J.R. Martinez: Perfect 30s? 'Not bad for a guy with a butt graft'
J.R. Martinez racked up the first perfect scores on Season 13 of "Dancing With the Stars" on Monday with his waltz and an "instant jive," and the Ministry of Gossip has one thing to say: "Not bad for a guy with a butt graft."
That's actually how Martinez put it when we spoke to him early in the season, when he was hoping the audience would be able to look past his Army-veteran story and start to think of him as "a really good dancer."
That time, clearly, has come for 28-year-old Jose Rene Martinez.
Martinez's athleticism has been apparent since he jumped into the jive in Week 3. "I just jumped, I had so much energy, I got lost in the energy," he said. Until friends told him to look at the picture ABC was sending around, "I didn't realize I got that high and stretched!"
His war injuries didn't trip him up until the foxtrot, prior to which he'd had no issues with dancing. That week, however, "I found out there is one thing. My right arm, I can't supinate completely with it." He explained that for the vocabulary-impaired: "I broke my arm [in action] and I have a plate there, so I can't turn my palm up all the way ... and when I'm holding Karina [Smirnoff] my thumb has a tendency to be in a bad place, and it hurts her." So they were figuring out a less painful work-around.
That was the only time, however, when @knowjr said he couldn't carry out the full motion as instructed. "Karina told me, 'You could re-break it' -- I said, 'I don't think that's in my contract!'" Supination aside, they scored 26 out of 30 that week.
Despite rehearsing with partner Smirnoff at a different venue than most of the gang, Martinez is in the final five with two contestants he's gotten along with along the way: Hope Solo and Rob Kardashian. He said he has the same sense of humor that Kardashian has, but with Solo, it got personal.
At a promotional event for the Just Dance video game, Solo "actually beat me," he said. "Not once, she beat me twice." Perhaps his pair of 30s Monday night were payback?
But back to that story, which even "a really good dancer" is unlikely to shed: In April 2003 in Iraq, Martinez was burned over 40% of his body when his jeep hit a land mine, requiring 33 surgeries over 34 months.
In addition to taking a few days' work on "All My Children" and turning it into a 169-episode gig, he's done a lot of motivational speaking with burn victims and others, plus the troops, aiming to "be a light, in this difficult process of coming home." As noted on "DWTS," he's also crossed paths with Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band, who have toured with the USO -- an organization Martinez has hooked up with domestically as a speaker.
And now he has the dancing.
"Tell them I want to go on a damned USO tour! Over there, now," said an enthusiastic Martinez. "USO, what's up?! Take me!"
Not bad for a guy with a butt graft. Check out Martinez's Monday night waltz, below.
-- Christie D'Zurilla
Photo: J.R. Martinez jumps into his first "Dancing With the Stars" jive on Sept. 26 in Los Angeles. Credit: Adam Taylor / ABC / Associated Press