Tom DeLay, the former Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, will be a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars" when the popular ABC show premieres Sept. 21. And, before you laugh or think this is going to be a joke, I know first-hand that DeLay, 62, can cut a rug.
When I called his home this morning after the announcement was made, his wife, Christine, said he'd call me back after he finished working out.
"Tommy is so excited and he's been working out to get in shape for the show before rehearsals even start," she explained.
According to his daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro, Tom has already lost 12 pounds from his new workout regimen.
Because the show stipulates that contestants not talk to the press about the program before it airs, I talked to Christine about how this surprising choice came about.
She said the call came "completely out of the blue" earlier this summer: "Tommy was as shocked as anyone when they called to ask him to be on the show. We watched every single show last season and are huge fans."
I worked for DeLay, who stepped down in 2005, when he was House majority whip, first as his press secretary and then as communications director, and know that he can dance really well.
But I wondered how the "Dancing with the Stars" producers knew that he had the chops to compete. Christine said they didn't, and so her husband would be involved in five-hour-a-day rehearsals, as will the other 15 contestants.
I told her that I remembered Tom dancing at weddings, and Christine agreed that "he's a really good dancer." She added, "He has a sense of rhythm." The DeLays rarely dance together because, she acknowledged, she doesn't have the skills or enjoy dancing like he does.
Tom can dance the two-step, polka, waltz, country swing ("you get all tangled and untangled") and disco, Christine said. I laughed. Disco?
Yes, she said, he can disco too.
Known for his political nickname "The Hammer" and for his strong conservative point of view, Tom DeLay is little known personally beyond his circle of friends, family and former staff. But Christine predicts that "people are going to see the real man" on the show.
DeLay will be begin rehearsals with his dancing partner -- a professional dancer -- on Tuesday. Christine said he will be in Los Angeles "until he's voted off, so let's hope he does well and people call to support him."
So, if you are a Tom DeLay supporter, visit a fan Web site created for him
. And be sure to tune in to the show and put "Dancing With the Stars" on speed dial to vote for him. And if you are an anti-DeLay, you are in for a big surprise: He can dance.
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