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Turning 50, Leeza Gibbons goes ‘Dancing’

Leeza Gibbons’ dance resume consists of a tap class in grade school and another that her teenage daughter, Lexi, talked her into taking a couple years ago.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Leeza Gibbons’ dance resume consists of a tap class in grade school and another that her teenage daughter, Lexi, talked her into taking a couple years ago.

“We had six weeks of class, did a recital, came on after the 5-year-olds and I did the wrong dance,” said Gibbons.

Despite that experience, she agreed to demonstrate her talent on a far bigger stage, “Dancing with the Stars.”

“A temporary lapse of sanity, that’s all I can tell you,” Gibbons said, jokingly.

Although the contest requires surrendering most decisions on dance-appropriate costumes, hair and makeup to the pros, Gibbons made a plea to the show’s producers.

“I said, ‘Look, I’m the oldest woman to ever do this show, I don’t have any dance background. I can’t imagine in a million years it will be OK for me to wear some of these costumes. Please protect me.”’

The radio-TV host capably tackled a foxtrot with partner Tony Dovolani in last week’s season debut and moves on to the mambo Monday — which just happens to be the birthday she shares with her mother. Gibbons turns 50; mom Jean Gibbons of Chapin, S.C., will be 72.

“My gift to my mother is to dance ... with her spirit,” Gibbons said, adding that her mom, who’s in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, “loved the whole celebratory nature of dance.”

And with a “really big birthday looming” as well, the dance contest provided a way to step through that milestone in style.

Gibbons also realized the show would allow her to bring greater attention to the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, a nonprofit group she and her family founded in 2002 after her mother’s illness was diagnosed.

The center campaigns for improved care, treatment and research for Alzheimer’s and provides support for those with the disease and their caregivers through nationwide centers called Leeza’s Place.

“When my mother was diagnosed she said, ‘You’re a storyteller, this is our story, tell it, make it count,”’ Gibbons recounted.