In 29 seasons, Dancing With the Stars has seen hundreds of professional dancers and contestants grace its ballroom floor. And unfortunately, the Dancing With the Stars family has lost several of its members over the years as well.
Here’s what you need to know about who Dancing With the Stars has lost and what Bergeron had to say about each of them.
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 Bergeron’s remembrance of her 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 not that long ago, 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 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 Bunch, Florence Henderson was a true friend of Dancing With the Stars. Bergeron said 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.
Bergeron met Henderson way back when he was first getting started in the business. She was a guest co-host on a talk show he did from an apartment in the Flatiron District of New York City and he knew they were going to become great friends when she “walked into the apartment and started whipping [him] with belts.”
“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 Dancing With the Stars 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.
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.”
When Wilson died on February 8, 2021 of hypertensive heart disease, Armstrong also posted a tribute to Instagram:
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!
Dancing With the Stars has not yet officially been renewed for season 30, but if ABC does renew it, expect it to premiere in September 2021.
READ NEXT: Tom Bergeron Opens Up About DWTS Firing