the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Dancing with the Stars

Dancing with the Stars Recap

Did you all see Dancing with the Stars on Monday night? What did you think? The show just gets better and better.  (note:  read with sarcasm)

Here’s my weekly recap:

Tonight on Dancing with the Stars, Marlee Matlin’s Samba was only so-so. The music was too fast, and Matlin, who is deaf and counts the steps in her head, was falling behind.

Last year, the gimmick contestant was Heather Mills, who has an artificial leg. This year, it is a deaf actress.

“Who will it be next year?” I asked Sophia during the commercial. “How can they outdo themselves after a contestant with an artificial leg and then someone deaf?”

“Maybe someone who is blind.” she answered.

“I think it is probably harder to dance being deaf than blind.” I said.

“You’re probably right. Being blind doesn’t really “up the stakes” for the show next year.”

“Maybe someone deaf AND blind.”

“Someone in a wheelchair.”

“That would be cool.”

“Someone not very bright.”

“They’ve had plenty of those before.”

“Someone with even more plastic surgery than Priscilla Presley.”

A promo came on for this ABC comedy, “Samantha Who” about a woman with amnesia.

“Someone with amnesia!”

“That’s good. Someone with recurring amnesia who forgets the dance routine minutes before the performance…!”

“…and also has a wooden leg!”

“But really… is it that much better than someone who is deaf?”

“Maybe not. A midget?”

“Eh… it’s been done.”


“I don’t know. Somewhere.”

“I got it. A transvestite!”

“That’s stupid. A transvestite can still dance.”

“What if the transvestite is also deaf… and not very attractive.”

“Ok, I buy that. Let’s see if ABC does.”

Tomorrow: The “elimination” show.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Married Couples

Dancing with the Stars – Live!


“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” — dancer and choreographer Martha Graham

“The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.”  — writer Ray Bradbury

Sophia and I showed up at CBS Television City, where, ironically, they shoot ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”   It was the final dance-off of the season, and we were excited to see the show live.   The two of us were decked out in our finest clothes, as if we were going to a reception for Queen Elizabeth.   An email explicitly told us to “dress up” as if it were an elegant affair.  There were others waiting to get in, dressed in the same manner — glamorous and beautiful. 

Then reality struck us in the face like a bead flung off Mel B’s sequined dress.  This was not a fancy event.  We were not a paying audience.  We were going to see the taping of a TV show, which means being treated like sheep. 

First up — figuring out which line you are on. 

There was the line for the “celebrities” like the Spice Girls and Ryan from All My Children (yes, Danny, we saw him!).   They went in first.

There was another line for VIPs, mostly agent-looking dudes. 

There was the pseudo-VIP line.  These were the assistants to the agent-looking dudes. 

There was the I-know-someone-but-someone-not-very-important line.  This is where you would stand if your former roommate’s sister is now the makeup person on the show. 

There was a “priority” line for those who didn’t get in last time, and were given a special pass this time, putting them on a line one step before the total nobodies with tickets.  You see, the networks, like Southwest Airlines, overbook — even if you have a ticket — and then leave those unlucky enough standing on the street with a “priority ticket,” and walking back to the bus stop in their dresses and suits with dashed dreams of sitting next to Donny Osmond. 

Everyone, except the Spice Girls, waited… and waited.   A college-age production assistant with a clipboard, humorlessly checked our tickets.  A homeless guy wandered along the line, looking for cans of soda left behind by ticket-holders. 

Hey, ABC — why not send a warm-up guy OUTSIDE and entertain us why we wait forever?   It took almost three hours from arrival to getting inside the studio.  Think about how they do things at Disneyland!  Sure you moved us from spot to spot like you do at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but where’s the music?  The fun?  The audience was half asleep by the time we took our seats (crammed in so you can hardly move. I’ve never seen such tiny chairs.)

Most of the public guests were women, and Sophia thought since I was a man, this would help us get a better seat, especially since I was looking good in my blue suit.  She pushed me to be at the outside of the line, so the show ushers would notice me and put us in a visible spot.  On TV, it looks as if the audience is filled with distinguished-looking men.  In reality, the audience was 3/4 women, mostly drooling over Maxim.  Some of these fans are fanatics.  These are women who remember every single judge’s score since season one.

Sophia and I actually got decent seats in the second-tier VIP section, but later we realized that it is probably better to be in the balcony with the average Joes.    The camera was constantly blocking our view.  We were also on the wrong side of the stage.  Later, when we came home, we searched for ourselves on the screen, and all we can find was a one second shot of the back of my head.  We didn’t even bother to call my mother to tell her. 

The real star of the show is — the editing.   Everything is low-key on the set.   The excitement only begins when the warm-up guy jumps up and down, giving us the Pavlovian sign to stand and cheer as if Jesus had just walked in.   The minute it was commercial time, all became silent.  Then, boom — screams of ecstasy!  No wonder so many women in Los Angeles fake their orgasms. They must all work on TV shows, and get in the habit of showing false enthusiasm. 

We cheered, we stood, we booed — everything on cue.   Why did we give everyone a standing ovation, even the bad routines?  Because we were told to!  Why did we boo the judges when they made some intelligent, but constructive comment?  I didn’t boo once.  How impolite!  And why does the audience have to be the toadies for the dancers?  

Tom Bergeron looked pretty sullen and unfriendly during the commercial breaks, and only smiled and became witty when the camera turned on.

Finally, I had enough.  I stood up and spoke my mind.

“Hey, Tom!  What is this with all the fake frivolity?  It’s so much more fun on TV.  Here you all look bored!”

“Yes.  That’s TV.   Boring to make.  At least this a better gig than that dumb “America’s Favorite Videos.”  And  since we’re shooting at CBS, we’re closer to the Farmer’s Market.   I love those donuts at Bob’s.”

“And wait a minute.  Who’s writing this show anyway?  Don’t tell me that Bruno is coming up with those witty comments by himself?”

“Oh, uh, yeah.  We are “ad-libbing” everything during the Writer’s Strike.  Why?  Are you a writer?”

“Well, actually I am.” I said.

“Hmmm… because I really could use someone to help me ad-libbing tonight’s lame jokes.”

“Well, I would, but I don’t want to be a scab.”

“Well, I couldn’t pay you union scale, but I could introduce you to Cheryl Burke.”

“Cheryl Burke, the hottest dancer on the show?  Call me scab.  You got a deal!”


Well, of course that never happened, but thinking about it kept me amused while waiting in line.

On the way home, Sophia and I stopped at the 99 cent only store to pick up some batteries.  I wish we had taken pictures.  It must have looked funny as we walked down the aisles of cheap detergent in our best clothing.   When we went to pay, the checkout girl gave us the once over, and asked us if we are coming back from “our prom.”  That was the best part of the night.

We’re Dancing with the Stars


Sophia got us the hottest tickets in town — today’s taping of the finale of “Dancing With the Stars.”  We need to dress up, first, because they make you, and second, because we notice that only the good-looking people get the seats next to Donny Osmond.    I’m still deciding between wearing a suit or going barechested with suspenders, like Maxim Chmerkovskiy.   Either way, keep your eye out for a banner that reads “Go Marie” on one side, and “2007 Blogger Chrismahanukwanzaakah Holiday Concert — December 10th, on the other.”  Hey, they’re always plugging ABC’s shows, why not me?  You notice that “The Bachelor” just happens to be in the audience the week before the show’s finale? 

Look for us in the audience.

Beverly Hills Doctor


Living in Los Angeles does have its perks.  Today I went to my doctor for my yearly checkup, hoping to be told that that my cholesterol went down.  As usual, Doctor Fishbeck kept me waiting in the examining room for a half hour while I looked through his Golf magazines from 2001.  The door opened and the doctor bounced in, seeming to be in a better mood than usual.

"Well, hello Neil!  How’s the blogging going?"

"Very well, Doctor Fishbeck." 

"How are you?  How’s your golf?"

"Excellent, excellent.  I’m so glad you made an appointment for today.  You see, you’re here on a very special day. "

"I am?"

"Absolutely.  I’ve been invited to participate in a new reality show for the Discovery Channel." 


"It’s called "Doctoring with the Stars."  Seven celebrities are teamed up with seven Beverly Hills doctors, and each week the celebrity becomes "the doctor" and his work is judged by two prominent surgeons from Cedars Sinai and UCLA… and the third judge is the guy who played a doctor… on that TV show, Saint Elsewhere… he’s also a comedian…"

"Howie Mandel?"

"Howie Mandel, right."

"Let me see if I get this.  You’re teamed up with a celebrity, too?"

Suddenly, a man with a familiar face entered the room.  He was carrying a huge basket of Mrs. Fields cookies.  On the side of the basket, it read "from your friends at Pfizer."

It was Donny Osmond.

"Two lovely girls just brought this to you, Doctor Fishbeck," said Donny Osmond.  "They said for you to remember lunch tomorrow… and something about meeting your quota with the Prozac."

Doctor Fishbeck laughed uncomfortably.

"Ha ha ha!  Those jokesters!"

Donny Osmond looked concerned on moral grounds.

"Doctors don’t really push this stuff just because of these cute sales reps, do they?"

"Of course not."

Donny Osmond sighed, in relief.  But I was getting concerned.

"Doctor Fishbeck, didn’t you tell me the last time I was here that I should go on Prozac because I was having sinus headaches."

"No.  That’s because you were depressed, Neil."

"But I’m not depressed."

"Are you back yet with Sophia?"


"Get a good job yet?"


"I just read about that blogger Opinionista, who revealed her identity and now has a book deal.  Do you have a book deal?"


"You know, Neil.  You look depressed.  Let me write you out another prescription for Prozac."

"I didn’t like Prozac.  It made my penis numb."

"Are you having any sex lately?"


"So what’s the difference?  Prozac it is."

Donny Osmond claps, impressed with the doctor.

"I’m so lucky to be teamed with you, Doctor Fishbeck.  I’m learning so much about being a doctor.  Alyssa Milano really hates the doctor she’s been teamed up with."

"Donny Osmond, meet Neil Kramer.  He will be your patient today."

"Uh, nice to meet you Mr. Osmond, but I’m not really sure… how much training have you had again?"

"Three days.  It’s just episode one.  The finale is an operation.  But that’s a few weeks away.  Do you by chance need an operation?"

"Don’t worry about the operation, Donny!," said Doctor Fishbeck.  It will be a breeze!  I’ve seen you as host of Pyramid.  Cool as a cucumber. "

"Thanks for the confidence, Doctor Fishbeck."

"Neil, I’m going to leave you with Donny Osmond.  I mean Dr. Osmond."

As Doctor Fishbeck exits, two cameramen and a boom operator enter the room.  Donny Osmond takes out a notebook, reading from it.

"OK, Neil, take down your pants and I’m going to ask you to cough."

"Is my HMO going to cover this?"

"What’s an HMO?"

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