Kings and queen of the jungle

The show started as sheer silliness and ended with reassuring news: Nice people can finish first ... and second ... and third, even on "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here."

Lou Diamond Phillips won, with former wrestler Torrie Wilson second and former Detroit Piston basketball player John Salley third. Here's my interview with them; scroll down and you'll find interviews with some other evictees, from Sanjaya Malakar (who is thoroughly likable) to Janice Dickinson (who, alas, is not):

When all the early commotion – the
Spencer-Heidi-Janice fuss – was gone, “I'm a Celebrity … Get Me
Out of Here” became a picture of civility.

Lou Diamond Phillips – the camp's
rock-solid leader from the beginning – was named “King of the
Jungle” in Wednesday's finale. The next day, he praised the people
who came close, including Torrie Wilson (second), John Salley
(third), Sanjaya Malakar and Patti Blagojevich.

“They are just amazing human beings,”
Phillips said by phone Thursday.

The top three lasted all 24 days in the
Costa Rican jungle, facing various amounts of displeasure. Phillips
had fierce insect bites; Salley didn't. (“I got about five bites,
total,” he said.) Wilson was somewhere between. “The flies were
what made me insane,” she said.

And what about the verbal insanity of
the week with Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag and the two-plus weeks
with Janice Dickinson? “Their behavior speaks for itself,”
Phillips said.

At first, Pratt kept stirring arguments
and announcing they were leaving. When they returned – despite the
others voting not to let them back _ they were “contrite and a
little more human,” Phillips said.

Salley got along with them (“I've already got Spence on my
Twitter”), but not with Dickinson. “All of our fights were real,”
he said.

Phillips marvelled at the excesses of Pratt and Montag, the young
reality-show stars, and recalled his earlier days with Charlie Sheen,
Kiefer Sutherland, Emilio Estevez and others. “They called us the
brat pack, but we've got nothing on them.”

Not all the young competitors
misbehaved, though. Phillips raved about Malakar, both physically –
“there's a lot of strength in that scrawny body” – and
personally. “What a sweet, wonderful kid, without a mean bone in
his body.”

In his own generation, Phillips was
impressed by Blagojevich. “She was a rock (alongside) those
ridiculously flamboyant personalities.”

Phillips now returns to a mixed career
that recently has had him singing (“Camelot,” on tour), directing
(Hallmark Channel's sweet-spirited “Love Takes Wing”) and acting.
Wilson – retired from wrestling after eight years and back surgery
– said she decided in the jungle to have a work-out video. And
Salley is doing … well, everything.

In addition to sports talk and acting
(he plays the world's tallest shopping addict in “Confessions of a
Shopaholic”), he's preparing books, a radio show and his
vegan-cooking Web site.

On “Celebrity,” cooking was his
obsession. “I know there's a so-called Hell's Kitchen, but I was in
sub-Hell's kitchen,” he said. “We were in 90-degree heat in the
jungle, but we always had the fire going.”


Justice in 30 seconds?

Did Asuka Kondoh realize she might need to do a solo tonight?

It didn't seem like it, and that's the key to "So You Think You Can Dance." First, the show chooses the bottom three duos, by viewer vote; then those six people each get 30 seconds to impress the judges, who oust one man and one woman.

Most people try very hard. They run, leap, throw a lifetime of dance moves into that half-minute. Nigel Lythgoe then criticizes them for seeming "a little desperate"; instead, he should simply consider expanding their time a little.

Asuka, however, did none of that. She wore heels -- not your best solo-dance choice -- and sort of moved around appealingly, without really doing anything.

We weren't surprised when she was ousted. We were, however, surprised when Johathan Platero went, too. He mixed dance and acrobatics vibrantly; he may have been desperate, but he was also entertaining. And he was out.

We had expected Jonathan and Karla Garcia to be in the bottom three, along with Asuka and Vitolio Jeune. The surprise was that Jason Glover and Caitlin Kinney were the other duo ; it had seemed like their dynamic, "Carmina Burana" routine would draw votes. It didn't, but they both danced their way to survival.

And yes, it was nice to see the show give a nod to Michael Jackson, who died today. This was the guy who reminded us that rock-pop-r&b music can merge wonderfully with dance. He transformed MTV from a mostly white channel to an exciting place ... until, alas, it kind of forgot what the "M" was for. It once stood for music and magic and Michael; it had some great moments.


Reality: Good guy wins; great dancers soar

Good guys really do win reality shows sometimes.

Tonight, Lou Diamond Phillips -- strong, sturdy, dependable -- won "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here." Two other good people (Torrie Wilson and John Salley) finished second and third. By then, the seedy sort -- Janice Dickinson and Spencer Pratt and such -- were gone.

For interviews with some "Celebrity" people, catch the blogs leading up to this one. Meanwhile, some comments on tonight's "So You Think You Can Dance":

1) Dancing with furniture can be precarious. Last week, a couch number sent a couple to the bottom three. Tonight, Brandon Bryant and Janette Manrara had an easy chair, Phillip Cabeeb had to leap lengthwise over a sofa. If I were them, I'd at least try to bargain it down to a folding chair.

2) Evan Kasprzak, the Bloomfield Hills dancer, is vibrant whenever he's given a zesty number. Tonight's admire-her-butt piece with Randi Evans was a delight.

3) Nigel Lythgoe was reasonably restrained with his "butt" puns. He had already topped himself, however, when pointing to the great support Ade (pronounced a-day) Obayomi provided. Quoting the old Vicki Carr song, he said, "What a difference Ade makes."

4) Ade does, indeed, make a big difference. Paired with ballet dancer Melissa Sandvig, he works wonders.

5) I'm not so sure about Nigel's claim that hip-hop dancers must incite fear. That sounds way too white-English-guy to me.

6) Tonight, we heard what fields these contestants would be in if they couldn't dance. It probably doesn't surprise anyone that the choices include model, actress and dance teacher. Caitlin Kinney chose broadcast journalist; Karla Garcia chose print journalist ... which was, if memory serves, once an actual profession.

7) There were, however, some happy surprises in there. Evan fixes cars; Randi, to her immense credit, is close to a degree in teaching special ed to elementary-age kids.

8) Then there was Janette, who didn't exactly capture the mood of the nation with her desire to be a bank loan officer. She did grant that it's "not the funnest thing in the world."

9) The music can make a huge differennce. Jason Glover and Caitlin had music from "Carmina Burana," which has done wonders for figure skaters, movies, ads and more; it added magnificence to their piece. And Ade and Melissa were helped by the lush beauty of "Emotion," sung by Destiny's Child.

10) OK, I've been kind of avoiding making a prediction on who will be in the bottom three. (This is a strong field, hard to separate.) I'll guess three of the early duos -- Janette and Brandon, Karla and Johnathan, Asuka Kondoh and Vitolio Jeune; I could, of course, be extremely wrong.



Sanjaya's jungle dads

At 19, Sanjaya Malakar is still moving up. He finished seventh in "American Idol," reached the top five in "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here."

Now comes the "Celebrity" finale tonight (Wednesday, June 24). Here's a quick phone interview with him:

For Sanjaya Malakar, tonight's reality
finale is sort of a battle of father figures.

There will be John Salley and Lou
Diamond Phillips, alongside Torrie Wilson, in “I'm a Celebrity …
Get Me Out of Here” (8 p.m., NBC). Both the men, Malakar said, have
had a paternal impact.

“I have an incredible father,” he
said today by phone, “but he grew up without a dad and he didn't
know how to do many things, like taking you fishing.”

His own dad had lived in a boarding
school in India since he was 5, learning to be a Hindu holy man. He
would later marry an Italian-American, have two kids and divorce when
Sanjaya was 3.

“It was a really comfortable
divorce,” Malakar said, recalling one time when his parents lived
in the same house in Hawaii, while his dad was working on bringing
his new wife from India.

Still, it wasn't an everyday-dad kind
of thing. He felt some of that when bonding with Phillips (an actor)
and Salley (a former basketball player). “I'm very proud of both of

Patti Blagojevich, the other person
ousted Tuesday, also praised Salley and Phillips, but said she'll be
rooting for Wilson (a wrestler). She talked fondly today of her
colleagues and even the setting. “I'll miss the jungle … I'll
miss the beauty of the place I was in.”

Neither one had been expected to
prosper in that Costa Rican setting. Malakar – just 19 years old
and 135 pounds – prospered, winning most of the challenges. “Nine
out of 12 trials ain't bad,” he said. “And I know exactly why I
didn't win the other three. So in my mind, I won nine out of nine.”

He was filled with excess energy –
especially after producers told him he had to stop singing, because
they would then have to buy song rights. Often, he would slip off to
sing to himself. “It was like it was a drug and I was trying to hid
it from everyone.”

Still awake after the others went to
sleep, he would simply stare at the stars or start a project. At one
point, he was using jungle material to make a wedding dress for Heidi
Montag and Spencer Pratt; “they were going to renew their vows on
the show.”

They left after Montag became sick, but
her sister Holly soon arrived and befriended him. Now Malakar said he
and Holly hope to take a vacation in Hawaii. “It would be really
exciting to be in a jungle, but also have the luxury of a hotel.”

He had been working on his music in New
York, but now he's switching directions. Malakar plans to move back
home to Seattle and work with other independent musicians, including
his sister. “She's been a writer for a long time … Now I have a
lot of new songs I've written.”

"Celebrity" nears its big (well, sort of) finale

We're down to the final two nights of "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here."

On Monday, Stephen Baldwin left and the five survivors had a choice of re-admitting Janice Dickinson or Holly Montag (Heidi's sister). In the most one-sided victory since Nikita Kruschev beat no one, Holly won. Alas, she soon lost a food challenge and was gone.

Tonight (8-9 p.m. Tuesday on NBC), the field is trimmed from five to three. On Wednesday, there will be a champion.

First, however, let's meet the recently departed. Here's an interview with Baldwin; the previous blog catches Janice and Holly:

As Stephen Baldwin sees it, the
surprise isn't that he left a reality show just five days from the

The surprise is that he lasted almost
19 days in the Costa Rican jungle. “By the eighth day, I had
already had 125 pretty-serious insect bites,” Baldwin said by phone

Those combined with an allergy, he
said. He stayed 11 more days, then departed Friday; since the show
doesn't air on weekends, viewers learned about it Monday – just two
days from the finale.

Insecticides don't help in the jungle,
Baldwin said. “Anything you spray on, you sweat off in 10 minutes.”

Other celebrities had the fierce bites,
but not the allergies. They included:

– Lou Diamond Phillips was heavily
bitten, but remained strong. Baldwin sees Torrie Wilson or Phillips
as the top prospects to win.

– Sanjaya Malakar also survived
extreme bites. Baldwin – who had once predicted the slender
teen-ager would leave early – emerged with newfound respect. “He
has this whole kind of hidden Mowgli vibe,” he said, referring to
the “Jungle Book” boy raised by wolves.

Indeed, Baldwin emerged with a
favorable view of his colleagues – more favorable than his brother
Daniel, who was ousted a week ago.

Daniel was extremely critical of Janice
Dickinson, but Stephen was moderatge. “She can be a bit
overbearing, but I don't think that's such a bad thing. (Under all
that,) I really feel there's a wonderful person.”

And Daniel was skeptical of Holly
Montag's religious fervor, saying that just before Stephen (a
born-again Christian) baptized her, she asked to be turned around so
the camera could see her better.

“That could be misconstrued,”
Stephen said. “Heidi Montag's faith is completely authentic … She
was so into the moment, she just wanted everyone to share it.”

He enjoyed the friendships (and the
loss of 22 pounds), he said, but was surprised “to find out how
much I wanted a cup of coffee.” Meanwhile, his health crumbled.

Baldwin said he threw up for the first
three days after leaving the jungle. Doctors tended to him, removing
two larvae that were in his skin. His kids, he said, were surprised
to learn that “one of Daddy's new titles is 'parasite host.'”

– When: Final episodes are 8 p.m.
today and Wednesday, NBC

– Who's left: Patti Blagojevich
(politician's wife), Sanjaya Malakar (singer), Lou Diamond Phillips
(actor), John Salley (sports-talk host, former basketball player),
Torrie Wilson (wrestler).