert who’s the chestiest of them all.

Time out: Over on PBS, some old guy is talking about his rations in the army—roast beef smothered in chocolate pudding. Who said war is hell?

Back to…

Sabrina and Mark: If I was predisposed to hating any one dancer before the competition kicked off, it was Sabrina and her questionable “star” status. But the Cheetah Girl has won me over with her skills and her exuberance and the fact that when the judges said “cut the hip hop” she actually paid attention. (Karina, are you getting this?) Like the judges, I was worried that success in the cha cha wouldn’t translate to the quick step. But our girl proved as Cheetah-tastic with ballroom as she did Latin. Mark gives Julianne a run for the choreography prize and Sabrina has the versatility to carry this team to the finals.