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When it comes to soliciting celebrities for ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars,” there is no shame in Val Chmerkovskiy’s game.

“We’re recruiting all the time,” he admitted to me. “And now with social media, you can just slide in to the DM directly, yunno?”

Chmerkovskiy noted that the upcoming season of “DWTS” will be athletes only, something he thinks fans of the show will enjoy. The dance pro is always keeping his eye out for a possible contestant.

“I watch the Olympics, gymnastics… I know a lot of the ladies on our show watch the football season to see who are the breakout characters and personalities,” he revealed. “Look, the sports world has a lot of really talented, really hard-working people. That alone, those two attributes, really translate well in anything that you do.

“How you do anything is how you’ll do everything.”

So it should come to no surprise that Chmerkovskiy called me from Los Angeles during a break in rehearsals for the show, “Maks, Val and Peta Live On Tour: Confidential.” Chmerkovskiy, his older brother Maksim and his sister-in-law Peta Murgatroyd will headline Radio City Music Hall on April 14.

“I’ve performed in Radio City Music Hall before with the ‘Dancing With The Stars Tour’ and it felt incredible,” he recalled. “To be able to come back as my own artist and be able to perform there with family is literally a dream come true.”

The professional dancer, who grew up in South Brooklyn and went to high school in Hoboken, might have a few other items on his to-do list when he returns home.

“I need to experience a subway commute, come upstairs in to a rainy, crowded area, be bumped around in the most uncomfortable way possible, go in to a corner bodega, order an extra-toasted bagel with cream cheese and a coffee just black, and my day is made.”

There’s no shame in that, either.

It was another weekend filled with friends, travels and a few cocktails so let me tell you five things that I was thankful for during it.

– For the second time in three weekends I made it back to Syracuse: this time for the annual WJPZ Alumni Banquet/Reunion. Some of the highlights included watching the Orange beat Clemson in the Carrier Dome, seeing my old professor Dr. Rick Wright and his son Rubin and hanging with both alumni and students at the after party.


I always leave the banquet thankful and motivated; this year was no different.


– I flew back and forth to Syracuse and between the flights, Uber rides and hotel check-in I had zero interruptions. That is always a welcome footnote for a weekend.

– Despite going one stretch where I slept about six hours over a two day period, I still managed to run 4 miles this weekend. If I didn’t take good care of my body, minding both how I use it and what I put in it, I wouldn’t have been able to pull that off.

– It was so great to stop by MetroPCS with Team PLJ on Sunday afternoon. Thankfully with my lack of travel disruptions I had no issues landing at LaGuardia, getting back to my apartment to drop off my bags and making the trek to the Midwood neighborhood. Thanks for having us!


– Speaking of neighborhoods, Sunday night I ended up back in my old stomping grounds on the Upper West Side. I grabbed dinner with Ryan and watched The Oscars at Fred’s, then continued to e’s for a night cap before shopping at Fairway and heading back to the Financial District. Any weekend that can end with a trip to one of my favorite bars and a grocery store is usually a good weekend in my book.

The day after The 90th Academy Awards, People Magazine Deputy Style Director Sharon Kanter called in to talk about the fashions of Jennifer Garner, Mary J. Blige and the cast of “Black Panther” on the red carpet.

People’s Oscars issue hits newsstands in New York on Wednesday; everywhere else this Friday.

Hailee Steinfeld performed Wednesday night on Long Island at a vigil for a 16 year-old that died last week in a terrible accident. Leah Kuczinski was a student at New Hyde Park Memorial High School and was a huge fan of Steinfeld’s; she even had tickets and meet-and-greet passes to see the artist later this year.

So as the school planned out Wednesday night’s vigil, Tiffany Salcedo decided to start an online campaign in an attempt to get Steinfeld to attend it. The Spanish teacher’s tweet went viral. Students at the school followed suit by taking to social media and flooding the Academy Award-nominated actress’ accounts with mentions, in addition to imploring for the help of others in the music industry.

Those gathered at the school’s football field didn’t suspect anything regarding Steinfeld when a guitar began to play during the vigil. It was the opening notes of “Starving,” Steinfeld’s hit that she collaborated on with Zedd and Grey. Hailee performed an acoustic version of the song before meeting with Salcedo and a few of Leah’s closest friends.

Coincidentally enough, Steinfeld told me last May that the origin of that song can be traced back to social media; a fan tweeted her and suggested she and Zedd collaborate on a song. The final result went three times platinum in the U.S., top 10 in five different countries and cracked the top 5 at pop radio.

But perhaps most importantly, it brought a smile and a few tears of joy to a grieving community on Wednesday evening in a gesture of class and kindness that surely no one will ever forget.

Gold Derby Editor Tom O’Neil called in ahead of The Academy Awards to offer some insight on predicting Best Picture, Best Original Song and what we can expect on the red carpet as it pertains to the “Time’s Up” movement on Sunday night.

Attorney Jill Stanley called in to break down the legal implications of The Weinstein Company’s sale falling through and a potential Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing looming, specifically as it relates to those who have already filed a lawsuit against the company regarding allegations of abuse by Harvey and complicity of others within the organization.

Photo: David Shankbone

Photo: David Shankbone


UPDATE: After this aired and as Stanley predicted, a deal was reached to save The Weinstein Company from bankruptcy.

There was a buzz around Irving Plaza last Sunday night and for a couple of reasons. First, Quinn XCII was preparing to headline his first of two sold-out shows at the venue. Second, the rumor-mill was swirling that there would be a special guest in attendance: Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea.

Quinn, who of course was well-aware of both situations when I sat with him in his dressing room prior to the show, seemed excited but not fazed.

“It just gives me so much more confidence I think, as an artist, and it reflects I think when you see the show,” the Michigan-bred emcee, nee Mikael Temrowski, responded when I asked about the audience’s reaction to his tour so far. He noted that the crowd sings along for most of the set, including the finale of “Straightjacket.” “I’m super-blessed to be in the position that I am and the shows have been going great.”

Quinn is in the desirable position of being able to practice what he preaches; while his album deals with his vulnerabilities and relationships, his stage-name is derived from an acronym he created – and that wasn’t always something he felt comfortable sharing. Temrowski attributed the phrase to a professor he had at Michigan State until his tour’s opening night in Detroit, when he revealed that it was all his doing.

“It just stands for ‘quit unless your instincts are never neglected,’ and I think I wanted to tie in the professor because it was more of like a likely story but I was nervous to tell people that it was my mantra,” he explained. “I just urge people to pursue (your passion) because life I think is just way too short to let other people follow their dreams and see them succeed when you kind of regret it inside.”

That message is allowing Quinn to resonate with an ever-growing audience. And on Sunday night, there was surely at least one person in the crowd that appreciated the artist using his platform to spread positivity.

Just because I waited until Friday, it doesn’t mean there are not five things I’m thankful for from last weekend.

– I not only returned to my yoga practice but then ran 6 miles outside. Yoga has been great to not only improve my pliability but also refocus my mind. Some would pick between the class or the run, others would opt for neither because it’s Saturday morning; I choose both because I’m thankful for the physical ability I have to take part in them – that’s something I don’t take for granted.

– My closet can now fully close for the first time since I moved to my new apartment. In addition to carving out time to clean it out and then actually following through, I’m thankful that I was able to donate a large bag to Goodwill.

– Syracuse lost at Duke on Saturday but I’m still thankful that I was able to watch the game at the local SU watch bar, Beer Authority, with my buddy Ryan. We grabbed a few more drinks afterwards before I met up with a colleague in town, Barbi Jo. Always nice to see friends!

– Speaking of Saturday night – a quick shout-out to Delta and the airline’s 48 hour cancellation policy. While looking up flights to Las Vegas for the first weekend of the college basketball tournament (another story for a different time), I accidentally booked a flight to Vegas. Whoops!

– On Sunday I ended up at Irving Plaza to see Quinn XCII live. I interviewed Quinn before the show, got to see my friend Matt who works for his label and then was introduced to Two Dollar Steve. Yes, he gave me a $2 bill. More on him here.

By the way, Steve wasn’t at the show alone. He brought along his friend to the VIP area where we were standing… Chelsea Clinton.

Even before a former first family took their grandchildren to see “Sesame Street Live! Let’s Party!” in the city, New Jersey native Ashley Budinick was raving about the crowds.

“The show’s been going amazing,” she told me over the phone last Friday, a few days before Bill and Hillary Clinton took in the production with their grandkids on coincidentally enough, Presidents’ Day. “The crowds and the energy from everyone at The Theater at Madison Square Garden have been awesome.”

Budinick, who hails from Brick, served as the show’s dance captain. It ran from February 9-19 inside the Theater at MSG.

“It was a brand new show,” she said. “I love starting everything from scratch and being a part of that process.

“To come back here to New York City and be able to perform for all of my family and friends and everybody else here who is coming to see the show is something I can’t even describe. I get choked up when I start talking about it because that’s something that you dream of as a kid.”

If there was any downside to it all, it might have been the amount of ticket requests Budinick received, but she handled that with a little assistance from her colleagues.

“I had to ask some friends to help me along the way and lend me some of their tickets as well so that I could accommodate everybody to come,” she revealed. “Everybody loves the show, because there’s so much dancing and there are so many interactive moments.”

She mentioned that at some points of the show, characters even come in to the audience. Thankfully, I’m guessing that if Big Bird and Elmo hadn’t passed Secret Service clearance, we would’ve heard about it by now.

Rihanna turned 30 on Tuesday and to celebrate the superstar’s birthday, I threw it back on the radio show to one of the most embarrassing moments of my career. It was May 2008; my program was only airing in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the time. Good ‘ole Cousin Tony was in town visiting and we had a lot planned – a trip to New York on Saturday to see the Yankees and then a doubleheader on Sunday: PNC Field for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game against the Pawtucket Red Sox and then up the road to The Pavilion At Montage Mountain for Kanye West’s “Glow In The Dark Tour” featuring N.E.R.D., Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna.

I was also scheduled to interview the “Pon De Replay” singer before she took the stage. Our record label rep, Nicki, brought me and my colleague Adam backstage for our chat. I had a five minute window.

The interview started on a great note; Rihanna was in a fantastic mood. But the worst thing possible happened after one question: the MiniDisc I was using died. I brought backup batteries and extra discs. After I replaced each I attempted to restart the interview. And by the fourth restart, sitting across from *Rihanna,* I made the call that we would just film and use the audio from Adam’s digital camera, which he thankfully brought.

There are a few things I’ll always remember about that experience: how kind Rihanna was, how patient Nicki was, using MiniDisc for the final time in my career and taking up so much time in the process that Rihanna couldn’t do another interview scheduled after mine. She went right from our photo-op to the stage, and slayed it.

The last noteworthy moment came as I walked out of Rihanna’s dressing room. We saw and snapped a photo with her boyfriend, who happened to be there… Chris Brown.