Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | 10:10 a.m.
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Our hometown Empress of Soul Gladys Knight dazzled as bright as the shiny sequins on the ballroom floor of “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday night. The 67-year-old seven-time Grammy Award winner wowed competitors half her age and won a standing ovation.
It was the premiere of Season 14 of ABC’s ratings hit, and Gladys had to tackle the cha-cha in her first time dancing on national network television. Next week, she will perform the quickstep Monday night and then as with all 11 other celebrity contestants take part in Tuesday’s first elimination show.
Gladys scored well enough Monday night to not even think about facing the axe -- well, we think! Pro partner Tristan MacManus and she received a solid 23 points from the judges.
“There’s a naturalness about your dance. It oozed rhythm,” said head judge Len Goodman. Added Bruno Tonioli: “The legend has got the moves. You are a real star.” Carrie Ann Inaba commented: “You made me want to get up and dance” -- and she did!
Gladys finished ahead of singer Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff, actress Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy and tennis legend Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani, all at 20 points, and TV reporter Maria Menounos and Derek Hough and Green Bay Packers star Donald Driver and Petra Murgatroyd, both at 21.
Gladys tied with young actor and rapper Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower and actor Jack Wagner partnered with Anna Trebunskaya. But she was pipped by Latin heartthrob William Levy and Cheryl Burke with 24 and top scorers actor Jaleel White and Kym Johnson and mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas with 26. Our thanks to ABC’s Adam Taylor for this morning’s photo gallery of Gladys on the ballroom floor.
“I don’t consider myself a dancer, so it’s a challenge and exciting,” Gladys said. “I am having a whole lot of fun, and the ‘Dancing With the Stars’ family is exactly that -- a family -- so I feel at home. I’ve been watching this show since it started. I came to it a couple of times because I had friends on the show, and I really enjoyed it.”
Gladys has been invited to sing on the show, but her touring schedule conflicted. Now she’s dancing on it. She laughed: “I never got to dance with the Pips -- they wouldn’t let me! I learned all the routines, but when it came down to doing them, they told me to strut and sing while they danced.
“‘Dancing With the Stars’ is a nice adventure for me, and I’m dedicating it to the Pips. Soul is the inner spirit, and I use that inner spirit for when I’m dancing.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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