Len Goodman has died aged 78 from bone cancer, MailOnline can reveal today.
The much-loved Strictly Come Dancing judge had been in a hospice in Tunbridge Wells in Kent following a short illness.
He passed away on Saturday night – just six months into his retirement. He would have been 79 tomorrow.
A spokeswoman for Len told MailOnline: ‘I can confirm he died peacefully over the weekend surrounded by his family’, adding that he was ‘a much loved husband, father and grandfather who will be sorely missed by family, friends and all who knew him’.
Bethnal Green-born Len Goodman, who grew up in Blackfen, Bexley, was a professional dancer and teacher who had also been a welder and dreamed of being a professional footballer. He became a national treasure after auditioning for Strictly Come Dancing aged 60 – when most people are looking to retire.
Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood described Len Goodman as a ‘gorgeous colleague and dear friend’ in his moving tribute.
He tweeted: ‘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 ten from Len & seveeeeern’ will live with me forever. RIP Len’.
Strictly presenter Claudia Winkleman said judge Len Goodman was ‘full of twinkle, warmth and wit’. She tweeted: ‘I’m so sad about Len. He was one of a kind, a brilliant and kind man. Full of twinkle, warmth and wit. Sending all love to his family and friends. X’.
Len Goodman has died aged 78 from bone cancer, MailOnline can reveal. The much-loved Strictly Come Dancing judge had been in a hospice in Tunbridge Wells in Kent following a short illness. Although Len loved giving a ten on Strictly, millions around the country knew him best for the way he delivered a seven to dancers during his 12 years on the show
Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars head judge Len Goodman, pictured with his wife Sue Barrett, has died aged 78
Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood described Len Goodman as a ‘gorgeous colleague and dear friend’
Len Goodman, aged 25, dancing with Cherry Kingston in 1970. He would later marry Cherry but they divorced after 15 years of marriage
Len Goodman with Camilla, the Queen Consort, during a celebratory tea dance at the Victory Services Club in London in 2019
Co-host Tess Daly said Len ‘left an impression on everyone he met’. In an Instagram post, she wrote: ‘So very sad to hear the news today of the passing of our Len Goodman.
‘A beautiful man, genuine, warm and humble, who left an impression on everyone he met.
‘I’ll never forget the fun we had on set, his love and passion for dancing and that wonderfully cheeky smile lit up the screen.’
‘You were never a 7 for me, Len you were always a 10.
‘My sincere condolences to Sue and all the family.
‘Rest in peace Len’.
Len was head judge of Strictly from its launch in 2004 where he was hugely popular with fans for his knowledge, wry humour and enthusiastic marking, especially his catchphrase ‘seven’. He was replaced as head judge on the BBC show by Shirley Ballas in 2016.
As well as Strictly, he also appeared on the US version of the show, Dancing With the Stars from 2005 until November 2022, where he was last seen on TV, declaring he was retiring to spend more time with his wife Sue, and his grandchildren.
Strictly judge Bruno Tonioli said he will ‘treasure’ the memories of the ‘incredible adventures and hundreds of shows’ he took part in with fellow judge Len Goodman in response to his death.
In an Instagram post, Tonioli wrote, ‘Hart (sic) broken my dear friend and partner for 19 years the one and only ballroom legend #lengoodman passed away
‘I will treasure the memory of our incredible adventures and hundreds of shows we did together @bbcstrictly @dancingwiththestars. They will never be anyone like you. We will miss you’.
Former Strictly judge Alesha Dixon called Len Goodman ‘a true gentleman and one of a kind’ in response to the news her fellow judge has died.
In an Instagram Story post, Dixon wrote: ‘So sad to hear that the wonderful Len has passed away.
‘A true gentleman and one of a kind.
‘He always made me feel so welcome and we laughed a lot!
‘He made my time on Strictly Come Dancing as a contestant & judge a truly wonderful experience.
‘Rest in peace my friend. Sending my love and condolences to his family.’
Strictly judge Darcey Bussell said she was ‘very sad’ to hear about the death of fellow judge Len Goodman.
Bussell tweeted: ‘Very sad to hear about the death of dear wonderful gentleman, Len Goodman.
‘My heart goes out to his family & dear Sue.
‘He gave me such support on my time at Strictly.
‘I feel so lucky to have worked with such a professional, funny loveable man.
‘Thank you for the special memories x.’
Paying tribute to Len Goodman, Dame Esther Rantzen told the PA news agency: ‘I think he was astonished and delighted by what had happened to him at an age when dancers retire or have long retired.
‘I think it really pleased him that ballroom dancing had become the flavour of the month, the country had fallen in love with it again.
‘One of the reasons he succeeded so well in the States is that he was quintessentially British. He was firm, but fair funny, but a gentleman and I hope the nation will adopt his favourite expostulation of ‘pickle me walnuts’.’
Dame Esther also recalled Goodman shouting out his signature number seven on repeat when they took a chairlift with the same number while filming on BBC travel show Holiday Of My Lifetime on the Isle of Wight.
Looking back on the trip she said: ‘He was clearly the mature women’s crumpet because matronly ladies were hurling themselves in his path, probably constantly but certainly on that trip.
‘We were on the beach together wandering around discussing beach holidays, and I was looking fairly dishevelled and he was impeccably dressed, you know, beautiful striped handkerchief and tie and socks all matching perfectly.’
Len’s final appearance on Dancing with the Stars in the US last November
Len Goodman and his son James, whose mother was Len’s first wife Cherry
Len Goodman at a golf event last summer at Brocket Hall (left) and with his grandson, Jack, (right)
Strictly contestants have given their tributes
The King with Charles Dance and Len Goodman (right) in 2018
In December Len revealed how he spends his Saturday nights since retiring – shouting at the TV while watching Strictly and especially Craig Revel Horwood — or ‘bl**dy Craig’ as Len called him.
He told the Mail: ‘My dad had the right idea, too. He loved gardening and he had a stroke while he was out in the garden. He was 79 so if I go the way of my dad, that’ll be next year.’
Goodman suggested at the time that his interviewer, Jenny Johnston, could write his obituary.
He told her: ‘Just write: ‘He was a dance teacher from Dartford who got lucky’. Because that’s just about the truth of it.’
His death is being mourned by leading figures in showbiz, after a stellar career spanning six decades.
BBC director-general Tim Davie paid tribute to Len Goodman following his death aged 78. He said: ‘Len 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.’
Former BBC presenter Dan Walker, who competed on Strictly Come Dancing in 2021 and was friends with Len Goodman, also paid tribute. He tweeted: ‘So sad to hear about the death of Len Goodman. He was an incredible man & an extraordinary talent. Loved making telly with him, being daft with him, playing golf with him & will never forget the little tips he would send every week on Strictly. All my love to his family.’
TV presenter Susanna Reid described Len Goodman as ‘a beautiful man’ after the former Strictly judge’s death.
She tweeted: ‘Oh this is such an awful shock and so sad. Len was an absolute legend & the definition of a proper gent.
‘He was a beautiful man with a huge sense of humour who had such a mischievous turn of phrase.
‘I’ll never forget ‘all bounce, bum & bongos’. My love to his family’.
Born in London, on 25 April 1944, he began his working life as an apprentice welder at Harland and Wolff in Woolwich, and wanted to be a footballer.
He only started dancing aged 20, after his doctor recommended it to help him recover from a foot injury.
He turned professional and enjoyed a successful competitive dancing career, which included winning Dual of the Giants, British Rising Stars, The British Exhibition Championships (four times) and the World Exhibition Championships in the early 1970s.
After retiring he founded the Goodman Dance Academy in Kent. He has been an examiner for the National Association of Teachers of Dance, a Fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance, and an adjudicator for the World Dance Council.
His unrivalled knowledge of Latin and Ballroom, as well as his fondness for well-turned metaphors, made him a favourite with millions of Strictly fans in later years, where his trademark cry of ‘Seven!’ points is heard long after he left the programme.
Len made numerous TV and radio appearances in the UK and was also been a very successful presenter of several shows, as well as starring in the Strictly Live Tour for many years.
He produced many DVDs for the dance teaching industry as well as an instructional DVD for the general public called ‘Dance With Len Goodman’.
He published his autobiography ‘Better Late Than Never: From Barrow Boy to Ballroom’ in 2009, which was followed up by two other books, ‘Len’s Lost London’ and ‘Dancing Around Britain’.
His final words on TV were: ‘He was a dance teacher from Dartford who got lucky. Because that’s just about the truth of it’
He said recently that he laughs every time he thinks of how he auditioned for Strictly on his 60th birthday, a time when most people would be thinking of retirement
Len Goodman has only been retired for a matter of weeks, but he’s discovered a new hobby — shouting at the television while Strictly is on
Len became a household name to a generation of fans after joining Strictly – but was also a celebrated dancer as a younger man
The ballroom star was chuffed with the fuss made of him on his final show in LA. ‘Even donkeys need a carrot’ he said last year
Last November he announced on Dancing With The Stars that he would be hanging up his scoring paddle for the last time at the end of that series, telling viewers: ‘This will be my last season judging Dancing With the Stars.
‘I’ve been on the show since it started in 2005, and it has been a huge pleasure to be a part of such a wonderful show but I’ve decided I want to spend more time with my grandchildren and family back in Britain,’ Goodman added.’
Goodman was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2009, which was treated with surgery at a London hospital.
In September 2021 it was reported that he had undergone surgery the previous year for a small facial melanoma.
Previously Len had married his dancing partner, Cherry Kingston, but they were later divorced. He then had a long-term relationship with a woman named Lesley and they had a son, James.
He told the Mail last year that it still tickled him that he auditioned for Strictly on his 60th birthday, a time when most people would be thinking of retirement. He still had a mortgage and his dance school, he tells me, was making only a small profit.
Then the great glitterball appeared from the sky, ‘and it changed my life’.
‘I remember coming home to [my wife] Sue saying: ‘They want to pay me £1,000 an episode and they will pick me up in a car, and take me home again.’
For 12 years, he ruled the helm of Strictly, then he was lured to the glossier, US version, Dancing With The Stars. It was an unlikely export, but he soon won them over.
‘Some of the things I came out with did confuse them [The Americans] a bit. I remember saying: ‘Give it some welly’, and they said ‘Willy? What’s a willy?’ But someone said to me, early doors: ‘Be yourself, and be honest’ and I’ve stuck to that, as much as you can.’