"Dancing With The Stars" quickly waltzed back in the silly season after Chaz Bono's ouster this week, with the feud between professional hoofer Maksim Chmerkovskiy and the judges generating publicity-friendly chatter.
But the kerfuffle hasn’t overshadowed Bono’s final bow. That’s a sign of how far he traveled in a mere six weeks and how general public perception of him morphed from – at best, in some circles – a novelty act to a popular underdog.
Bono's elimination Tuesday generated disappointment among the many fans whose votes kept him from getting booted sooner – a far cry from the mixed reaction that greeted news in August he was joining the “DWTS.” He may not have been show's greatest contestant, but he danced his way into hearts like no other.
Bono, it seems safe to say, spent more time on a highly rated primetime U.S. television show than any transgender person in history. Monday's "DWTS" installment drew more viewers than the World Series.
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He proved himself a reasonably decent dancer, a likable guy with pride and passion, as evidenced by his reaction to his elimination (both he and mom Cher were miffed). He also showed himself to be a lot more than just another celebrity offspring trying to gain quick, cheap fame on a competition show.
Perhaps most importantly, Bono recognized that he's a role model – and not for his dancing.
"I came on to this show because I wanted to show America a different kind of man," he said Tuesday. "I know that if there was somebody like me on TV when I was growing up, my whole life would have been different."
Bono has spent much of his 42 years in the spotlight, beginning as a cute tot named Chastity who regularly appeared with her parents at the end of "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour" as the ultimately star-crossed couple sang "I Got You Babe." His life-altering journey as an adult became tabloid fodder, largely thanks to his famous parentage.
But Bono transformed into his own man, letting the world get to know him as more than a gossip item, if only on a fluffy dancing show.
His final tango – and the Chmerkovskiy controversy – quickly will be forgotten. But Bono's larger impact on the popular culture and beyond will be remembered as steps that transcended the dance floor.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.