Len Goodman, longtime urban judge on “Dancing with the Stars” and “Strictly Come Dancing,” has died at age 78.
LONDON — Len Goodman, a longtime judge on “Dancing With the Stars” and “Strictly Come Dancing” who helped revive interest in ballroom dancing on both sides of the Atlantic, has died. He is 78 years old.
Goodman “passed away peacefully,” said agent Jackie Gill, who was diagnosed with bone cancer.
Goodman, a former professional ballroom dancer and British champion, has been the head judge of “Strictly Come Dancing” for 12 years since its launch on the BBC in 2004. The dance competition, which pairs celebrities with professional dance partners, has been a surprise hit. One of the network’s most popular shows.
Goodman’s scathing observations, delivered in a cockney accent, endeared him to audiences. “You floated across that floor like butter on a crumpet,” he remarked after a foxtrot. He praised a salsa-dancing couple as “like two sizzling sausages on a barbecue.”
Until her retirement in November, Goodman was the head judge on the American version of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” For several years he judged the British and American shows simultaneously each autumn, for the weekly magazine Cross-Atlantic.
British broadcaster Esther Rantzen said Goodman was “surprised and delighted” by his later fame.
“One of the reasons he did so well in the States was that he was the quintessential Englishman,” he said. “He is firm but fair, funny but a gentleman, and I hope the nation will adopt his favorite expression, ‘Pick me walnuts.'”
Goodman also presented BBC radio programs and made TV documentaries, including a 2012 program about the sinking of the Titanic. As a young man, Goodman worked as a shipbuilding welder for the company that built the doomed ship.
BBC Director General Tim Davey said Goodman was “a wonderful, endearing entertainer admired by millions. He appealed to people of all ages and made everyone feel like a member of the family. Len was at the heart of Strictly’s success. He will be greatly missed by the public and his many friends and family.
Goodman is also the recipient of the Carl Allen Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to dance, and owns the Goodman Academy dance school in southern England.