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'I want the contestants to win ... I just cannot help myself'

He might have stepped down from Strictly Come Dancing, but retirement was never an option for Len Goodman, as he explains to Susan Griffin


Keeping in step: Goodman on the set of Partners in Rhyme

Keeping in step: Goodman on the set of Partners in Rhyme


Keeping in step: Goodman on the set of Partners in Rhyme

When Len Goodman announced he was stepping down as lead judge on Strictly Come Dancing, many people presumed he was retiring from show business. But far from it. "You must never retire," exclaims Goodman (73), who had been part of the TV spectacular since its launch in 2004.

"It's good to work, but once you get to a certain age, you haven't got to work incessantly.

"When my son (James, from a previous relationship) was growing up, I had to work, because he went to school, a nice convent place, and so you have to work to provide for your family. However, once you get to a certain age you don't have to so much.

"If I fancy doing it, I do it, and if I think 'Oh God, I don't want to do that', then I don't, so it's lovely."

His new Saturday night game show, Partners in Rhyme, tickled his fancy.

"I was excited because I thought 'I've never done it before and I like quizzes'," says Goodman, who married his long-term partner, Sue Barrett, in 2012.

The series will see contestants and celebrities team up to play a succession of comedy rounds, all based on rhyming clues.

"When they asked me, I thought 'This is the most bizarre quiz ever and I've got to be a part of this', because it sounded so much fun. It's not University Challenge, that's for sure."

The former welder-turned-professional dancer and judge makes no secret of the fact he's on the contestants' side.

"I want them to win," he declares, before confessing he's had his knuckles rapped for giving away too many clues.

"I can't help myself," he says.

Likewise, he has no problem posing for a selfie with the public.

"I always think 'How bizarre', but I don't mind doing it," states Goodman, who's been recognised "everywhere".

"I've been in Sainsbury's in the queue and then a woman got me to sign the receipt."

If he takes fame in his stride, then it's largely down to the fact that it came later in life.

"All I am is a dance teacher from Dartford, that is it," he says. "I've just merrily run a dance school and then suddenly, when I'm 60, I get a call to go and have an interview to do Strictly Come Dancing. From that, everything else came along; it's been wonderful."

Goodman might not be a stranger to a TV studio, but, after years of being flanked by fellow Strictly judges Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell and Bruno Tonioli, he was tentative about going it alone.

"We're all frightened of doing anything you've never done before because you doubt yourself," he remarks.

"I thought 'What if I'm an absolute drip and I can't do it and they've paid all this money for this big production and people will be at home, saying 'Oh, he's hopeless', but I overcame my nerves. I told myself 'Come on, Lenny boy, you can do it', so I did it."

He recalls feeling nervous ahead of his first series of Strictly all those years ago and the producer simply advising him to "be yourself and be honest".

"And that's what I've tried to do with everything," says the Londoner, whose first foray into hosting hasn't been without mishap.

"I couldn't read the autocue, I'm not used to that, so I don't think I ever got through one link without mucking it up in some form or another.

"All the chatting I'm fine with, but the formal bits, I stumble over it, but there's a lovely audience and I give them a good laugh."

Over the years he's turned down a lot of work, including the satirical TV show Have I Got News For You with panellists Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

"I'm too dumb," he quips. "They're so clever. I love the programme, I think it's brilliant, but they're so quick."

Instead, he prefers projects which sound fun, or where he'll learn something new.

It's why he signed up to present documentaries on the Titanic and Secrets From The Clink.

"I've done quite a few because you get some clever geezer who knows everything about it and you learn as everybody else learns and I find that fascinating. I'd like to do more of them if they came up."

He's also set to continue his role as head judge on America's Dancing With The Stars for at least another series.

"When you judge someone, you're not only judging them, but in a way people are judging you," he muses.

"You're not only defining them as a performer, but you're being defined yourself. But I like doing it."

Partners in Rhyme, BBC One, today, 6.45pm

Belfast Telegraph