Carrie Ann Inaba's road to "Dancing with the Stars" took her through Las Vegas.
In 1995, she was one of the goddess dancers in "Showgirls," which was set in Las Vegas. In 2003, she was a coach/talent scout on ABC's remake of "Dance Fever," which was shot at Studio 54 at the MGM Grand.
Inaba was back in town Wednesday, this time to promote volunteerism efforts and the Web site, Iparticipate.org.
She was at the Three Square Food Bank, working with volunteers from UnitedHealthcare.
What she remembers most about her "Dance Fever" days here was "the shows. Anytime I had a three-hour break, I went to a show."
She figures she's seen "Mystere" 15 times and "O" on seven occasions.
A former "Fly Girl" on "In Living Color," Inaba was a dancer on Madonna's 1993 "The Girlie Show World Tour," creating a stir with a topless stint.
She rose through the choreography ranks, eventually handling prime-time reality shows, including "American Idol." She had a five-year run as the choreographer for the Miss America pageant. She appeared in both of the Austin Powers films.
She joined "Dancing with the Stars" in 2005 as one of the three judges.
The surprise of this season, the ninth, has been snowboarder Louie Vito, she said. "I was really shocked that Louie had such charisma." UFC legend Chuck Liddell "really represented the spirit of the show." It's beautiful, she said, to see the untrained contestants come in "and unlock that mystery in their life."
Flamingo headliner Donny Osmond "brought a new persona, a new stature" to Monday's show with his Argentine tango, said Inaba, who gave him a 10. "He's always been your best buddy next door. He actually transformed."
THE SCENE AND HEARD
This might be the low of lows when it comes to our Hall of Lame tippers. There's epic astonishment at a local nightclub after a certain NBA team got comped to the tune of $5,000-6,000 last week, and left a tip that would have made Kevin Federline proud. ... London gin maker Bombay Sapphire unveiled a specially created cocktail for Mayor Oscar Goodman on Wednesday during his first official visit to the city. The Goodman Gold "Double" Martini, capped off with gold-plated olives, will be available at the just-opened The Palm steakhouse, the first of its kind in Europe, during the duration of Goodman's visit.
DEAL OF THE DAY
Every Friday from 4-10 p.m. at the Emerald Island Casino, 120 Market St., the "Real" Meal Deal: for $14.99 with a players card: jumbo shrimp cocktail, filet mignon and lobster tail, served with soup or salad, choice of potato, vegetable d'jour and a hot fudge brownie with fresh whipped cream.
Gloria and Emilio Estefan at Bette Midler's show (Caesars Palace) Tuesday Also there: George Takei of "Star Trek."... Eva Longoria Parker, having lunch at Diablo's (Monte Carlo) on Wednesday. She's in town to check out Besos, her Mexican steakhouse, which is going into CityCenter. ... Doris Roberts of "Everybody Loves Raymond," talking politics at Rao's (Caesars Palace) with Ed Henry, CNN's senior White House correspondent. Roberts, who had just attended Bette Midler's show, remarked, "I played her mom in 'The Rose' 30 years ago." Roberts is still going strong. She's in three movies that are out or in the process of being released. ... Elvis' former girlfriend Linda Thompson, chatting with Pete "Big Elvis" Vallee, a fixture at Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon. ... When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his group showed up for a 5 p.m. dinner Saturday at Rao's, maitre d' Robert "Bubbles" Ubriaco lifted an arm and spoke into his sleeve, "Eagle One has landed." He had chatted with the FBI guys the day before, when they showed up the day before to check out the joint. Holder ended up dining on the patio in front of the restaurant. The FBI provided pins and hats for Rao's employees. ... At the Palms on Tuesday: The Killers, dining at N9NE Steakhouse.
THE PUNCH LINE
"Obama today agreed to commit an additional 40,000 troops to help fight Fox News." -- Jay Leno