Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Heather Mills joins 'Dancing With the Stars'

ABC unveils new lineup, which includes Billy Ray Cyrus and Leeza Gibbons.

By Maria Elena Fernandez
Times Staff Writer

February 21, 2007

ABC announced the cast for the fourth season of its mega hit, "Dancing With the Stars," Wednesday and if you thought it couldn't get any more interesting than Emmitt Smith and Jerry Springer, you were very, very wrong.

The new season returns on March 19 with a two-hour performance special that will pit Laila Ali, the undefeated world champion boxer and daughter of Muhammad Ali, against Heather Mills, the estranged wife of Paul McCartney, who is the first contestant to compete with an artificial limb -- a leg.

The two fighters -- Mills is an activist for animal rights and elimination of the use of land mines -- will also compete against singer Billy Ray Cyrus, NBA all-star Clyde Drexler, actor Vince Pastore of "The Sopranos," supermodel Paulina Porizkova, Olympic gold medalist Apolo Anton Ohno, actor and musician Joey Fatone, 2004 Miss USA Shandi Finnessey and TV talk show host Leeza Gibbons.

The lucky celebrity contestant who has been paired with the show's two-time professional champion Cheryl Burke is Ian Ziering of "Beverly Hills, 90210." Burke led Drew Lachey and Emmit Smith to victories in the previous two seasons.

To avoid the "American Idol" monster, ABC has moved the performance show to Monday nights at 8 and the results show to Tuesday nights at 9. For the first time, viewers will get to see the dancers hustle on the floor for two weeks before the first elimination occurs on March 27. Nearly 28 million viewers tuned in to the third season finale in November.