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November 28, 2007
Helio races to victory


My guess is Helio Castroneves was drinking champagne instead of a gallon of milk Tuesday night after winning Season 5 of "Dancing With the Stars" along with partner Julianne Hough (shown in an Associated Press photo). The IndyCar champ hoisted the impressive - albeit cheesy - mirror ball trophy and admitted he was "shocked" he had won.

A couple of weeks ago, I chatted over the phone with Helio, who was ever the gentleman. And he was upbeat even then: "I never thought it would be this much fun. I'm becoming good friends with the other celebrities. The staff is nice. But it's a lot of hard work. However, I've made a commitment to the show for as long as it takes."

(To read the entire interview, click here.)

It was clear that Spice Girl Mel. B. had made a commitment to learning the dances, too. "Me and Maks have come so far. We are not prepared to throw it all away," she said Tuesday night. "We have to win it for all those people that have been voting for us."

But alas, she and her professional partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, came in second. Hunky Maks has been on most of the "Dancing" competitions, and can't seem to get a break. This was as close to winning as he's come.

The talent was definitely there. Mel B. and Maksim narrowly won on judges' points, but apparently lost out on audience votes after their two dances Monday night. (No word from "Dancing" on how the viewer voting broke down.)

One thing's for sure: Marie Osmond's run on the 10-week competition ended quickly Tuesday after she and partner Jonathan Roberts were eliminated at the start of the two-hour show.

No shock there. Even Marie's huge fan base - including her doll collectors - probably couldn't get past that creepy, "Dolly Dearest," "Bride of Chucky"-type performance on Monday. I know I had nightmares about it.

However, Marie was grateful for the experience, saying, "I'm so pleased to be here at my age. It's been like a Cinderella story, with all the hair and makeup and the stepsisters over there (pointing to Mel B. and Julianne).

"I don't care what you say, I am a dancer!"

Then she and Jonathan peformed their last tango in L.A.

I can't remember if the Season 4 finale was a full-blown two hours, but somehow, ABC managed to fill the time Tuesday night with trips down memory lane: We saw fainting, food poisoning, personal tragedies, shocking departures and lots of Kodak smiles.

The nine dancing pairs who were previously eliminated returned for a final twirl on the dance floor. Two of the "stars" - Wayne Newton and Floyd Mayweather - opted out of performing; Wayne because of a medical condition and Floyd because he's worn out from training for an upcoming boxing match. (I just don't think Floyd enjoys dancing.)

And guest singer Celine Dion just had to perform that sappy "My Heart Will Go On." Sorry, not one of my favorites, but the professional dancers did a lovely job "interpreting" it.

Soap star Cameron Mathison did his Superman dance and, as a final gesture, completely took off his shirt. Real-life lovebirds/dancers Sabrina Bryan and Mark Ballas demonstrated chemistry can take on a whole new meaning when you samba.

But, in the end, at about 10:55 p.m., it was just the diva vs. the driver.

Helio's charm and personality appeared to win over the audience. It also helped that partner Julianne won last season's competition with speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. And she's one incredible choreographer.

Now, I can be honest: Helio was my pick to win, even though it seemed from the start that it was a female star's season to come out on top.

Certainly, Mel B. has nothing to grouse about. "Dancing With the Stars" has brought her and her Spice gal pals a ton of attention.

So too for the entire Osmond family. In fact, I think brother Donny should consider tripping the light fantastic on Season 6.

Because, with the ratings Season 5 pulled in (the show was consistently in the Nielsen top 10), the dancing can't help but go on - complete with spray tans and flimsy costumes!

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