Did judge's comment make the difference?

LOS ANGELES Cloris made it past the halfway point in this competition. At 82, she wowed the crowd with sheer guts, a heavy dose of comedy and a love for dance. But did a judge's comment on Monday night make the difference?

Judge Carrie Ann Inaba expressed blunt disappointment at Cloris' Cha Cha.

"We lost Toni Braxton for this, and it kind of makes me sad," Carrie Ann said on the show Monday night.

When Cloris was eliminated, she told Carrie Ann she knew the judge didn't mean what she said. But Carrie Ann says she did mean it. Carrie Ann acknowledges it may not have been eloquent, but it was honest.

Carrie Ann's comment has gotten some backlash.

"Thank you for all the e-mails," joked Carrie Ann. "No, I did -- I got a lot of e-mails, actually. And I really respect people's opinion because it makes me a better judge, because I voice my opinion and I have to be able to take the consequences. It makes me a stronger person."

Cloris became the seventh star eliminated in the seventh season. The star re-invented herself by putting her best foot forward as millions marveled at her willingness to give it all a go.

Did Cloris ever think she would last as long as she did on the show?

"I didn't know anything," said Cloris. "I just thought, 'Oh boy, "Dancing With the Stars."' And that's what it's been. Oh gosh."

She began with a Foxtrot and moved on to the Mambo; she tackled the Paso Doble (or it tackled her), and she eventually got her best scores with her tantalizing Tango.

Cloris' partner Corky thought the veteran actress brought something fresh to the show.

"I would say the element of surprise," said partner Corky Ballas. "If you look up 'surprise' in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of Cloris' face."

And what would Cloris like to say to her fans about her experience?

"What did you do that voted me off? Did you forget to vote again? What the Sam Hill?" joked Cloris.

What's next for Cloris? She's going to work for one of the entertainment shows as a "Dancing With the Stars" correspondent.


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