Writing recaps for Dancing with the Stars started because I needed cash, so I started doing them for Out magazine’s pop culture blog, Popnography, but then a funny thing happened – I earnestly fell in love with the show. When the money dried up, I continued writing them for fun for my (indie) darling I Fry Mine In Butter. The show has long been flamboyant, but this year they decided to try and add a touch of authenticity to that claim, hiring both Carson Kressley and Chaz Bono to grace the dancefloor. Yeah, I said hire. People love to make the joke about how DWTS is usually lacking ‘star-power’, but the reality is that much of Hollywood’s B- and C-list would love to be asked, those lesser constellations got bills to pay, too. Carson’s landed an Oprah network show he needs to promote, and Chaz – the “Emmy-nominated author”, as Tom Bergeron announced him last night before a commercial break – is going next through that door, since it was recently confirmed his reality show will be debuting on OWN this fall. DWTS is perhaps the most physically demanding method to “plug away!” but great publicity is never cheap.
Chaz is crashing my dancing scene? I don’t want to seem an ungracious host, but you better come correct. So let’s get to the ballroom.
So. I’m an FTM, I should be thrilled to see Mr. Bono dancing on my favorite show, n’est-ce pas? Well, he hasn’t proved to be exactly an accurate spokesperson for me thus far, so I’ve been watching the lead-up all through my fingers the past few weeks. Which is to say, I wouldn’t click on one damn link and prayed I wouldn’t see too many facebook friends “liking” some made up groups to support some made up threat to his being cast on the show. I relaxed when I finally realized yes, there’s been negative backlash, but these stories are quoting ABC message boards, for xena’s sake.
Seriously, it has come to this! I’d just gotten used to Twitter as a source, but I draw the line at discussion boards, though maybe I’m bitter they never quoted us back in the day from strap-on or livejournal (before they were sold overseas). Plus, I lived through the Bristol Palin season of DWTS, so all the real fans of the show, on both sides of the aisle (and ratings surveys have showed it’s the top 3 most watched show for both republicans and democrats; anecdotally, I can speak for a few radicals, independents, and progressives who follow along), we know turnabout is fair play, so if we had to watch their darling Alaskan daughter, they have to watch our child of Cher. Because that’s really what it is, right? Cher is family, because many queers love her unconditionally, seeing past her flaws (like tweeting like a 12 year old, or tranny jokes in a sadly mediocre Burlesque), and so Chaz must be let into the family reunion, even if I’m not sure I want him at my table. But here he is crashing my dancing scene? I don’t want to seem an ungracious host, but you better come correct. So let’s get to the ballroom.
First off, ABC put him DEAD LAST in the order of performers, so you had to watch the whole two hours. I saw this one coming (they did the same thing with Bristol, they want to force the looky-loos to sit through it all and have their eyeballs flashed as much advertising as possible), but then it occurred to me this money-driven strategy also works in favor of those horrified by the queers, who can turn off the TV at 9:55 and storm self-righteously out of the room…..having stil had their eyes filled to the brim with commercials and plugs and promos. ABC producers play both sides to their advantage, like the true masterminds they have proven themselves to be after 13 seasons of commercially successful live television. Ok, ok, sorry, I’m getting to the dancing. Chaz got paired with the pro Lacey Schwimmer, and for those of you who don’t know, this was a good thing, because if anyone is going to roll with things and not make an ass of anyone (or you know, incur any harassment or discrimination claims), it’s dirty girl Lacey, alum of So You Think You Can Dance. This was also a kind thing – she took Kyle Massey all the way to the finals, so she’s got no problem showing folks that a chubby guy can bring it.
Chaz and Lacey sit through all two hours of the show, nervously bopping around and smiling on command for the camera, and when it comes time to dance, they start off with the “package”, which no, don’t worry kids, I don’t mean that kind of package, I mean the little pre-edited intro to the dance which has bio info and clips of them during rehearsals. Last night’s packages were small, they had twelve couples to squeeze into 2 hours, so really they just introduced Chaz as the child of Sonny and Cher, the “first transgender contestant on Dancing With the Stars”, then cut to him meeting Lacey, then them rehearsing his cha-cha-cha. Then something weird happened. I have no idea what the voiceover was saying. I mean, they’re usually inane, so that’s not that surprising, but in this case, I was mesmerized watching him dance – not because he was especially grand, but because Chaz, rocking the Stage 3 chin strap scruffy beard (hey, I had it too for awhile, it happens), was totally sent straight from central casting, and I couldn’t believe that central casting even knew to keep in stock that standard white transdude seen at a dozen QUILTBAG conferences. Someone from a workshop is on TV! Whoa. That weirded me out. I snapped out of it when the music started and they took to the floor. And he did….alright. I did catch the use of the song Dancing in the Streets (cause he’s taking his activism out of the streets and into your living room, oohhhhhh yyyyyyeahhhh!) He was not the worst of the night, and got two 6s and a 5, the same score as Carson Kressley and higher than the Kardashian. Oprah will hopefully be pleased.
With Cher’s twitter following and people who throw HRC parties, I doubt Chaz will get voted off on Tuesday night’s show. That honor will most likely go to George Clooney’s ex-girlfriend (and I thought being known as someone from The Hills was bad), who is paired with an unknown new pro Val Chmerkovskiy, the brother of Maks. I did actually cover my eyes once during her dance, and I can’t imagine their fan base will pull them out of the hole, especially since Italy is 6 hours ahead, so all her fans are asleep. Ron Artest had the lowest score of the night, but his fans should keep him afloat. As for the other contestants, be on the look out for Chynna Phillips, who came boldly out of the gate with her vienna waltz (she started with a smoke machine and a solo dance!), while Ricki Lake and the veteran/soap opera star J.R. Martinez are ones to watch as well.
And now, a whole generation of young queers can look forward to countless conversations about their gender and hearing the person interrupt and say, “oh, you mean like Chaz Bono?” and will have to grit their teeth and nod, yeah, like Chaz Bono. Sorry, kids. This suddenly makes having Ellen as our generation’s queer modifier seem quaint.
[Author's note: Thanks for the title, Tom!]