The Strictly Come Dancing judges and professional dancers paid an emotional tribute to Len Goodman, with host Tess Daly remembering him as “a true gentleman”.
Goodman became a judge on the BBC’s flagship programme in 2004 before his final appearance on the 2016 Christmas Day special, and became synonymous with his catchphrase “Seven”.
He was diagnosed with bone cancer and died in April aged 78.
In a video tribute during the launch of the 21st series on Saturday night, presenter Claudia Winkleman said: “He was perfect in every way. Len could light up a room so when you were with him you felt aglow.”
She added: “Len was also the King of the one liners. He talked about people being crabs…he would say pickle my walnuts, he was funny, you wanted to watch him.”
Meanwhile judge Craig Revel Horwood said: “I don’t think I will meet anyone as funny. I absolutely adored our little arguments and that is sort of what bonded us and gave us really a fantastic friendship.”
Struggling to hold back his tears, he added: “If you asked me a question ‘Was Len one of your best friends?’, I would say absolutely. I would love to say goodbye to him.”
Goodman began dancing at 19, winning various competitions including the British Championships in Blackpool in his late 20s, after which he retired from professional competition.
He was replaced as head judge on Strictly by Shirley Ballas for the 2017 series.
Remembering him in the tribute, Ballas said: “He was not only a personal friend to myself, but he was loved and respected all over the world.”
Goodman also served as head judge on Dancing With The Stars, the US version of the show, until announcing his retirement in November last year.
He said at the time that he wanted to “spend more time with my grandchildren and family” back in the UK.
Goodman was also a recipient of the Carl Alan Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to dance.
Judge and dancer Anton Du Beke said Goodman had “lived a life and he brought all that experience to the show”.
Du Beke added: “Len is somebody you’d want to have as a friend. And I was fortunate enough to have Len as a friend for many years.”
Strictly professionals Neil Jones and Karen Hauer were also among those remembering Goodman in the tribute piece.
Jones said: “I feel like I owe so much to Len. My love for dance definitely comes from him.”
The segment ended with a black and white photo of Goodman with the words “In Loving Memory of Len Goodman 1944-2023” on the screen, followed by everyone at the recording giving the late dancing star a standing ovation.