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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

HOWIE DOROUGH & AJ MCLEAN: Celebs Play Poker For Lupus

The cast of 'Dancing with the Stars' and many more showed up to have fun and support a good cause.

It's been a busy week for celebrities attending charity events. But not to worry -- we've got you covered:
• Celebs ping-pong for charity
• Celebs support Eva Longoria Parker charity
• Celebs play poker for lupus
• PETA's 30th anniversary gala

Celebs anted up for a good cause at Lupus LA’s 2nd annual Get Lucky For Lupus poker tournament, raising more than $60,000 to fund research to prevent, treat and cure the complex autoimmune disease. "Dancing With the Stars" was well represented, with Brandy and three pros taking a break from rehearsals to attend.

“Recycling is a big thing at our house. My daughter has been talking to me about that. She learns at school. She’s conscious of it and she’s making me conscious of it,” Brandy told us. Though she was tired from six hours of rehearsals, “I’m mentally ready for it,” she said of the "Dancing" competition. Asked to compete last year, she’s glad she waited so she didn’t have to vie against Nicole Scherzinger. This season, “nobody is that professional. It’s more even.” Arguments with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy aside, she finds she’s battling her own nerves more than anyone else, and doesn’t feel that she’s had to put her life on hold for the show. “I’ve got a great balance,” she said. Her strategy to win? “Keep an eye on the prize. You’ve got to focus.”

Brandy “really goes for it. I think she’s great at remembering steps. We need some time to work out the kinks, just like anybody else who’s never done ballroom dancing,” said Chmerkovskiy, who offered a date with himself as a prize in the silent auction. He revealed that a good friend lost his mother to lupus. “It’s a terrible disease that sneaks up on you,” he said. As for green living, “I’m recycling, I’m really conscious about plastic bottles. I do my small bit. Every bit helps.”

Dancing pro Tony Dovolani will soon have two eco-friendly vehicles: He’s getting an electric car soon, and installed a system in his Porsche Cayenne “that shuts off the engine every time I stop at a red light, so it’s like a hybrid,” he said. Partner Audrina Patridge, whom he first met when she was working as a receptionist at a studio where a cast photo session was done back in Season 2, “has no dance experience whatsoever but what’s great about her is she’s so driven,” he said. “She really wants it. She was ready for this. She came in ready to work, ready to listen. She’s really the ideal student. There’s nothing held back. She gives me 150% every single day.”

Derek Hough (pictured below left with Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy) and his dancing partner Jennifer Grey have led the scoreboard for two weeks, but Hough denies the "Dirty Dancing" alumna has any advantage. “She’s an actress that learned to dance for a movie, like Hilary Swank learned to box,” he compared. “Her strength is that she’s completely and utterly dedicated and enthusiastic and she loves to dance. She loves the feeling that it gives her. We have lots of tricks up our sleeves. I want to slowly expose what Jennifer can do.”

Just back from a world tour, Backstreet Boys’ Howie Dorough, who lost his sister to lupus, attended with bandmate A.J. McLean, and revealed plans to record a new album for release next year. “I try to save electricity by unplugging the phone charger and save water by getting in and out fast when I shower,” said Dorough. McLean, who’s converting his house to solar power, conserves air conditioning and saves water by showering with his fiancée. “It’s got its perks,” he smiled.

Model-actress Mercedes Yvette, who revealed she has lupus when she competed on "America’s Next Top Model", told us she helped her neighbors go green by giving all the tenants reusable bags. “I recycle and I don’t wear leather. I eat a mostly vegetarian diet and I use sulfate-free shampoo,” said Yvette, who’s been working in New York and L.A. national commercials for Old Navy and California Travel & Tourism.

Scott Grimes ("ER"), who lost a friend to lupus and is close with Lupus LA founder Adam Selkowitz, brought Band From TV cohorts James Denton, Bob Guiney, and Jesse Spencer along as he played for the cause. “Anything I can do to help,” said Grimes, who will have a guest role on "Dexter". Though sworn to secrecy, “I’m not a good guy, I’ll say that.” On the eco front, “I don’t do water bottles anymore. I have a Brita filter. My house is solar -- it came that way. I recycle, all the little things you can do,” he said.

Actress Shantel VanSanten wasn’t playing in the poker tournament. “I’m no good. I always end up naked,” she confided. On a break from "One Tree Hill", which shoots in Wilmington, NC, she told us that “we always recycle on set and we have aluminum water bottles,” and she regularly shops farmer’s markets for organic fruits and vegetables. She attended to support friend and event organizer Nicole Paxson, who has an eponymous makeup line she devised for people with lupus rashes like herself. Currently in remission after 19 years with the disease, she’s expanding the line and developing eco-friendlier packaging.

Also on hand were Shante Broadus, Mrs. Snoop Dogg, whose daughter has lupus and wrote and recorded a song called “Never Give Up” that will benefit Lupus LA when it’s released in a few months, Brittny and Lisa Gastineau, who donated a bracelet from their jewelry line to the auction, and actor Carl Weathers, who noted that a friend with lupus “is doing quite well.” Currently on view in a Bud Light TV spot and writing a screenplay, Weathers said he’s “become a lot more conscious” about conserving. “I have to be careful in the way that I drive and use gas,” he said, adding that even though his mother’s childhood admonishments to turn off lights were made to save money, “They made a lot of sense. Regardless of how much money you have you’re still impacting the world and leaving a huge footprint.”