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Liz helps Kathy step it up

Ireland (The Spokesman-Review)
Ireland (The Spokesman-Review)
Michael Cidoni Associated Press

Elizabeth Taylor watches “Dancing With the Stars.” And if her longtime friend and business partner Kathy Ireland survives long enough into the show’s new season, Taylor’s presence – and presents – will be apparent.

“For some of the nights, we have to come with our own clothes, and that is not something I am used to doing in my life,” Ireland, 46, explained during a break in rehearsals for the series, which returns to ABC tonight.

“The other day I came home, and there was a big package at my door. And I opened it up, and it is this gorgeous Valentino gown from my dear friend, Elizabeth Taylor, who said, ‘I know you are so busy trying to learn how to dance, and I know how stressful that is for you.’ She took the liberty of putting together a complete outfit for me with the accessories.”

The ex-swimsuit model says the lavender dress is “stunning.”

As for the 77-year-old Taylor?

“She is doing excellent,” Ireland said. “She is working away, busy as ever. And she is my inspiration.”

Just as Taylor found a lucrative second career by lending her name to perfume lines and designing jewelry, Ireland graduated from modeling and acting into very big business.

Starting with Kmart socks in 1993, Ireland’s company now brings in $1.5 billion a year in 20 countries. The married mother of three’s days as a Sports Illustrated supermodel and “Loaded Weapon 1” actress seem like another lifetime ago.

“I was never that super and I was certainly never an actress, and I have the movies to prove it,” Ireland said, smiling.

Proceeds from her “Dancing” gig will go to charities including, among others, the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation.

The birthday bunch

Actor Larry Hagman is 78. Author-comedian Fanny Flagg is 65. Author Stephen King is 62. Actor Bill Murray is 59. Actress Cheryl Hines is 44. Country singer Faith Hill is 42. Actress/talk host Ricki Lake is 41. Actor Luke Wilson is 38. TV personality Nicole Richie is 28. Actress Maggie Grace is 26.

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