‘Dancing With the Stars’ Head Judge Len Goodman Dies Aged 78

‘Dancing With the Stars’ Head Judge Len Goodman Dies Aged 78
Len Goodman meets fans and signs copies of his book "Lost London: A Personal Journey" at Waterstones Bluewater in Greenhithe, England, on Oct. 10, 2013. (Simon Burchell/Getty Images)

Len Goodman, a long-time head judge on the hit TV shows “Dancing with the Stars” and “Strictly Come Dancing” died on April 22 at a hospice in southeastern England, his agent confirmed Monday. He was 78.

“It is with great sadness to announce that Len Goodman has passed away peacefully,” his manager, Jackie Gill, told the BBC in a statement. “A much-loved husband, father, and grandfather who will be sorely missed by family, friends, and all who knew him.”

Goodman had reportedly been diagnosed with bone cancer.

Over the past 15 years, Goodman underwent surgery for cancer twice. In March 2009, the professional ballroom dancer was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which was treated with surgery at a London hospital.

In August 2020, the British non-profit “Melanoma Fund” shared a photo of Goodman pointing to a large bandage on his forehead, and confirmed that the much-loved judge had undergone surgery for a small facial melanoma.

Goodman appeared as head judge on the BBC One dance competition Strictly for more than a decade. The dance contest, which pairs celebrities with professional dance partners, was a surprise hit and went on to become one of the network’s most popular shows.

Bruno Tonioli, a British-Italian dancer and former judge on the program, shared a tribute to Goodman on Monday, saying there will never be anyone like him.

NTD Photo
Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli pose at the “Dancing With The Stars Finale” after party held at The Day After club in Hollywood, Calif., on Nov. 27, 2007. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

“Heart broken my dear friend and partner for 19 years the one and only ballroom legend [Len Goodman] passed away. I will treasure the memory of our incredible adventures and hundreds of shows we did together,” Tonioli wrote.

Goodman was also head judge on the American version of the show, ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” for 15 years until his retirement in November last year. For several years he judged the British and American shows simultaneously each autumn, criss-crossing the Atlantic weekly.

British broadcaster Esther Rantzen said Goodman had been “astonished and delighted” by his late-in-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 worked as a shipyard welder for the company that built the doomed ship.

Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, said in a press release that 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,” Davie said. “Len was at the very heart of Strictly’s success. He will be hugely missed by the public and his many friends and family.”

Another former Strictly judge, Craig Revel Horwood, remembered Goodman in a tribute on Twitter.

“I’ve just woken up to the sad news that my gorgeous colleague and dear friend Len Goodman has passed away,” Horwood wrote. “My heart and love go out to his lovely Sue (Goodman’s wife) and family. Len Goody Goodman is what I always called him and “It’s a ten from Len and seveeeeern” will live with me forever.”

Goodman is survived by his wife, Sue Goodman, and his son, James William Goodman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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