Cloris Leachman is Booted Off Dancing With the Stars After Judges' Unfairly Nasty Comments

11/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Tonya Plank Novelist, blogger, ballroom dancer, public interest attorney

I was rooting this week more than ever for Cloris Leachman after the judges' nasty, and very unfair, comments to her on Monday night's show. Bruno Tonioli told her no one else could carry off the "nonsense" she does and actually get applause for it, and guest judge Michael Flatley, who was very respectful toward her and partner Corky Ballas, echoed Bruno, saying he couldn't lie; she was lucky Corky was helping her along. (Actually, all the professionals are greatly helping their amateur partners along.) It was Carrie Ann Inaba who I thought was most out of line by telling Cloris it was unfair that a good dancer like Toni Braxton was kicked off last week "for this," she said with a flick of the arms in Cloris's direction. I fully agree that Toni was a very good dancer, and I'd initially thought she was a contender for the trophy, but it was ridiculously unfair of Carrie Ann to criticize, and basically to blame Cloris for remaining in Toni's stead. How was that Cloris's fault?

Cloris added humor to an otherwise relatively bland season. Her Cha Cha this week was sweet and classic. Of course the music was slow and the tricks toned down, though she did pretty decently with that death spiral at the end, and her New Yorker cha chas in the middle were pretty fast-footed. But no, of course she's not the best dancer on the show. How could she be at 82? I think everyone knows by now that's not the point of the show. People do well because the public finds them endearing on some level. I think Cloris was really trying. She wasn't aiming to screw up and be a goof, she was really trying hard, even if she used humor as a cover. Those lifts of the leg that she pulled off a couple weeks ago are not easy. They require a good degree of flexibility and agility, uncommon in someone that age. Why did they allow her to be on the show in the first place? Did they honestly think she had a chance of out-dancing the others, the teenage Cody?

Carrie Ann's comments could also be seen as directed against the public, who, unless the show is rigged, obviously voted for Cloris. Several people have actually expressed a belief that the show's results are somewhat manipulated, and I've always dismissed them. Now I'm wondering. I would have thought Cloris's fans would come out for her now more than ever - she wasn't even in the bottom two last week.

Anyway, I think in her own way, she brought ballroom up a bit, made it more noticeable, at least to a certain population. I was beyond thrilled to see Corky Ballas, ballroom legend, in the pages of the New York Times with her. I will miss her.

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