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Ireland has a ‘Dancing’ fan in Elizabeth Taylor

Taylor sent Kathy Ireland a lavender Valentino gown to help ease her stress as she gets ready to start the competition on “Dancing With the Stars.”
/ Source: The Associated Press

Elizabeth Taylor watches “Dancing With the Stars.” And if her longtime friend and business partner Kathy Ireland survives long enough into the show’s new season, Taylor’s presence — and presents — will be apparent.

“For some of the nights, we have to come with our own clothes, and that is not something I am used to doing in my life,” explained Ireland, speaking during a break in rehearsals for the series, which returns to ABC Monday.

“And I was so blown away,” Ireland continued. “The other day I came home and there was a big package at my door. And I opened it up, and it is this gorgeous Valentino gown from my dear friend, Elizabeth Taylor, who said, ‘I know you are so busy trying to learn how to dance and I know how stressful that is for you.’ She took the liberty of putting together a complete outfits for me with the accessories.”

The 46-year-old former swimsuit model-turned-brand-mogul says the dress is lavender, and “stunning.”

And as for the 77-year-old Taylor?

“She is doing excellent,” Ireland said. “She is working away, busy as ever. And she is my inspiration.”

Just as Taylor found a millions-generating second career by lending her name to perfume lines and designing jewelry, Ireland graduated from modeling and acting and into very big business.

Starting with Kmart socks in 1993, Ireland’s company now brings in $1.5 billion a year in 20 countries. Knowing that, the married mother of three’s days as a “Sports Illustrated” supermodel and “Loaded Weapon 1” actress seem like another lifetime ago.

“I was never that super and I was certainly never an actress, and I have the movies to prove it,” Ireland said, smiling.

“Well, I knew she was a hottie,” joked Ireland’s dance-pro partner Tony Dovolani, who sat beside Ireland for the interview.

“At the beginning she was funny,” he recalled. “She came in telling me — go ahead list them: ‘Tone deaf, no balance, never walked in heels, two knee surgeries and a foot surgery,’ correct? And you get dizzy when you spin, yeah? These are the things she told me at the beginning.”

Proceeds from Ireland’s “Dancing” gig will go charity, with potential hundreds of thousands of dollars to be raised for, among others, the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/ AIDS Foundation.

‘Dancing With the Stars’ 2009

Slideshow  18 photos

‘Dancing With the Stars’ 2009

Donny Osmond, Kelly Osbourne, Tom DeLay, Michael Irvin and a dozen others will face off for this season’s mirrorball trophy.

Just days before the premiere, Ireland didn’t even break a sweat as she and Dovolani ran through a complex Salsa.

Noted Dovolani, “Today I used a sentence that was kind of interesting — I said, ‘You are no longer my student. You are my dance partner at this point. So it is time for us to go out there and fun with each other. So, we are going to carry each other.’ She is going to make me look good, too.”

Not if the competition has its way. Among the other ninth-season stars: politician Tom DeLay, reality-show daughter Kelly Osbourne and singer Donny Osmond.

“I think Donny does come with a huge following,” commented Dovolani.

“Just his family,” quipped Ireland, adding “I think we will have to distract his family — maybe with ... We will come up with something to keep them busy that night so they are not voting.”