‘Strictly has lost its leading man’ – Tributes flood in for Len Goodman

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Tributes have come pouring in for Len Goodman, who has been described as the “leading man” of Strictly Come Dancing and “always a gentleman” by the show’s stars.

John Barrowman, Donny Osmond and Zoe Ball were among those to remember the former judge of the BBC celebrity dance show after his death on Saturday night aged 78 was announced on Monday.

Singer Osmond wrote on Instagram he was “so saddened” by the dancer’s death as he shared a video from 2009 of Goodman announcing he had become the winner of the American version of Strictly called Dancing With The Stars.

The Pride of Britain Awards 2014 – London
Donny Osmond (Ian West/PA)

The 65-year-old, who rose to fame alongside his family through the American music group The Osmonds, was also a guest judge on Strictly along with the US version.

Doctor Who actor Barrowman, who was a champion of the Strictly Christmas special in 2010, also wrote on Twitter that both shows “have lost their leading man and the ballroom dance world has lost a legend today”.

He added: “Len Goodman was a charming down to earth lovely man. If anyone was quintessentially British, it was Len. What a career, What a life, What a man.”

Radio DJ Ball, who first competed on the third series in 2005 before going on to host the BBC Two spin-off show Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, recalled how “kind” Goodman was when she judged her while she danced with professional Ian Waite.

She wrote: “Rest well dear Len always a gentleman and so kind to me when I danced with Ian he always had such a glint in his eye, and of course what a mover “pickle my walnuts” & many of his phrases adopted in our household.”

In tribute, broadcaster 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.

Tanguera opening night
Dame Esther Rantzen said Len Goodman was “firm but fair funny” (Lauren Hurley/PA)

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.

“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.”

Dame Esther explained Dancing With The Stars had to call Goodman days before the show started after initially thinking he was too old for the role. They could not find a judge with his expertise and charm.

She added: “They suddenly let out an SOS for Len because they could not find anyone that had his gift of being factual and critical, but in a constructive way, and also charming and funny. So they called him over. And of course, he became the spine of the programme.”

EastEnders star and former Strictly contestant Jake Wood paid tribute to Goodman on Twitter and revealed some advice the judge had shared with him before he appeared on the dance show.

He said: “As we stood washing our hands at the sinks he simply looked across at me and with a twinkle in his eye said, “Don’t f*** it up”. “Cheers Len”, I smiled back, “that’s the plan”. We laughed and connected in that moment.

“Len will be missed by all who knew him.”

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.”

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