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‘Dancing With the Stars’ duo Kelly Monaco and Valentin Chmerkovskiy meet with fans in Bellmore

"Dancing With the Stars" veteran Kelly Monaco, who plays Samantha McCall on "General Hospital," and her dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy spoke to fans of the soap opera and dancing competition at Governor's Comedy at The Brokerage in Bellmore. (Feb. 23, 2013) Credit: Brittany Wait

Karen Lisa DePanfilis has been watching her favorite soap opera, “General Hospital,” for most of her life, even though the hearing-impaired woman could only read the actors’ lips.

On Saturday, DePanfilis, who now wears a hearing implant, sat at a table close to the stage at The Brokerage, in Bellmore, to get an up-close view of the daytime actress she’s idolized for so many years.

She was among the 95 attendees at a meet and greet with Kelly Monaco, 36, who plays Samantha McCall on “General Hospital” and is a competitor on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” and her dance partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy, 26.

DePanfilis said it meant the world to her to finally meet the actress, whose determination in the dancing competition inspired DePanfilis to start her own business in which she counsels young people with disabilities.

“Watching Kelly dance and seeing her determination is what inspired me,” said DePanfilis, 40, of Brooklyn. “I teach kids with disabilities how to move forward in life and know they can do anything.”

Monaco was a competitor during the first season of “Dancing With the Stars” in 2005, in which she and dance partner Alec Mazo came in first, taking home the prized mirror ball trophy.

Seven years later, Monaco tried winning a second mirror ball in Season 15 with Chmerkovskiy, but the duo placed third.

Taking questions from the audience, Monaco and Chmerkovskiy discussed the moment they lost the mirror ball, what it was like working together and what’s happening on “General Hospital.”

“Spending every day together, 12 hours a day, was insane,” Monaco told the audience. “He understands my language and sarcasm. It was really an amazing experience.”

Chmerkovskiy also praised his dance partner.

“Kelly’s amazing,” he said. “I had a lot of expectations going into the past season and I was happy she gave me a chance to showcase my talent.”

Sisters Rae Cevetello, 65, of Levittown, and Lucille Schwartz, 53, of Wantagh, have been watching “General Hospital” since the first episode debuted in 1963.

“We love both shows, so being able to meet Kelly and Val is a dream come true,” Cevetello said. “We’ve seen her here before, but with other soap opera stars. She’s really sweet with her fans. We keep coming back for spoilers.”

While sipping mixed drinks, Julia Brite, 44, of Wantagh, and her mother, Sandy Berinstein, 64, of West Hartford, Conn., contemplated buying photos to get the TV stars’ signatures.

Brite said they were excited to be there because they followed Monaco on the last season of “Dancing With the Stars” but had never met her.

“I thought they danced beautifully and it was so entertaining,” Brite said. “I just loved watching the chemistry unfold.”

An audience member asked Monaco how it felt to be so close to winning the last time around.

Monaco said as a “Dancing With the Stars” veteran and someone who has been in daytime TV for 15 years, she has come to rely on her audience during tough times.

“It was the fans who got me through [the loss],” she said. “You’re what got me through. Bottom line, you guys rock.”

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