NEW YORK - Heather Mills stepped up and showed she can dance on a prosthetic leg. Gracefully. Mills' appearance on "Dancing With the Stars" on Monday night had been eagerly awaited, amid public speculation that she might experience trouble.
The ABC dancing contest, returning for its fourth season, was a big hit in the past. But adding a new level of interest and curiosity this go-around is the presence of the 39-year-old activist and estranged wife of former Beatle Paul McCartney as one of the 11 celebrity contestants.
If there was anyone watching who didn't know about Mills' prosthesis, host Tom Bergeron wasted no time at the top of the show reminding them that contenders include "our first performer with an artificial limb."
Mills was kept until next to last on the live, two-hour broadcast. She proved graceful in a foxtrot with her partner Jonathan Roberts. The routine even included a kick with her artificial left leg.
The couple got a warm reception from the panel of three judges.
"You've got more guts than Rambo," said Bruno Tonioli, who went on to criticize not her legs but her top half - her arms - during the performance.
Said fellow judge Len Goodman, "There was far more right about that routine than was wrong."
The judges' total score: 18 out of 30.
Mills told viewers she hoped her appearance would inspire others with a disability: "A little kid sitting there who's just lost a limb - I hope they're gonna go, 'Oh, I can.'"
For Mills, who lost the lower part of her left leg in a traffic accident 14 years ago, the competition isn't just a chance to demonstrate what she can do on the dance floor.
It may also be a chance to repair an image that has suffered during her bitter breakup with McCartney, from whom she separated last May after four years of marriage. The couple, who have a 3-year-old daughter, began divorce proceedings in July.
Other contestants included former "Beverly Hills 90210" star Ian Ziering (partnered with professional dancer Cheryl Burke). They started things off with a cha-cha.
Former 'N Sync member Joey Fatone (with partner Kym Johnson) got the night's highest score from the judges: 24 out of a possible 30.
Other contenders include boxer Laila Ali; country singer and actor Billy Ray Cyrus; Miss USA 2004, Shandi Finnessey; and former "Cheers" star John Ratzenberger.
On "Dancing With the Stars," the contenders are rated through a combination of viewer voting and judges' scores.
Mills and the 10 other stars will have another chance to show their stuff next Monday, before the season's first elimination on next Tuesday's show.
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