"Dancing with the Stars" Alumni Pay Tribute to Head Judge Len Goodman

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
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This past November the cast, crew and viewers of Dancing with the Stars bid farewell to head judge Len Goodman who, at the conclusion of season 31, announced his retirement. It was a somber moment for everyone at the Disney+ series, when during the shows semi-final, the beloved judge said, "While we are all looking forward to next week's finale, it's with a touch of sadness, as this will be my last season judging on Dancing with the Stars. I've been with the show since it started in 2005, and it has been a huge pleasure to be a part of such a wonderful show. I've decided I'd like to spend more time with my grandchildren in Britain. I can't thank the Dancing with the Stars family enough, as it's been such a wonderful experience."

"I'm gonna miss the familiarity," pro-dancer Val Chmerkovskiy told MediaVillage during a post-show conversation on the night Goodman announced his retirement. "I've seen him before the show, [as] he was an adjudicator at the British Open for many years before even being part of Dancing with the Stars. He's such an important voice and an important authority, and the British accent … I think makes every difference. I'm gonna miss all of that. Hopefully, they'll have his spirit somehow still present."

Chmerkovskiy remained hopeful that Goodman's retirement wouldn't be the last viewers saw of him on DWTS suggesting, "Maybe he could Skype in and do a little Len's Corner or Len's Recap because he's going to be missed."

This week his DWTS family finds themselves bidding Goodman a fond farewell once again with the news of his passing on April 22 at 78, following a battle with bone cancer. On and off over the show's long run, Goodman was front and center to over 3000 performances by the show's contestants, and while his (top marks) 10 paddle wasn't always at the ready, his spot-on critiques were.

As fellow judges Carrie-Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli often pirouetted around delivering critiques of some of the show's "less memorable performances," Goodman usually made them memorable by saying exactly what he thought. Who can forget his critique of rapper Master P's Pasa Doble in season two? "For me, you dance as though your heart's not in it," he said. "I know the viewers think they're being kind in bringing you back. They're not. They're being cruel to you, Ashley (Costa, his partner), and to the judges -- honestly it is time to go." He then awarded the rapper a 2 for his effort (the same number as Tonioli gave him).

On the flip side, for anyone participating in the competition, "A 10 from Len" meant more than from anyone else, given they were rarely handed out.

As the show's head judge, Goodman was already respected by the show's professional dancers, many of whom had encountered him while competing on the ballroom circuit. He began his dance career at the age of 19, originally as motivational therapy for a foot injury, before turning professional and then moving into the judging arena in his late 20s. In 2004 Goodman assumed the role of head judge on DWTS' British counterpart, Strictly Come Dancing (alongside Tonioli), and when the series made its U.S. debut as Dancing with the Stars in 2005, it was a given he would assume the "Simon Cowell-esque" role of the brutally honest judge.

Goodman retired from the U.K. version in 2016, and up until then did double duty on both shows, commuting between the U.K. and Los Angeles with Tonioli. "Heartbroken," wrote Tonioli of his passing on Twitter. "My dear friend and partner for 19 years, the one and only ballroom LEGEND Len Goodman passed away. I will treasure the memories of our adventures. There will never be anyone like you. You will always be my perfect 10."

"A special soul, a mentor, a refined gentleman, a treasured friend," wrote fellow judge Carrie-Ann Inaba on her Instagram page. "Saying goodbye at the end of last season broke my heart. Today's news has shattered it all over again. I can't believe you are gone. I will cherish our memories and hold them close."

Former DWTS champion and pro-dancer-turned-judge Derek Hough paid tribute with, "Hold my gaze. Heartbroken by the news of our dear friend and mentor Len Goodman. Still hard to fully process but filled with gratitude knowing I had the privilege of working beside this absolute legend. We will miss you dearly Len. We love you. Rest In Peace my friend." Hough never shied away from his absolute respect for Goodman and felt privileged to have been the one chosen to fill Goodman's vacant judge's chair.

The tributes didn't stop there. Former two-time contestant Gilles Marini wrote, "Goodbye Len. Sending love and prayers. Len was such a good man. This hurts." Maureen McCormick, Selma Blair, Trevor Donovan, Amanda Kloots and Ginger Zee, to name just a few, continued the outpouring of love and respect for him.

That outpouring won't end anytime soon.

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