Dancing With the Stars premiere pays tribute to late judge Len Goodman

Dancing With the Stars kicked off its 32nd season on Tuesday (26 September) with a moving tribute to late judge Len Goodman.

Goodman died aged 78 in April this year after suffering from bone cancer. He had retired from US competition Dancing With the Stars a few months before.

This week, co-hosts Alfonso Ribeiro and Julianne Hough decided to honour the popular star.

Ribeiro, 52, told viewers: “We’re obviously missing a big part of our Dancing With the Stars family tonight.”

Hough, 25, added: “Len was on this panel for nearly all of our 31 seasons. And although he is irreplaceable, we wanted to keep his spirit alive.”

The pair then presented the show’s newly renamed prize: the Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy.

Hough said: “It is so fantastic that Len will always be going forward with us.” She also teased a “spectacular tribute to Len from our dancers” in the coming weeks.

The former ballroom dancer was also the head judge on the BBC One equivalent, Strictly Come Dancing, from its launch in 2004 until his departure in 2016.

Goodman was known for his colourful turns of phrase, such as “pickle me walnuts”, when describing performances that especially entertained him.

His most recognisable contribution to both dance programmes was his triumphant pronunciation of the number seven when scoring dances.

Len Goodman on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (Disney+)
Len Goodman on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (Disney+)

As he held up a paddle with the number on it, Goodman would always say “se-VEN!”, emphasising the second syllable. It is a trait that has become synonymous with Strictly, and one that his fellow judges have inherited.

Read about all of Goodman’s best onscreen moments here.

Strictly Come Dancing also paid tribute to “true gentleman” Goodman during the launch of the 2023 series on Saturday (16 September).

Host Tess Daly said: “He was just so good-natured, so warm and the Len that you saw on TV, was the Len you saw in real life. There was no separation.”

Goodman began dancing at 19, winning various competitions including the British Championships in Blackpool in his late twenties, after which he retired from professional competition.

He was a recipient of the Carl Alan Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to dance.

As well as his successful dancing and television career, he was also the owner of the Goodman Academy, a dance school in Dartford, Kent.

Outside dance, Goodman was a music enthusiast and regularly stood in for the late Paul O’Grady when the entertainer was away from his BBC Radio 2 show.