Cause of death: Len Goodman, a long-serving judge on “Dancing with the Stars” and “Strictly Come Dancing” who helped rekindle interest in ballroom dancing on both sides of the Atlantic, died Monday, according to his agent. He was 78.
Agent Jackie Gill said Goodman “passed away peacefully” on Saturday night. He had been diagnosed with bone cancer.
Goodman, a former professional ballroom dancer and British champion, served as chief judge on “Strictly Come Dancing” for 12 years, beginning with the show’s debut on the BBC in 2004. The dancing competition, which mixes celebrities with professional dance partners, was an unexpected success and has since become one of the network’s most popular programmes.
Goodman’s witty quips, delivered in a Cockney accent, won him fans. “You floated across that floor like butter on a crumpet,” he said after a foxtrot. He described a salsa couple as “like two sizzling sausages on a barbecue.”
Goodman was head judge on the U.S. 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, criss-crossing the Atlantic weekly.
Buckingham Palace said Camilla, the queen consort, was “saddened to hear” of Goodman’s death. The wife of King Charles III is a fan of “Strictly,” and danced with Goodman at a 2019 event celebrating the British Dance Council.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said Goodman was “a great entertainer” who would be “missed by many.”
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 hosted BBC radio shows and produced TV documentaries, including one about the Titanic’s disaster in 2012. Goodman had worked as a shipyard welder for the business that built the deadly ship as a young man.
Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, described Goodman as “a wonderful, warm entertainer who was adored by millions.” He appealed to people of all ages and made everyone feel like he was a member of their family. Len was the driving force behind Strictly’s success. He will be greatly missed by the general public as well as his numerous friends and family.”
Goodman also received the Carl Alan Award for distinguished achievements to dance and ran the Goodman Academy dancing school in southern England.