CHYNNA PHILLIPS, TONY DOVOLANI
Updated: November 10, 2011 1:50PM
LOS ANGELES — “Dancing With the Stars” unveiled its new ballroom and new cast Monday, and when all the dancing was done, singer Chynna Phillips and actor J.R. Martinez were tied at the top. Chaz Bono, this season’s most talked-about cast member, did the night’s final dance, which judge Len Goodman said showed “good footwork and a great attitude.”
As the show’s first transgender contestant, Bono, a 42-year-old author and activist, has been the subject of hateful blog posts by some viewers and conservative media groups. Some have even called for a “Dancing” boycott.
But other groups, such as the Transgender Law Center and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, have lauded his casting and urged their members to support Bono’s appearance on the show.
In the end, Bono’s cha-cha earned 17 points.
Phillips and Martinez each earned 22 points out of 30 for their Viennese waltzes. Basketball star Ron Artest landed in last place with 14 points. Goodman said the Lakers forward’s footwork was “atrocious” and his cha-cha was “all sizzle and no sausage.”
Artest, who recently changed his name to Metta World Peace, had the Hebrew words for “world peace” shaved into his hair for his “Dancing” debut. Despite his low score, he said after the show that he “came to entertain” and felt the judges were fair.
Scoring one point better than Artest was Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis, who is better known in the United States for being George Clooney’s ex-girlfriend. She said her nerves got the better of her in the ballroom and she left the episode worried about Tuesday’s results show, when the season’s first celebrity contestant will be dismissed.
Judges’ scores are combined with viewer votes to determine who is ousted each week.
Also making their dancing debut on the hit ABC show were World Cup soccer player Hope Solo; reality stars Robert Kardashian and Kristin Cavallari; TV personalities Nancy Grace, Carson Kressley and Ricki Lake; and actor David Arquette.
Kardashian brought his famous family along: Sisters Kim and Khloe, mom Kris Jenner and brother-in-law Lamar Odom sat in the ballroom. The reality star scored 16 points, as did Grace. She said after the show that she hopes to make it through Tuesday’s elimination episode, but Kardashian said he needs to stay on the show for at least four weeks.
“It’s obvious I need to beat my sister,” he said of former contestant Kim. “She was only on it three weeks.”
Kressley earned 17 points for his cha-cha. Kressley turned in the episode’s most entertaining performance, smiling and making faces throughout his high-energy routine. Goodman said the dance had “elements of Jagger, swagger and stagger.” Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said it was her favorite of the night.
“I cannot get over all the sparkle that’s happening around you,” she said of Kressley’s bedazzled blazer.
“This is not even a costume,” the celebrity stylist quipped. “I had it in my closet.”
Arquette, who said that he has been sober for eight months, impressed the judges with his elegant Viennese waltz, scoring 18 points. The actor said after the show that dancing helps support his sobriety.
“A lot of the themes that are in dancing are in living just a clean life and an honest life: Just being balanced, living life gracefully, staying focused, being connected to something, letting yourself step into the light,” he said. “It’s all connected, and it’s really great for the body and the soul.”
His estranged wife Courteney Cox and the couple’s daughter, Coco, sat in the audience Monday.
Cavallari collected 19 points for her cha-cha. Judges rewarded Lake’s romantic waltz with 20 points and Solo’s with 21.
A special meet-the-cast episode of “Dancing With the Stars” is set to air Tuesday before the live results show.