"Dancing With the Stars" has been a hit from the get-go -- throw enough sequins and stunt casting at a TV camera and it's bound to work -- but I'm not sure the show has had to contend with anyone quite so notorious as former Chicagoan Andy Dick, who joins the new season that starts at 7 p.m. Monday on ABC.
Drama follows the man like a piece of toilet paper stuck to a shoe. He has never lost his talent for comedy, though, honed locally at iO Theater under the guidance of Charna Halpern, a longtime friend whose first name is a ringer for that of Dick's dance partner on the show, newcomer Sharna Burgess.
Said Dick of his "Dancing" gig to "Entertainment Tonight": "This is like 13 rehabs condensed into one." Having been in treatment multiple times, the man knows of what he speaks. He still books the occasional acting job (a terrifically loopy guest appearance on FX's "Legit" earlier this month), but let's face facts -- when his name turns up in the news, one of three phrases tends to follow: "appeared intoxicated," "exposed himself," "relieved himself on (insert nonbathroom location here)."
I'm pretty sure that means he's earned a Ph.D. in Loose Cannonology. He hasn't had to show his face at a steady job since his "News Radio" days, and in the nearly two decades since, Halpern has seen Dick through his ups and many, many, many documented trouserless downs. "I want to personally ask everyone to vote for Andy just to torture him and keep him in the competition," she told me. "He needs brutal discipline. This is like a scared-straight program for him."
Then she offered some advice, all in good fun, for Burgess -- from Charna to Sharna -- because, even with a roster of past contenders including Kim Kardashian, Nancy Grace, Bristol Palin, Metta World Peace and Jerry Springer, no one has seemed like more of a wild card than Dick.
"It's my civic duty to warn these people," Halpern said. "Being Andy's partner, this woman has no idea what she is in for. She needs to be instructor, parole officer, babysitter, sponsor and private eye."
Have someone tail him: "He is extremely social," Halpern said. "If there is a cast party, he will meet someone who will take him to another party where he will meet someone else. Before you know it, you will get a call at five in the morning that he is on Catalina Island and has no way to get back in time for rehearsal."
His stall tactics are legion: "Andy has the attention span of a 2-year-old. His goal will be to distract Sharna and stop rehearsing. He will start doing physical bits to make her laugh -- he doesn't care if his audience consists of one. The next thing she knows, she will have been watching Andy's private show for an hour."
Warn "DWTS" judge Bruno Tonioli: "Andy is more emotional than Bruno. He will out-Bruno Bruno. Bruno needs to keep Andy calm or he will heighten Bruno's emotions and madness will ensue."
Be tough, and bring tissues: "He cries easily."
Tell him to pretend he's on stage at iO: "Andy is a better improviser than dancer. If he's having trouble pulling off the dance, tell him to improvise that he is a dancer. If he is acting, he will feel more natural when having to make the 'pretty arms.'"
When all else fails to get him moving, show him his police record: "He's tap-danced around the law, so we know he has some fancy footwork."