Since his one-hour PBS special debuted April 10, Dancing With the Stars head judge Len Goodman has become roving shipbuilding documentarian Len Goodman! If you were flipping channels this week and thought you heard our beloved crankypants DANCMSTR exclaiming wildly about topics other than which ballroom couple had been “messin’ about” too much during a cha cha cha, you’re not crazy! Well, you might be — I don’t know your life — but you’re not wrong.
In Titanic With Len Goodman, Len explains his connection to the doomed 1912 ship: He’d worked as a welder at Harland and Wolff — the company that built Titanic at its Belfast headquarters — 50 years later in London. “I used to weld all day, get home, scrub me-self up, and dance all night,” Len explained with his abundant zest for life. “Great times.”
I had NO IDEA Len Goodman was the original inspiration for Flashdance!
To help mark the centenary of the tragedy, Len visited modern day descendants of the shipbuilders, passengers, and crew in Southampton and Belfast, stood bellowing in the actual slipway on which the Titanic had been built, pounded some rivets in the factory, and even wore a life vest! (Screengrabs after the jump.)
I am happy to say I now know way more about the Titanic than ever before — and all because I was so thrilled that Len Goodman was telling me a story that I couldn’t bear to change the channel. We already knew from Dancing With the Stars that the DANCMSTR has a knack for the verbal dramatization of doom. If you’ve ever wanted to hear Len address somewhat heavier subject matter — like “You can still feel the ghosts of shipbuilders in these empty rooms” — now’s your chance. Check here for local listings or you can watch the whole thing online, below, until May 10.
Spoiler alert: Len can’t weld things anymore. He might want to try an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt? Couldn’t hurt. First when there’s nothing but a slow-glowing dream…
Len gets grumpy after helping to pound a single burning-hot rivet into a structure. (The Titanic contained over three million rivets, and shipbuilders had only 20 seconds to wedge each into place.)
Len holds two photos of first-class steward and Titanic survivor Alexander Littlejohn — taken within the same year. According to Alexander’s son, the White Star Line “sacked the lot of them” as the ship went down, so that when the survivors did reach New York, they were penniless. “Thanks to Wooly’s [Woolworth’s], my father got food and clothes.” “Is that really what happened?” Len asked softly in shock and awe.
It occurs to me that Len might have been a fabulously brash newspaperman as he exclaims about the clash between publisher Randolph Hearst and J. Bruce Ismay, the man who’d noticed one spot left in a lifeboat full of women and children and decided to jump in.
Cloaked in uncharacteristic outerwear, Lifeboat Len ponders what he would have done in Ismay’s situation.
The FLASHDANCMSTR wrapped up his Titanic adventures with a lively conclusion — emphasizing rivets and metal and engines with his signature tone of what I can best describe as “jovial disgust”:
For me, the story of Titanic isn’t just about the ship. The ship’s just rivets and metal and engines. The story’s about the people — and the bravery of some and the cowardice of others. A hundred years on, she makes us ask, “Who would I be on Titanic? And if she sank, what would I do?”
I’ll be wondering the same thing all weekend. Thanks, Len! Good luck getting into the Pittsburgh Dance and Repertory Company. You don’t have to put on the red light!
Did any of you catch the DANCMSTR on PBS?