Len Goodman Cause of Death 'Dancing With the Stars' Judge Dies at 78

Len Goodman Cause of Death: ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Judge Dies at 78

After a successful professional ballroom career in which he won the British Exhibition Championships and taught at his own school, Len Goodman, who passed away at the age of 78 from cancer, rose to a celebrity on television as head judge on Strictly Come Dancing. He had only turned 60 at the time.

He said as much to the Guardian in 2006. “When I was first asked to do the program, I wasn’t sure, because I thought it might be a bit of a mickey-take,” he said. “However, I’m really happy I did it because it disproved my preconceived notion of what dancing courses or schools are like. You cannot imagine the changes the program has made to dancing schools. There have been prodigious influxes of dancers at everyone’s events. It’s wonderful beyond belief.

The program’s name was a reference to the long-running BBC program Come Dancing, which featured ballroom competitions across Britain for 50 years starting in 1949 and ending just six years before Strictly (as it would later be called) premiered in 2004. The format of the brand-new program was described by Radio Times as follows: “Top to toe in slinky sequined dresses and tail suits, eight celebrities are paired with professionals in a live ballroom dancing competition.”

The hosts were Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly, and Goodman was one of the initial judges alongside Arlene Phillips, Bruno Tonioli, and Craig Revel Horwood. The inaugural series was won by newscaster Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole, a professional dancing partner.

The show’s talent-spotting strategy was similar to that of the ITV reality program Pop Idol, which turned “unknowns” into stars. However, Strictly felt like a considerably bigger risk in terms of attracting a large audience. It ended up being a Saturday-night hit that is still airing nearly 20 years later.

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Like other reality TV judges, Goodman may be critical of contestants while also praising those who demonstrate skill. Len developed the tagline “It’s a 10 from Len!” as he gave compliments like “You floated across the floor like butter on a crumpet” and “That was a mango of a tango – delicious!”

The insults varied from “It was like watching a stork who had been struck by lightning” to “Your bum was bouncing around like a ball on a roulette wheel.” He also increased entertainment value by sparring with the other judges. One time, he referred to Horwood as a “silly little sod,” which angered the audience.

In 2016, Goodman departed Strictly after the 14th season. After this year, he declared, “I’ve decided it’s time to hand the role of head judge to someone else because I’m approaching my 70s.” The recipient was Shirley Ballas. Nevertheless, he remained to serve as chief judge on the 2005-launched American edition of the program, Dancing with the Stars, even though he eventually announced his resignation at the conclusion of the previous season.

Len was born to Louisa (née Eldridge) and Len Goodman in Farnborough, Kent. Len was an electrician who was employed in airfields during World War II. Due to his father’s employment, both of his parents were Londoners who resided in Wales.

His mother was transferred to a London hospital for the delivery but afterward moved to Kent due to German bombardment. When Len was six years old, his parents moved to Blackfen, in northwest Kent, to establish a greengrocer’s store. Prior to that time, they had returned to their origins in Bethnal Green, east London.

One of Goodman’s maternal ancestors was a silk weaver who passed away penniless in the Bethnal Green workhouse, while another, Josef Sosnowski, was from Poland and received a military decoration for participating in a 19th-century uprising against Russian troops. Goodman learned this information while appearing on the BBC program Who Do You Think You Are? in 2011.

Welling Goodman graduated from Westwood Secondary Modern School at the age of 15 and went on to work as an apprentice fitter at ICT (later International Computers Ltd) in Dartford, then as a welder at BOC (the British Oxygen Corporation) in Cricklewood, north London, before working at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in North Woolwich Docks.

His father had introduced him to ballroom dancing at an Erith studio where Goodman met world champions Bill and Bobbie Irving. He also enjoyed football, but a foot injury terminated his playing days, and a doctor encouraged him to keep dancing instead.

Cherry, the daughter of studio owner Henry Kingston, was his dancing partner before becoming his wife in 1972. Their first victory came in a Pontin’s dance contest in Camber Sands, from which they advanced to win the championship at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

The two then became pros, winning the Duel of the Giants in 1973 and 1975 and going on to win Kent professional champions in 1969 and British Professional Rising Stars in 1972. After Henry passed away, Goodman gained control of the studio. In Dartford, he established his own Goodman Dance Academy in 1973.

In 2012, he presented Titanic with Len Goodman, a three-part documentary that drew on his own experience as a shipyard welder, thanks to his later celebrity status. He spoke with the descendants of survivors while researching the Titanic’s legacy 100 years after her demise.

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In 2013, he also hosted Len Goodman’s Perfect Christmas, Goodman’s Dance Band Days, and Dancing Cheek to Cheek. In 2014, he hosted the documentary series Holiday of My Lifetime, which took celebrity guests to their favorite childhood vacation spots. In 2017, he hosted the game show Partners in Rhyme.

Better Late Than Never: From Barrow Boy to Ballroom is the title of his autobiography from 2008. In 1987, Goodman and Cherry filed for divorce. James, the child from his connection with Lesley Pine, a teacher at Goodman’s dancing school, and Sue (née Barrett), his second wife, who he married in 2012, both survive him.


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