Through 30 seasons, “Dancing With the Stars” has seen hundreds of professional and celebrity contestants dance across the ballroom floor. Unfortunately, the “Dancing With the Stars” family has lost several of its members as well.
Here are the past cast members the “Dancing With the Stars” family has had to say goodbye to over the years:
Cloris Leachman, Season 7
This Emmy- and Oscar-winning actress appeared on season seven of “Dancing With the Stars,” competing with pro partner Corky Ballas. She finished in seventh place, but she definitely finished first place in everyone’s hearts because she was an absolute hoot on the show — and former host Tom Bergeron’s remembrance of her during his appearance on Vicki Abelson’s podcast illustrates why.
“[Cloris] was great. After she and Corky Ballas finished one dance — now, you gotta remember at the time she was 82 years old — she comes over to get her judgment from Bruno, Len, and Carrie Ann, and suddenly, I feel an ankle on my shoulder. Cloris had come over and with amazing dexterity, suddenly had one leg right up on my shoulder,” said Bergeron.
He also revealed he saw her again at Ed Asner’s 90th birthday roast. When she died, a fan sent him a clip of them at the roast, which Bergeron said “was pretty funny,” adding, “I didn’t know if it was gonna go off the rails real quick. You never knew with her. That was a sad loss.”
Leachman died of a stroke due to complications with COVID on January 27, 2021, at the age of 94.
Florence Henderson, Season 11
America’s mom from “The Brady Bundy,” Florence Henderson was a true friend of “Dancing With the Stars.” Bergeron told Abelson that she kept coming to the show years and years after she competed in 2010 also with Corky Ballas. In fact, she came to the show just days before her sudden passing in 2016.
“Florence, she was a character, she really was,” said Bergeron, saying that after her time competing on “Dancing With the Stars,” she would come sit in the audience all the time and the two of them would go out for drinks after the show.
“We’d sit and have a drink, I would pick her brain, interview her about all the people she had worked with over the years. She was just an absolute gift, a sweetheart, just lovely, lovely person. Her death hit all of us really, really hard,” said Bergeron. “It really did because she had come to the show — there’s a picture of all of us with Norman Lear who had come to that Monday’s show and by Thursday she had gone, she had passed. Just a reminder that No. 1, it’s a random universe, and No. 2, don’t take anything for granted.”
Henderson died of heart failure on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016. There is a star on the ballroom floor in her honor.
Valerie Harper, Season 17
This Emmy-winning actress/comedian competed on season 17 of “Dancing With the Stars” with partner Tristan MacManus. When she died, Bergeron shared two photos of them together from her time on the show to Twitter and wrote, “She lit up the ballroom.”
MacManus also paid tribute to his dance partner, posting a photo to Instagram captioned, “Such terrible news to hear – Valerie was one of a kind and I loved spending time with her and getting to know her I genuinely loved her and will miss her dearly X.”
Harper died in August 2019 after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 80 years old.
Olivia Newton-John, Season 21
Newton-John guest-judged in season six for the week where couples re-created iconic dances from TV and film. She also appeared on season 30 for “Grease Night,” sending the competitors a video message. Her daughter Chloe also competed on season 17 of the Australia version of “Dancing With the Stars,” finishing in sixth place with her pro partner Gustavo Viglio.
Inaba wrote, “We lost a very special human today. @therealonj May you Rest In Peace knowing you made this world a better place with your talent, your courage and your incredible kindness.”
And host Bergeron added on his own post, “I only met @therealonj twice; the first time when she was a guest judge on the dance show and again months later at a charity event. Both times I was totally charmed (and a bit smitten). #RIP.”
Mary Wilson, Season 28
Mary Wilson was a founding member of girl group The Supremes. She competed on season 28 of “Dancing With the Stars” alongside pro partner Brandon Armstrong.
During the Abelson interview, Bergeron’s grief about the loss of Mary Wilson, one of the founding members of The Supremes, was still quite fresh because it had just happened the day before.
“We just lost Mary Wilson yesterday and she was on the final season that I hosted. She was one of my favorite people on it,” said Bergeron, adding, “There are too many goodbyes. … none of us get out of this alive.”
Bergeron also wrote on Instagram, “I first met @mwilsonsupreme on a talk show in Boston. We last got together on a dance show in Hollywood. She brightened both of those stages and countless more. #RIP.”
Honestly this breaks my heart to even write this. First of all my prayers are with the family and friends of miss Mary. I met Miss Mary at the perfect time in my life! I was struggling with a lot of different things in my life at the time and she made a difference right away! She taught me so much about bettering yourself, loving others and standing up for what you believe in.
I loved the time we spent together but particularly the trip to New York after we were eliminated. On the plane, she spoke to me about learning to love your life, the good and the bad, loving people, the good and the bad and looking back on your life with joy! Her love for her family and particularly her kids inspired me and will continue to do so! I love you Miss Mary and God bless your family!
Anne Heche, Season 29
On August 12, 2022, a week after being involved in a terrible car accident, Emmy-winning actress Anne Heche died at the age of 53. She competed on season 29 of “Dancing With the Stars” with pro partner Keo Motsepe, who has posted in his Instagram stories that he simply heartbroken at the loss, adding many videos of the two of them having a great time together rehearsing and performing on “Dancing With the Stars.”
On her own Instagram, Inaba posted a tribute to Heche that many “Dancing With the Stars” pros and alumni have commented on or reposted, saying it encapsulates how they are feeling about the loss.
This was a post by @AnneHeche a while back. I remember seeing it and being so happy for her. She looks at peace with herself and the world around her. She seems hopeful and free.
I’ve been thinking of her since her accident last week and like many of you, my heart is heavy…
Anne was one of the stars on @dancingwiththestars that truly touched my heart. Her personal story was one that reached into my heart and squeezed it. I could feel the pain she felt, and I could also feel her resilient and courageous soul. And it was touching.
I had no idea all that she had gone through in this lifetime and I felt a connection to her and the struggles she faced in life. Despite her trials and tribulations, she had a bright light when she came out on that stage to dance.
Every time she performed, there was a sense of complete joy and a celebration of life. It was pure. And it was special.
“Dancing With the Stars” returns for its 31st season on Monday, September 19, on Disney Plus.