Chaz Bono struggles, Ricki Lake soars on `Dancing’

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - “Dancing With the Stars” contestants were asked to perform routines that reflected the most meaningful time in their lives, and when the dancing was done, Ricki Lake was in first place and Chaz Bono was in last _ just like last week.

Another contestant will be dismissed from the hit ABC show on Tuesday. Judges’ scores are combined with viewer votes to determine who is ousted each week.

Lake earned the season’s highest score yet for her rumba. She said the dance symbolized finding love again after a painful divorce, and judges rewarded the routine Monday with 27 points out of 30.

Bono, who said this year has been his most meaningful because “I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” danced a rumba to a song his father wrote called “Laugh at Me.”

Bono said its message is, “if you have a problem with me, then it’s your problem, not mine.”

The 42-year-old activist has drawn outspoken ire and support as the first transgender contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.” The only child of Cher and Sonny Bono, Bono was born female and underwent surgery to become a man. He legally changed his gender last year.

“Just showing up here takes incredible amounts of courage,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba said.

Bono earned 18 points _one better than last week but still the lowest of the 10 contestants.

“We don’t get high scores here for some reason,” he said after the show. “We’re the people’s champion but not the judges’.”

Fans saved Bono and professional partner Lacey Schwimmer from elimination last week despite last-place scores.

“Regardless of if we do go home or not, we put out a message that’s really important to us,” Schwimmer said after Monday’s episode, “basically just standing up for yourself and being OK with who you are.”

“We’ve had a great time, so if we go home, we go home,” Bono said. “We were here and we did what we needed to do.”

Cher tweeted Monday: “God hope Chaz hangs on till next week so I can come sit in the Audience & Watch.”

Like Bono and Lake, most contestants upped their scores from last week. Singer Chynna Phillips improved by five, collecting 26 points for the rumba she danced to her own song, the Wilson Phillips hit “Hold On.” She tied for second place with actor J.R. Martinez, an Army veteran severely burned while serving in Iraq who said his rumba was “a tribute to the men and women that didn’t make it home.”

The ballroom audience gave the routine an extended standing ovation, and Martinez was so moved by the dance and its response that he could hardly speak.

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