For Tommy Chong, a first dance, then on to Topeka

At 76, Tommy Chong (right) is the oldest competitor on “Dancing With the Stars” this season. He will be in Topeka Wednesday with Cheech Marin (left).
At 76, Tommy Chong (right) is the oldest competitor on “Dancing With the Stars” this season. He will be in Topeka Wednesday with Cheech Marin (left).

Tommy Chong is king of the stoners, but will he also prove to be king of the dance floor?

We’ll find out on the new season of “Dancing With the Stars,” beginning Monday. What we do know is that it won’t be the first time Chong, half of comedy duo Cheech & Chong, has busted a move on stage.

“Before Cheech (Marin) and I got back together (in 2008), my wife and I were on the road, and we put a little salsa number in our show,” Chong told us last week from Pacific Palisades, Calif. “Just club dancing. Nothing serious.”

Speaking of serious, don’t look for anything like that when Cheech & Chong, along with the band War, play the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka on Wednesday.

The boomers who come out to relive some of Cheech & Chong’s greatest hits of the 1970s, like the “Dave’s Not Here” and “Sister Mary Elephant” skits, “just eat it up,” Chong says.

“You don’t have to think too hard. You just have to enjoy.”

What keeps Cheech & Chong vibrant and alive, he adds, is that “everything we do is new to our fans, because they usually come to the show so stoned, they’d laugh if I read the phone book to ’em.”

Chong is probably joking. But he mentions that he doesn’t take weed on the road with him.

Back to “Dancing,” Chong is 76 and the oldest dancer this season. (But not of all time: That was Cloris Leachman, who was 82 in the fall 2008 season.)

“Isn’t that something?” Chong says, then laughs. “I’m the senior member, man. I’m the senior member everywhere. I leave my shoes on when I go through airport security. That’s how old I am.”

But it sounds like he’s in good shape. He has worked out with a CrossFit trainer the last four years. And since he has been rehearsing for “DWTS” he has “grown 2 inches. … As you get older, gravity pulls you down, and this dancing has straightened me up.”

He also radically changed his diet after being diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago.

He eats a lot of salmon, sushi and greens. No sugar, no bread. “Anything that tastes good is bad for you.”

Cheech & Chong made nine comedy albums between 1971 and 1985 (“Los Cochinos,” released in ’73, won a Grammy Award), and their first movie, 1978’s “Up in Smoke,” was a box office hit. Chong later appeared alongside the weed-lovin’ dudes of “That ’70s Show.”

Now that marijuana is legal in a couple of states and calls to legalize it elsewhere are getting louder, “We’re not the big outlaws anymore,” Chong says.

“It used to be us and them, and it’s becoming a bunch of us-es.”

To reach Tim Engle, call 816-234-4779 or send email to tengle@kcstar.com. On Twitter @tim_engle


The new season of “Dancing With the Stars” premieres at 7 p.m. Monday on ABC, with the results show at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

If you would like to see him in person, Cheech & Chong and War take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka. Tickets at ticketmaster.com.

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