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Mary Murphy wants to take you for a ride on her 'Hot Tamale Train'

Dance champion and famous television personality Mary Murphy celebrates 65th birthday at her Champion Ballroom Academy.

SAN DIEGO — Every dancer's dream is to someday take a ride on the Hot Tamale Train. In this Zevely Zone, I met dance royalty, Mary Murphy, at her Champion Ballroom Academy in Kearny Mesa. 

In case you need a reminder, Mary Murphy is an award-winning international ballroom dancer, choreographer, and business owner. I have watched Mary on television for years which is why I told her I was star-struck when I met her. "Oh, thank you very much, but I'm just Mary from Ohio," said Mary.

Hanging on the wall in her office is a picture of Mary sitting on the lap of Ted Danson. There's another picture of her with Robert Duvall.  

Credit: Mary Murphy's Champion Ballroom Academy

Mary was once the dance body double for Julia Roberts in the movie Something to Talk About, but she is best known as the fiery judge on the TV show 'So You Think You Can Dance'. I asked her what she is most famous for when people stop her on the street. "Ha, ha, ha. Well, it's the laugh," said Mary. That legendary laugh is mostly directly at herself as seen in a 2010 interview with CBS 8's Marcella Lee. "I'm 52 years old. I am no spring chicken," said Mary in 2010.  

Credit: Mary Murphy

Her laugh and strong opinions helped make Mary famous on national television. Only the best dancers got to ride her 'Hot Tamale Train' and don't you dare tell her which dancer got a ticket. "It's my imaginary train," said Mary. 

We asked Mary to judge Marcella's Cha Cha. "Look at her little feet go," said Mary. "She is definitely a hot tamale, isn't she?" Next, we asked Mary to watch archive footage of CBS 8 morning anchor Eric Kahnert doing a disco dance. "Yeah, he needs some help, doesn't he? Ha, ha, ha,  I like his enthusiasm though," said Mary. "His best move is coming up," I said. "Okay he is saving his best move," said Mary. I asked if Eric got to ride the 'Hot Tamale Train' too. "Oh, no, he's on the platform, sorry Eric, ha, ha, ha," said Mary.  

Credit: Mary Murphy's Champion Ballroom Academy

Mary is no longer a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. "I am not, I was replaced last year by an eighteen-year-old, ha, ha, ha," said Mary. Her main focus these days is helping San Diegans of all dancing levels strut their stuff at her Champion Ballroom Academy in Kearny Mesa. "Just moving to music does something for you in your life and we have people from five years old to I think it's 87 is our oldest client right now," said Mary.

Her dance instructors are ready to work with you, no matter what you bring to the dance floor. She asked me to show her my best move. "It's called the funky Charleston and he's the star," laughed Mary who made it clear I was not 'Tamale Train' worthy myself. But it sure was nice of Mary to dance with me on her birthday. "I am 65, I just got my Medicare card, that's what I'm talking about, ha, ha," said Mary.  

Credit: Mary Murphy

Need I say it? Mary Murphy is one Hot Tamale as we danced out the door. "Where are we going?" I asked. "We are going over here, we are on the Hot Tamale Train, we are on the train," said Mary.

For information or to book your next dance lesson at Mary Murphy's Champion Ballroom Academy click here. Her large dance floor and commercial space can also accommodate weddings.

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