I’ll dance the cha-cha-cha naked after my morning exercises, just to give my wife a treat!
Former Strictly favourite Len Goodman talks to GABRIELLE FAGAN about his lasting love for teaching dance, his pal Brucie and why looking after his joints has been life-changing
HE’S famous for judging dancing – but Len Goodman declares happily that, these days, the only time he ever actually dances is in his bedroom. “I don’t dance at all now, except an occasional solo just after I’ve done my morning exercises, when my wife’s still in bed. I’ll dance the cha-cha-cha naked just to give her a treat! It certainly wakes her up!” he says, roaring with laughter.
The 75-year-old is still as full of charm and wit as he was on Strictly Come Dancing, which he joined as head judge when the show began back in 2004, staying on for 12 years before bowing out in 2016.
Famous for his familiar “Seveeeen!” score, he also had a great line in colourful catchphrases – including “pickle me walnuts”, “winner, winner, chicken dinner, finger-licking good”, and “spank me gently with a wet chamois”.
His blend of knowledge, innate kindness to contestants, straighttalking and occasional grumpiness endeared him to millions.
He still watches Strictly, but says: “It’s like having a girlfriend who you’ve dated for a while and you’re happily split from – but when you see her out with another bloke, you think, ‘No, that’s not right, that was my girl’.
“So it feels funny but I don’t miss it – it’s about looking forward not back. Even if they asked me to go back as a guest judge, I wouldn’t. I did my best for all those years and I wanted people to say, ‘It’s a shame old Len’s gone’, instead of, ‘Thank
goodness he’s gone!”’
Those morning exercises (but not the dance!) he mentioned were recommended to him by the late Sir Bruce Forsyth and he credits them for both his impressive sprightliness and unflagging humour.
“Brucie used to say to me: ‘Len, when you get up in the morning, before you do anything, have a stretch’,” he recalls with a smile.
“He did it all his life. I do circles with my arms, stretch my legs and try – and fail – to touch my toes! It’s not just about staying physically fit. Being active adds to my general feeling of wellbeing.
“I’m as fit as a biscuit – I feel about 28 in my brain and around 40 in my body. It’s vital to keep moving. I play golf twice a week and go to the gym twice a week for 30 minutes, no heavy breathing mind, just a gentle workout on the bikes.”
He does acknowledge that years of ballroom dancing – he began aged 21 and was British champion by his late-20s – took a toll however, and he was plagued for years by arthritis.
He rolls up his trouser leg to show scars left by a partial knee replacement in 2015. With oldschool ‘show must go on’ grit, he refused to take a week off from Strictly after the surgery, instead appearing on the show with crutches.
“Dancing can punish your body – especially Latin – and in those early days there was never any talk of warming up, which probably didn’t help,” explains Len, who lives with his second wife, Sue, 54, in Kent, where they run their own ballroom dancing school along with Len’s son, James.
“I was in pain for years and by the time I was 67, I was in agony and barely able to walk.
“The worst thing was I love golf, but to do 18 holes I’d have to get a buggy around the course, which left me out of a lot of the fun with my mates.
“Sue finally insisted I go to the doctor, and although it was scary to have the operation and go under anaesthetic, it was so well worth it.”
His surgeon told him the surgery was only 20% of the treatment though – the other 80% was about Len managing his recovery and fitness, which included building up his leg strength by swimming.
He also uses Flexiseq (a drug-free gel containing deep-penetrating lubricants to help maintain joint health), which, Len believes, helped him defy doctors’ predictions of having to spend months recovering.
“I started gentle putting on the golf course within six weeks and gradually built it up, and was walking the course and playing golf within two-and-a-half months,” he says proudly.
“The doctors were amazed.” While fans still greet him wherever he goes, he’s dismissive of the label ‘celebrity.’
“I’m not a celebrity. I’m just a dance teacher from Dartford, who got really lucky and got asked to be on a very popular show,” insists Len, who’s still a judge on the American version, Dancing With The Stars.
“Strictly did change my life,” he adds. “I started at 60, which for most people is almost the end of the line for working, but for me it was the beginning of a whole new adventure.”
He’s determined to stay young at heart, and says that famed grumpiness is a thing of the past.
“I used to go in a blooming strop about anything and everything and be intolerant, but I’m so much more mellow now. A healthy diet and exercise improve your general mood and outlook.”
And he’s determined never to retire: “I like working. On days off, I potter in the garden, play golf and spend time with my beautiful grandchildren,” says Len.
“My initials are LG, and that spells ‘life’s good’ – and it really is.”
■ LEN Goodman uses Flexiseq, a drug-free gel containing deeppenetrating lubricants to help maintain joint health. Flexiseq’s 30g pack, £11.89, is available from Lloydspharmacy stores and lloydspharmacy.com
I’m not a celebrity. I’m just a dance teacher from Dartford, who got really lucky and got asked to be on a very popular show...
Len on his time on Strictly
Len Goodman says his time as a Strictly judge changed his life