He Helped Revitalize Ballroom Dancing in US, Abroad

Len Goodman, judge on 'Strictly Come Dancing,' 'Dancing With the Stars,' dies at age 78
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 24, 2023 7:28 AM CDT
Dancing With the Stars' Len Goodman Dead at 78
Len Goodman is seen at Elstree Studios in London on Sept 3, 2013.   (Ian West/PA via AP, File)

Len Goodman, a long-serving judge on ABC's Dancing With the Stars and Strictly Come Dancing who helped revive interest in ballroom dancing on both sides of the Atlantic, has died, his agent said Monday. He was 78. Agent Jackie Gill said Goodman "passed away peacefully," per the AP. He'd been diagnosed with bone cancer. A former professional ballroom dancer and British champion, Goodman was head judge on Strictly Come Dancing for 12 years from its launch on the BBC in 2004. The dance competition, which pairs celebrities with professional dance partners, was a surprise hit and has become one of the network's most popular shows.

Goodman's pithy observations, delivered in a Cockney accent, endeared him to viewers. "You floated across that floor like butter on a crumpet," he remarked after one foxtrot. He praised a salsa-dancing couple as "like two sizzling sausages on a barbecue." Goodman was head judge on the US version of the show, ABC's Dancing With the Stars, for 15 years, until his retirement in November. For several years he judged the British and American shows simultaneously each autumn, crisscrossing the Atlantic weekly.

British broadcaster Esther Rantzen said Goodman had been "astonished and delighted" by his late-life fame. "One of the reasons he succeeded so well in the States is that he was quintessentially British," she said. "He was firm but fair, funny but a gentleman, and I hope the nation will adopt his favorite expostulation of 'pickle me walnuts.'" Goodman also presented BBC radio programs and made TV documentaries, including a 2012 program about the sinking of the Titanic. As a young man, Goodman had worked as a shipyard welder for the company that built the doomed ship.

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Goodman was also a recipient of the Carl Alan Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to dance, and he owned the Goodman Dance Academy in England. BBC Director-General Tim Davie said Goodman was "a wonderful, warm entertainer who was adored by millions. He appealed to all ages and felt like a member of everyone's family. Len was at the very heart of Strictly's success. He will be hugely missed by the public and his many friends and family."

(Read more Dancing with the Stars stories.)

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