Len Goodman death: Dance expert ‘at the heart of Strictly’s success’ dies aged 78

Much loved entertainer died peacefully one day before his 79th birthday, his agent says

Jacob Stolworthy
Monday 24 April 2023 18:05 BST
Len Goodman death: Strictly Come Dancing star dies aged 78

The former Strictly Come Dancing star Len Goodman has died aged 78.

The dance expert, who served as head judge on the hit BBC series from its launch in 2004 until 2016, had recently been admitted to a hospice in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, following a short illness. He is reported to have been diagnosed with bone cancer. He would have turned 79 on Tuesday.

Tributes have poured in for Goodman after his agent announced the star’s death, stating: “It is with great sadness to announce that Len Goodman has passed away peacefully, aged 78.

“A much loved husband, father and grandfather who will be sorely missed by family, friends and all who knew him.”

As well as Strictly, Goodman was a judge on Dancing with the Stars, the US version of the competition from 2005 to 2022. He was replaced on Strictly after his 2016 departure by Shirley Ballas. He announced his retirement from TV work six months ago.

Born in Woolwich, southeast London, he was an aspiring footballer as a youngster, worked as a welder for a while and started dancing in 1963, when he was 19, to aid his recovery from a foot injury.

However, this proved to be the start of a professional dancing career, which saw him compete in and win events including the British Exhibition Championships, and the World Exhibition Championships.

He retired from competing after winning the British Championships at Blackpool in his late twenties, before going on to found the Goodman Dance Academy in Dartford.

A young Len Goodman with his former dance partner, ex-wife Cherry Kingston

He became a much-loved figure on Strictly, and was considered one of the reasons behind its unexpected success when the competition debuted on the BBC in 2004.

Goodman was known for his one-liners and enthusiastic delivery of the score “seven!”, which is often quoted by fans of the show.

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His fellow judge and dance expert Craig Revel Horwood said of Goodman’s death: “I’ve just woken up to the sad news that my gorgeous colleague and dear friend Len Goodman has passed away. My heart and love go out to his lovely Sue and family.

“Len Goody Goodman is what I always called him and ‘It’s a 10 from Len and seveeeeern’ will live with me forever. RIP Len.”

Fellow judge Bruno Tonioli said: “I will treasure the memory of our incredible adventures and hundreds of shows we did together ... There will never be anyone like you. We will miss you.”

BBC director general Tim Davie described Goodman as being “at the very heart of Strictly's success”.

TV presenter Angela Rippon appeared on an episode of Holiday Of My Lifetime With Len Goodman. Taking to Twitter to pay tribute, Rippon said: “Dearest Len. That smile says it all. He was a great character. A fair head judge. And such fun to work with. Condolences to his family.”

Len Goodman on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’

In 2009, Goodman published an autobiography titled Better Late Than Never: From Barrow Boy to Ballroom. He went on to write another two books: Len’s Lost London and Dancing Around Britain.

Due to his Strictly role, Goodman became a TV personality who appeared on shows including Who Do You Think You Are?, Football Focus and a 2021 episode of Hollyoaks, in which he made a surprise cameo as a dance teacher.

He also was Paul O’Grady’s regular stand-in on BBC Radio 2 between 2013 and 2018. O’Grady died on 28 March.

Len Goodman photographed in 2022

The star married his former dance partner, Cherry Kingston in 1972. They divorced in 1987. He had a son, ballroom dancerJames, with his next partner, Lesley, in 1981. He married his partner of 10 years, dance teacher Sue Barnett, in 2012.

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