Monday, October 5, 2009

Is "Dancing with the Stars" Really a Big Career Boost?

"Dancing with the Stars" is back and bigger and better than ever. We're going out on a limb right now and saying we predict that Kelly Osbourne will take home the mirror-ball trophy. She has a tear-filled Ozzy on the sidelines and, shockingly, she's got the moves. But as we watched the parade of faded celebrities take to the dance floor, we wondered if doing this show actually boosts the careers of the stars or whether it just provides a second 15 minutes of fame. Here's our look at the past contestants whose careers seemed to get the biggest boost from their turn on the dance floor.

Mario Lopez — Season 3 Runner-Up
These days, you can't turn around without seeing Mario Lopez. That's why we put him first on our list of stars who got a career boost from "DWTS." While Mario has worked consistently since his "Saved by the Bell" days, he fell off the radar very quickly after the show went off the air. He had another series, "Pacific Blue," on the USA Network; he played diver Greg Louganis in the made-for-TV movie "Breaking the Surface"; and he did a brief stint on daytime's "The Bold and the Beautiful." But a big-time comeback was eluding him. What else is a hunky, rhythmic, dimple-faced B-lister to do? Put on some heels and learn to tango. Mario came in second with partner Karina Smirnoff (whom he dated for two years after the show), and his career skyrocketed. He first became a celebrity guest host for "Extra" and was soon promoted to a full-time permanent spot. He has also become the beauty pageant king, hosting the trifecta of the pageant world: Miss Teen America, Miss America, and Miss Universe. On the reality circuit, he helms both "America's Best Dance Crew" and "MTV's Top Pop Group," and he's a commentator for "HBO Boxing." And even with all this, Mario still finds time to act. He will reprise his "Nip/Tuck" role as Dr. Mike Hamoui this season, he just finished his Broadway debut in "A Chorus Line," and he wrapped filming on "The Dog Who Saved Christmas." And as if that weren't enough, he's also written two books, "Mario Lopez's Knockout Fitness" and the children's book "Mud Tacos." All that just because he learned the quickstep.

Drew Lachey — Season 2 Winner
Although ex-boy bander Drew Lachey of 98 Degrees has not seen the career surge of Mario Lopez, he has had an incredible boost. Before "DWTS" Drew had mainly been relegated to appearances on his brother's reality show, "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica," and he did do a brief run in "Rent" on Broadway. But when he and partner Cheryl Burke free-styled their way to the #1 spot in Season 2, Drew came out from behind his brother's shadow. Like Mario, he's hosted some pageants (Miss USA) and some reality shows ("HGTV $250,000 Challenge"), and he's done another star/mentor design competition (HGTV's "Battle of the Bonus Room"). Drew also stayed connected to the "DWTS" community, hosting "Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann" and filling in as co-host with Tom Bergeron in Season 5 when Samantha Harris was on maternity leave. Most recently, he returned to Broadway for a three-month run in "Monty Python's Spamalot." And as a reminder that Drew has stepped out from his brother's shadow, when Nick Lachey did a guest spot playing himself on last season's "One Tree Hill," Nick got the girl because she had a crush on Drew, and Nick was close enough. That's vindication.

Marie Osmond — Season 5 Third Place
To many, Marie Osmond's star faded back in the '70s after "Donny and Marie" was canceled. Die-hard fans remember the solo albums in the '80s, and collectors, crafters, and QVC-watchers actually came to know her as a doll and embroidery designer with her own sewing machine line. But to most of us, Marie was a distant memory. So in 2007, when she was announced as a contestant on Season 5 of "DWTS," we were happy to welcome her back onto our TV sets. Marie defied the odds (the oldest woman to reach the finals in spite of passing out onstage in week five) and finished in third place behind race-car driver Hélio Castroneves and Spice Girl Mel B. Her time on the show reminded us all that even though we may be too proud to admit it, we love the Osmonds. Marie got an endorsement deal with NutriSystem, and she and Donny inked a contract to be the headliners at The Flamingo in Vegas (the contract just got extended for another year). She's expanded her QVC line to include home décor, fashion, and jewelry (debuting next month) and her second book, "Might As Well Laugh About It Now," became a New York Times bestseller in eight weeks. And to top it all off, the first Donny and Marie album in almost 30 years drops in November. Sounds like Marie got her perfect day and found love and laughter along the way.

John O'Hurley — Season 1 Winner of the "Grudge Match"
We all know him best as J. Peterman from "Seinfeld." And while John O'Hurley kept working after the series went off the air, nothing rivaled the success of role as the catalog entrepreneur. Then along came a new show called "Dancing with the Stars." It was a silly idea to have a handful of untrained celebs joining with ballroom dancers to learn a few steps. No one saw the incredible potential of the show; we just thought it might be a laugh. But watching John O'Hurley glide across the dance floor with partner Charlotte Jorgensen was a joy. He lost to soap star Kelly Monaco, but fans were so outraged, they demanded a rematch, saying the fix was in. And so O'Hurley and Monaco went head-to-head in the "Grudge Match," just for audience votes (no judges weighed in), and John came out victorious. Kelly went back to her gig on "General Hospital," and O'Hurley was back in our hearts. Since "DWTS" John has become the new host of "Family Feud," and has appeared on Broadway and in national touring companies of "Chicago" as Billy Flynn and "Spamalot" as King Arthur. He has also written two books, "It's Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump" (a New York Times best seller) and "Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It." He released two CDs, "Peace of Our Minds" and "Secrets from the Lake." In addition, O'Hurley owns several businesses, including the catalog clothier the J. Peterman Company. He became a partial partner when he financed the re-launch in 2001, but "DWTS" can't take the credit for that one.

Melissa Rycroft — Season 8 Third Place
Melissa Rycroft is the reality TV Cinderella story. Even before "The Bachelor," her fate was sealed on television when she became a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader after competing on the CMT series "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team." She remained on the squad for two seasons and then was catapulted to fame when "Bachelor" Jason Mesnick rejected her in front of millions of viewers (after already giving her the final rose). But reality TV fate intervened for Melissa. The next day, just before the new season was about to start, "DWTS" contestant Nancy O'Dell injured her knee and could not compete. Producers called on America's new sweetheart, jilted bachelorette Melissa Rycroft, to fill Nancy's dancing shoes. But no one expected this underdog (who had two days of training compared to the weeks and months of the other contestants) to last ten days, let alone ten weeks. Melissa knocked our collective socks off. And when she fractured a rib and could not compete, America voted to keep her anyway. Was it really a surprise to anyone that "Good Day, America" snatched her right up as a correspondent? Clearly, audiences love Melissa. So does current beau, Tye Strickland, who plans to marry her on December 12. As for her "GMA" gig, it was supposed to just be for the summer, but rumors are swirling that she's sticking around, what with all the staffing changes and post-Diane Sawyer posturing going on over there.

Lisa Rinna — Season 2 Fourth Place
Season 2's star in the soap opera category of "DWTS" was Lisa Rinna, known for her roles as Taylor McBride on "Melrose Place" and Billie Reed on "Days of our Lives." Given Kelly Monaco's success the previous season, hopes were high for Lisa. And, in fact, she did pretty well. She was eliminated just one week before the finals. She says the whole experience "showed me... that you can continue to reinvent yourself and do anything you want all throughout your life." And she did reinvent herself. Since leaving "DWTS," Lisa has released a DVD series called "Lisa Rinna: Dance Body Beautiful" (choreographed by her dance partner, Louis van Amstel) and starred on Broadway as Roxie Hart in "Chicago" (hubby Harry Hamlin played Billy Flynn) — definitely two things the old Lisa Rinna would not have done before. In addition, she replaced Joan Rivers as TV Guide Network's red carpet host, posed for the cover of Playboy again (the first time she was pregnant with her first daughter), and wrote a book called "Rinnavation" about the art of feeling and looking fabulous at any age.

Joey Fatone — Season 4 Runner-Up
We don't want to get carried away and say Joey Fatone's career has exploded since his stint on "Dancing with the Stars," but it did put the 'N Sync baritone back in the spotlight. His Season 4 loss to Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno was a tough one, because they were both very deserving. But Joey did get a few new gigs out of it. First came the televised karaoke show "The Singing Bee," which unfortunately for Joey, went head-to-head with the Wayne Brady-hosted "Don't Forget the Lyrics." Wayne's show was just a little slicker, and Wayne was just a little more natural, and his show's been on ever since. Joey's version lasted only one season. But that's OK. He's on to bigger and better things, like "Celebrity Circus," where he was the ringmaster to a star-studded cast featuring Antonio Sabato, Jr., Rachel Hunter, and Christopher Knight. Last March NBC confirmed the show would not return for a second season. He did, however, get invited back for a second season as the red carpet co-host for the TV Guide Channel with fellow "DWTS" alum Lisa Rinna. And most recently, he reprised his role as himself on an episode of "Robot Chicken" called "Enter the Fat One," his nickname and a play on his last name.

Steve Guttenberg — Season 6 Tenth Place
Steve Guttenberg was eliminated in just the third week of Season 6 (he didn't stand a chance against the likes of Kristi Yamaguchi), but he just might qualify for the contestant with the best attitude prize. "The Gute" was so sincere, hardworking, and truly appreciative of his time on the show and his life in general that we were very sad to see him go. Maybe it was his brief time on the dance floor or maybe it's that the guy generally likes his life the way it is, but he didn’t start hosting reality shows and writing books after "DWTS." He was honored with the 2008 Tony Randall Lifetime Achievement Award by the Golden Wagon Film Festival, and he appeared onstage in London in "Cinderella" at the Churchill Theater. But perhaps his most notable appearance on film after "DWTS" was his bottomless romp through Central Park that spread like hot cakes across the Internet last November. Steve claims he made the video for the Website and then decided to release it virally on his own instead. We're guessing more people enjoyed this than his foxtrot.

Stacy Keibler — Season 2 Third Place
The professional wrestler with the 41-and-a-half inch legs took the ballroom dancing world by storm when she strutted her stuff on Season 2 of "DWTS." Though she came in third behind Drew Lachey and Jerry Rice, she officially made the leap from WWE to actress and celebrity. Since the show, "The Weapon of Mass Seduction" as Bruno Tonioli nicknamed her, was ranked #5 in Maxim's 2006 Hot 100 issue and has since declined two offers to appear in Playboy. She also has done several film and TV roles, including her first major acting part as the sexy neighbor and love interest in "What About Brian," as well as small spots on "George Lopez," "October Road," and the 2008 miniseries "Samurai Girl." She has also done her share of hosting, including the E! Special "Maxim's Celebrity Beach Watch: 15 Hottest Bodies." Watch for her this fall as host of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Spike Girl 2009 Finale" and appearing on an episode of "Psych."

Marissa Jaret Winokur — Season 6 Fourth Place
The Tony Award-winning star of Broadway's "Hairspray" surprised everyone, including herself, when she came in fourth in Season 6 of "DWTS." The 4' 11" star was not exactly the ballroom dancer type, but she improved each and every week, sticking around through the semifinals. After the show, she went back to Broadway to reprieve her role as Tracy Turnblad in "Hairspray," and then she became host of this summer's "Dance Your Ass Off." She will appear in the upcoming doc "Broadway: The Next Generation," she's the new spokesperson for Luvs Diapers (she and her husband had a baby by surrogate after "DWTS" ended), and she's working on a plus-size fashion line. In a recent New York Post article she said, "Every job I've gotten since 'Dancing with the Stars' is due to that show. If anyone says otherwise, they're lying."

By Amy & Nancy Harrington
Originally written for

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