DWTS Celebrities: “What do you mean, I’m a Ringer?” Part 2

This is Part 2 in what will likely be a 3-part series. If you want to read Part 1, you can find it here —> I’m a Ringer??

Well, let me tell you, researching these former contestants was not particularly enjoyable. But, I felt like some research had to go into this in order to try to be somewhat informed and to remove some of the subjectivity. Not all of it can be removed, but I tried.

How did I get my results?

For each celebrity who was *possibly* experienced or popular, I focused research on their web sites (if available), their Wiki pages, and YouTube videos.  Then there were google searches. Yikes.  If a celebrity was clearly not a ringer in any way shape or form (ie Football players, rodeo riders, race car drivers) I did not look into their background any further. I did spend some time on this, but since I have another job that takes my time, it’s possible I missed something. :-) BUT, just because you don’t agree with my rankings, it doesn’t mean I DID miss something. Just sayin’. :-)

Determining if someone is actually a fanbase ringer is rather difficult as well. My metric for that determination is: Is this person well known and well loved by the biggest DWTS demographic – that is women aged about 30 to 65. These are the people most likely to watch the show and vote.  Where it gets tricky is guys like Joey Lawrence and Ian Zeiring – it’s guys like this that caused me the most pain.  Why? Well, because my brain is saying, “Nah” but my gut is saying “Just because you’re not a fan doesn’t mean they don’t have sizable fanbases. :-) So, at the end of the day, I decided for my purposes that for them to be a fanbase ringer, it had to be OBVIOUS.  That is – if I know they’re super popular, then they probably really are.  If I don’t really know much about them….then they probably aren’t. I fit the demographic, after all. :-)

The single hardest category to make a determination on is the singers – not the boy and girl band people, as those usually are heavily choreographed, but the individual singers, like Mario and Joey Lawrence.  Would I call what they are doing “dancing”??  Mario? Yes. Joey? Er, not really. And this is where the subjectivity comes into play. We can debate these guys till the cows come home – I’ve made Mario a low level ringer and then changed my mind about 50 times. At the end of the day, he bills himself as a dancer, so that’s what I gave him. Joey is clearly an actor and a singer – he just walks fast to a beat in the video I looked at.

Again, if someone went to a performing arts high school, I tended to ignore it unless they were heavily into dance from that point on. I don’t think there are any men who actually fit the bill on that one. Broadway??  Well, if they did Broadway *musicals* recently – that is, the past 10 years – then they get some level of ringerdom.  HOWEVER, as anyone over the age of 35 will tell you, age DOES make a difference. To think that someone that is 50, 60 or 70 years old that did Broadway years ago is a ringer just like someone who’s 25 or 30 is a ringer is absurd.

If someone learned a dance or two for a movie and that is their only “experience”?? Not a ringer – unless it was Step Up, of course. :-) Especially if the movie was a long time ago.  I don’t think there are any male celebrities that fit that bill anyway. Mario was in Step Up, but I don’t think he danced in it, did he? I have him as a low level ringer for his music video moves.

Experience versus Ability

One thing I see time and again is “Derek always gets the good dancers.”  This annoys me not just as a fan of Derek’s who knows it’s ridiculous, but as someone who is annoyed by revisionist history, hindsight and a complete lack of consideration of REALITY.  These celebrities don’t audition to be on this show. No one knows if one is going to be a good dancer unless it’s obvious – they were in a boy band or girl band, they’re doing work dancing, etc.  But for the vast majority of people cast on this show – and the vast majority of Derek’s partners (and those of Maks, Mark and Tony)– you just can’t tell in advance.

Can you tell they’re going to be bad in advance??  Again, I say no, not usually.  If you say someone is going to be bad because they’re old…well, then you have to also admit that age absolutely plays a part in this show. A person who is 20 or 30 is going to have an easier time than 40, 50, 60 and so on, often regardless of *experiences*. So, for that reason, I ALWAYS take someone’s age into account when making my determinations. But ignoring age for a moment, how do you know that a Joanna is gonna be decent and a Denise Richards is going to suck?? On paper, before the show, there is little difference between them.  When you look at Jennie Garth, Shannon Elizabeth, Brooke Burke, Shannen Doherty, Denise Richards, Audrina, Debi, Lalia…hell, even KATE Gosselin….any of these people before the show or rehearsals start, can you honestly point at Shannen and say, “She’s going to be the first to leave” and then point to Jennie Garth and say “She’s gonna make final four”?  Of course you can’t, if you’re being honest. I seem to recall some thinking Kate would be good and last awhile because she was popular. Yep, in hindsight that seems rather…crazy. :-)

My point – It’s very easy to complain about someone always getting “dancers” in hindsight. But when the celebs are handed out, YOU didn’t know Brooke Burke was going win any more than you knew Denise was going to be horrible. Brooke had natural ability. Denise did not. The only thing that is likely to be known in advance is if someone has actual dancing experience – and even then, there is much more to doing well on the show. How many times has a ringer won??

Just because someone dances well, does not mean they have experience, nor are they a ringer. How someone dances, and how someone places (which are often two very different things) has to do with a wide variety of factors – natural ability, pro’s teaching ability, the celebs likeability, who they are competing against, how much crack the judges are smoking in a given week…the list goes on.  There is no easy, fool proof formula. Continually, people confuse that huge combination of factors, including natural ability like that of Brooke (and Gilles), with experience…or favoritism.  There’s a tendency to look back and complain – when there was little to no complaining when the celebs were handed out.

The Men

Surprisingly, I found that the female pros do have fewer actual ringers, either fan base or experience, than male pros.  I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, after giving it some thought – I mean, when you’re a kid or young adult, what percentage of girls versus boys want to take dance classes??  The girls are the ones in the majority on this one, I would guess. Consequently it makes sense that there tend to be more women in dance as they get older – as a result, more women celebs.  Hell, even Derek and Maks have said how they didn’t want to take dance, they hated the idea, but their parents made them. But I think the discussion of socialization of boys versus girls is a different post. :-)

Here’s how it stacked up:

Here’s my guide, for easy comparison:

Note: I didn’t include pro dancers who had only be on one or two seasons – the tables would be too large, as the producers had a habit in the early seasons of only keeping pros for a season. I also don’t spend a lot of time on relatively new pros.

As you can see from my table, Edyta and Chelsie are the two women who have not had actual ringers. But that’s not to say they haven’t had celebrity partners who turned out to either be decent dancers or so likable that they got much farther than they probably should have.

Edyta, while never having had a partner that would be considered a ringer, has had a pretty decent selection of people. She’s been the first one out a couple of times, but this is where it gets interesting. I don’t think anyone expected Ashley Hamilton to be a total dud. Aiden Turner was the third one eliminated, and I don’t think that was really expected either. These two are likely male examples of what I was saying, above – going into the show, how do you know that Ashley and Aiden are going to be early casualties, but Joey Lawrence and Cameron Matheson are going to be decent to good dancers?? I don’t think there is any way to tell. Now, Edyta did have one complete stinker in Jeffrey Ross…but she typically was handed very handsome men or athletes. The pattern seems to be in type. And the type is probably partly dictated by height.

It seems to me that Chelsie gets a mixed bag of shorter, cute men, with the possible exception of Michael Bolton – and I believe that was the season that Edyta abruptly quit, which mixed up the pairings a bit. I don’t think that she’s being treated badly by the show, I just think her partners are dictated by height – otherwise it seems a bit random.

Cheryl has had one ringer, but she won her first two seasons she was there. The only reason I mention this is because I tend to think that perhaps two successes right out of the gate leads to celebrities requesting you as a partner (much the position Derek is in right now). Like, perhaps, Wayne Newton?? She did very well with Ian too, as I recall, finishing in 4th place. So, that’s top four in her first 3 seasons – all with younger or very athletic partners. So, Wayne comes along and she’s out third – he’s a fairly big “get” and I would bet that he asked for her. She followed Wayne with Christian De La Fuente – and took 3rd place. Another young, able (VERY handsome) guy. Christian is followed by Maurice and Gilles – I’m sensing a pattern. :-) Cheryl gets a lot of great partners as well, with the occasional older gentleman thrown in, who happen to be lucrative to the producers (Wayne, Tom). Is there a conspiracy? Of course not. How do you or anyone know that Gilles and Christian are going to be amazing and Chris and Rick not so much? You don’t know, actually, and neither do the producers. Even her older gentlemen lasted through the third week (possibly longer if DeLay hadn’t opted out due to foot problems).

Anna Trebunskaya?? Got one of the best ringers EVER…and also some of the biggest duds, when not sitting seasons out. A real mixed bag of people and seasons on the bench. If anyone has a right to complain, it would be Anna’s fans. That said – she also has two of the more memorable male partners in the history of the show – Jerry Rice lives on to this day, and Steve Guttenberg danced with her husband when she was sick, possibly the first same-sex ballroom dance on TV in the US?

Julianne probably has the best stats in the bunch (wins v. seasons), or she did until Derek won with Jennifer. It’s 0.400 to 0.4285 in Derek’s favor. Was she given all the good partners?? No question in my mind that Apolo was a ringer in terms of fanbase/popularity. But after that it was pretty luck of the draw. How is anyone going to know that Helio is going to be a good dancer plus very likeable taking him to a win over a better dancer in Mel B, while neither Chuck nor Cody would make it to the final four? Keeping in mind of course that it’s not just her partner and how they dance, but who the competition is – if there is any. At the end of the day, on paper, I don’t see much difference between Chuck, Cody or Helio. Adam? Well, he’s insane. I don’t think anyone expected a win – but did anyone know he was going to suck?

Karina and Lacey – kinda lumping the two of them together, since they’ve both had a ringer or two in their time, but they are also blessed (or cursed, depending) with a crazy, mixed bag of partners. I definitely think Ralph was a fanbase ringer at a lower level, but the Marios are debatable, really. Lacey seems to have a definitive “type” – the quirky/goofy or controvertial partners, while Karina seems a bit more all over the map. Of course, of all their partners, the only two that I would have predicted as early exits based ONLY on ability would be Chaz and the Woz. Remember, we’re talking good on paper here – and how does one tell how any of the rest of them are going to do?

Ah, Kym – she’s won twice, just like Cheryl, but I think at the end of the day she’s not been as fortunate in terms of partners. Sure, she had Joey, and she had one of the biggest ringers ever in Donny. Donny, by the way, is one of the big ones since he has been singing and dancing since age 5, took ballroom lessons before the show, and has one of the more insane, rabid fanbases out there that just happens to coincide with the DWTS demographic. That is RARE. It’s rare that you have a person with a huge fanbase that’s similar to DWTS Demo, let alone the stage and ballroom experience. BUT, take Donny away and Kym’s partners have been erratic, to say the least. Or are they?? Apply the “on paper” thinking – no hindsight allowed – to Kym’s partners. How does one know that Warren is going to be a better dancer than Cody or Maurice?? You don’t. By the same token, you can’t really say “Kym always gets crap partners”. On paper, you can’t objectively say that Mark, Warren and both David’s were going to be worse than Cheryl’s partners in the same basic age range.

That’s what we’re getting at here. If a person isn’t an obvious ringer, and they’re not 70 years old, then one cannot really predict how they will be as a dancer, or how long they will last on the show, since a lot of the time one doesn’t necessary lead to the other. Right now, in various posts on this site, we guess, we make predictions based on past history as we’ve always done. But it’s not fool proof. I remember most of us thinking that David Hasselhoff would go to the finals before the show started and we know how that turned out. Lots and lots of people (me included) think that JR has a shot at winning the show this season – if he gets eliminated early is the chorus of “Karina never gets great partners” going to start up? The point is, saying that “So and So always gets the dancers” is just not reality, it’s hindsight. And not even that a lot of the time; sometimes it’s a refusal to accept that someone is popular or a good teacher – because they aren’t YOUR favorite there has to be another reason for their success. Something nefarious. :-) I’ve had Cheryl fans claim that her record would be better than Derek’s if you just removed the older guys like Tom and Wayne. Well, by the same token, then, I guess they always give Cheryl the dancers, except for those two?? Of course not. Sure, she’s gotten some guys who turned out to be very good dancers, but how did you know that in advance?? And how do you know that she isn’t just a really good teacher? Sure, Gilles was a natural like Brooke, but what about Ian, Christian, Maurice, Chad and Chris?? Were they given to Cheryl because they were good or were they good because they were given to Cheryl….or is it all just a crap shoot?? The producers look at the heights and temperaments of their celebs for a season and match them up with the professional that they are most compatible. The end?

I think so. The producers didn’t expect David Hasselhoff to be an early exit any more than we did. They certainly didn’t expect Ty Murray to go the distance that he did. They probably expected Lil’ Kim to threaten Derek’s life on a regular basis. I think they cast the show hoping for fireworks, showmances, fights, excitement, good dancing and, most of all, RATINGS. Whatever will get them those ratings. Did they expect Helio to win? Or were they thinking it would be Mel B or Sabrina that season?? Or do they just not care, as long as it’s exciting and fun?? I take door number 2, Monty. It’s all about the ratings.