Three seasons after Mario Lopez came this-close to taking home the DWTS crown, another super Mario, 21-year-old R&B singer Mario is stepping up to stake his Dancing With the Stars claim. And not only does he have the same name — he’s got the same dance partner in Karina Smirnoff!
And while Mario Lopez’s main rival was eventual champ, football star Emmit Smith, in another case of déjà vu, Mario’s closest competitor amongst the men so far this season looks like football player Jason Taylor.
OK! was backstage tonight after the premiere to get Mario and Karina’s secrets to success. “I’m working hard and I had fun out there!" says Mario. "There was a lot of adrenalin and inspiration.”
Karina, who recently recovered from back surgery, gave Mario her all — even providing him with a home remedy to rub on his body when he suffered a painful groin pull. “I gave him this hot spicy chili to warm the muscles up and I said be careful not to put it on sensitive areas, and somehow it got there and he kept saying ‘great balls of fire!’” she laughed.
The dance pro also gave him a good luck charm: “Karina gave me this bracelet and it’s supposed to keep evil spirits away. I think it works!” Mario said, showing OK! the beaded bracelet around his wrist. “It’s an eye that protects against the evil eye,” Karina revealed.
Mario also says Karina has opened up unknown worlds for him: “I’ve moved my body in ways I’ve never moved it before!”
It’s been no problem juggling Marios for Karina, who has been romantically linked to Mario Lopez since they were partnered in season three. “He’s not jealous,” the other Mario insisted.
Meanwhile, Jason Taylor, with partner Edyta Sliwinska by his side, admitted to OK!, “Mario is pretty darn good. I’ll be thinking about that tonight when I go to bed.” The football star said DWTS has been a physical challenge: “The soreness at the beginning was surprising — the feet, the ankles, the knees, the hips. I’ve gotten over most of that but I have a newfound respect for ballroom dancers.”
At 6’7” tall, comedian and illusionist Penn Jillette was disappointed that the judges took potshots at him for his size: “They don’t like big people. That was clear. They were afraid of Godzilla, the biggest guy that was ever on the show.”
The illusionist said over the past six months before the show, he had lost 50 pounds and has dropped four more while training with partner Kym Johnson. “I thought [the show] was an excuse to lose some weight. I can’t wait ‘til I get thrown off the show and I can try and put on 60 pounds in two weeks — that’s my goal. I just want to pick up my copy of Moby Dick and some ice cream and sit down and read and eat.”
Meanwhile, Chilean actor Cristian de la Fuente, who is teamed with Cheryl Burke, told OK! his pre-show ritual: “I light a candle and leave it in my trailer. Hopefully the trailer is not burning!”
And Steve Guttenberg told OK! he was just happy to dance in tribute to his parents, Ann, 70, and Stanley, 75, on their 50th wedding anniversary. The couple watched Steve on TV because they were “too nervous” to come to the studio.
Steve, who is divorced, admitted he hasn’t yet found that special someone to settle down with himself: “I had a girlfriend last year but we broke up so I’m single now. I’m looking forward to falling in love with someone.” Maybe learning the dance moves will help!
By Carole Glines