"Dancing With The Stars" heartthrob Maksim Chmerkovskiy is in such denial about his partner Kirstie Alley's ardor.

Probably safer that way.

Chmerkovskiy was the big draw at the recent opening of Cost Plus World Market stores in Bloomington and Roseville. The first 200 shoppers who donated toys or books to the U's Amplatz Children's Hospital got autographs from Maks.

I talked to Maks about what the Ukrainian native loves about American freedoms. And feet -- I had lots of foot questions for the professional dancer, one of which was crafted to get a laugh out of Maks.

Interesting how he doesn't think of the "DWTS" judges as his bosses, as anyone can tell from some of Maks' on-air eruptions. He also declined to judge the dancing skills of Bristol Palin and Wendy Williams. I judged both on my startribune.com/video featuring Maks and his fans, some of whom wanted those abs exposed.

Q How much do you dance in your off time?

A I dance all the time. There's no off time.

Q Do you ever get corns?

A What corns? You get what you get from being on your feet all the time, if that's what you call it. Yeah, I have it. My feet are nice.

Q Are they handsome or gnarly?

A I think my feet are handsome. They are not modeling feet, let's put it that way. I'm not going to model flip-flops any time soon.

Q Names of the women whose toes you've kissed?

A That's a little personal. I think that's personal. [Laugh]

Q Good, I was trying to get a chuckle from you. Everything's OK with you and your girlfriend?

A Who? I've been linked in a lot of magazines to a lot of people. Let's just say my personal life is great.

Q How old were you when you learned to spell your last name?

A Oh, not until like seventh grade. It's very complicated. Not only did I have to learn it, then I had to move to the United States to learn it again. It's a lot of work. A lot of letters.

Q Would it have killed your people to spell your first name with an "x" or a "c"?

A It's not my people. When we crossed the border, that's how they put it, first when we immigrated. The immigration person decided. When I was getting my citizenship, they asked me, "Do you want to change your name?" I said, "No, I like my name."

Q Who has stepped on your feet the most?

A I don't think it's possible to count, but I've been stepped on quite a lot.

Q When I was a child, my mother signed me up for ballet and tap. I hated ballet, loved tap. The dance studio professor noticed my brother was so clumsy he couldn't run without tripping himself, and she suggested getting him into tap dancing. My daddy was not thrilled about this, and all the little boys at school teased my brother unmercifully -- until their mothers signed them up for tap dancing lessons, too. What I'm getting at is this: Did you and your brother Val Chmerkovskiy get teased very much?

A Got teased. Got booed a little bit. At the end of the day, if you have strong parental support [teasing is not that difficult to handle]. By the way, I hated dancing, didn't want to do it. [But] it was a sign of respect for your parents. We were raised to respect your parents. They said "Go," and I went. But when you have a lot of parental support, a good family to help you overcome these things, at one point you realize that "Who's laughing now?" kind of thing. It's all good [he said, acknowledging all the women lined up to see him].

Q Most people can't yell at their bosses on the job ...

A And?

Q You get away with that?

A I don't yell at my bosses. I just yell at other characters. The judges? They're not paying me.

Q Is Kirstie Alley trying to convert you to Scientology?

A No, but if she did [try], she wouldn't. It's not about converting anybody. What I love about this country most is freedom to choose what you want to believe, who you want to be. I know Kirstie is an amazing person, a dear friend of mine. Whatever she believes is up to her.

Q I can tell from reading Twitter and watching TV that Kirstie would love to get you in the sack. Are you ignoring Kirstie's hints that she wants to have a fling with you?

A [Big smile and laughter.] I don't think so. I think Kirstie and I are having fun, let's put it that way.

Q Bristol Palin, really? Why not a "Dancing With the Stars: Sorry Dancers Edition" with Bristol and Wendy Williams, for starters?

A [Cracks up laughing.] I was just on Wendy's show. She has nothing but the nicest things say about...

Q [I interrupt him.] But she can't dance?

A Not my place to decide. I think people participate for something, to get something out of it. I wish Bristol all the best. I'm happy for her. Happy to see her back.

Interviews are edited to space and clarity. C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9.