Can Detroit stars dance?

Karie Ross Dombrowski’s husband is too busy running the Detroit Tigers to take a bunch of dance lessons, and he’s a private sort of public figure anyway, so he volunteered his wife.

Now she’s a day away from Dancing with Detroit’s Stars, and she cheerfully concedes, “I’m absolutely terrified.”

Dombrowski has been a sports anchor on ESPN and a cheerleader at the University of Oklahoma, where that’s probably a more prominent job than governor. But back then, she was young and fearless and flexible. Now, at 51, “I don’t know that I’ve done my entire routine once without messing up.”

The occasion is the annual Detroit Historical Society Ball at the Argonaut Building in Detroit. The Detroit Historical Museum and Dossin Great Lakes Museum are wonderful places, but you can’t get a large group of people to dress up and buy $300 tickets to look at photos of the Edmund Fitzgerald on a Friday night.

Ballroom dancing, though, is hot stuff. Celebrities get big ratings doing it on ABC, and it’s started trickling down to local fundraisers.

It sounds like huge fun … until you’re the one in the spotlight.

“If you’d told me at the beginning how hard it was,” says Stacey DuFord of WOMC-FM (104.3) and WWJ-TV (Channel 62), “I never would have started.”

“My sincere prayer,” says attorney Norman Yatooma, “is that I just not embarrass my wife.”

It’s only dancing. Most everyone has done it. But faking a foxtrot at a wedding is a lot different from slipping out of your comfort zone and around the floor with strangers watching.

At least no one will shoot video with a cell phone and post it on YouTube … will they?


Alicia Smith paired with pro

Morning anchor Alicia Smith of WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) will do the tango. Dombrowski saw her practicing and declared her perfect.

Like all but one or two of the eight sacrificial dancers, Smith is paired with a pro from the Fred Astaire Studios of Bloomfield Hills. Yatooma, when not busy deposing ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in the Tamara Greene civil suit, has been rehearsing with his wife, Nicole.

They have four daughters between 7 months and 8 years old, so every practice session is like a date night. “In comparison to me,” he says, “she looks like a pro.”

On the plus side, she’s the highest authority he’ll have to answer to if he steps on her foot. “Nobody can hold me in contempt of court,” he points out. “Nobody can sanction me or throw me in jail.”

The Dombrowskis are bringing a two-table rooting section that will include their 12- and 10-year-olds, Darby and Landon.

They’re the only judges Karie Dombrowski is letting herself think about.

“They’re either going to be very proud of me,” she says, “or very embarrassed. I don’t know which one.”

East Coast or West Coast?

Dombrowski is doing the East Coast swing and says she has no idea how it’s different from the West Coast swing. Yatooma is doing the West Coast swing and says he has only a vague idea about how it’s different from Joe Montana’s old West Coast offense.

DuFord is doing the hustle — again.

She trotted it out in October for a similar event benefiting Habitat for Humanity. “Same routine,” she says of Friday, “different dress.”

Frank Beckmann of WJR-AM (760) was the emcee that first night. She remembers standing in front of everyone, waiting for the music to start, thinking, “What I wouldn’t give to trade places with Frank.”

“With this one,” DuFord says, “now I know I’m going to live, so I’ll be fine.”

Mortified, perhaps — but otherwise just dandy.

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