Some of us remember when Mario Lopez was a kid on the AKA Pablo series back in 1984. But most recall him from the long-running Saturday morning tween comedy Saved by the Bell. Today everybody knows “Super Mario” from his great dancing performances on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Even though he is a regular on Nip/Tuck, a recurring host of Weekend Extra, and has played second banana to the most amazing animals on Animal Planet’s Pet Star, the dimpled boy from San Diego really made his mark with his dazzling moves on Dancing with the Stars. Many considered him the best of them all, even though football great Emmett Smith took top honors.

After being Saved and before Dancing, Lopez did a couple of movies and the cop series Pacific Blue. Most notably, he showed a lot of talent as a talk show host on The Other Half—a kind of male version of The View—with Dick Clark becoming his mentor and friend. Mario brought a bachelor’s perspective to the chat fest, that also featured his vociferous pal Danny Bonaduce.

Back then, Clark chose Lopez to co-host the annual New Year’s Eve celebration from Times Square. And our dimpled boy hoped that one day he would take over the reins (and the ball) on that show. But, it wasn’t to be…at least not yet.

Now Mario is happily taking on the emcee duties for the 2007 Miss America Pageant. The role is not new to him, since he has hosted other pageants over the last few years. Fans love him for his good looks and his good nature, plus he possesses genuine warmth. Hey, any guy who talks about his mom with love and respect the way Mario does can’t be all bad. Of course, Momma Lopez is proud that Mario is stepping into the shoes of iconic Miss America host Bert Parks.

The Pageant airs live January 29 at 8pm on CMT, from the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, “a frequent getaway destination,” Mario sheepishly admits.

At the Miss America Pageant, Mario will introduce the beautiful girls and the celebrity judges (Debbie Allen, Delta Burke, Michael Feinstein, Chris Matthews, and Susan Powell of Discovery Channel’s Home Matters), and he promises he will not sing the pageant’s famous theme “There She Is, Miss America.” But he will be flashing those dimples.

CMT offers fans the opportunity to learn more about each of the 2007 Miss America Pageant contestants at . The CMT website also offers a chance to win $1 million by correctly predicting the winner in CMT’s Pick & Win Game.

Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.