Sir Bruce Forsyth on Strictly Come Dancing, golf and life at Wentworth

Bruce Forsyth with wife Wilnelia

Bruce Forsyth with wife Wilnelia - Credit: Archant

Showing no sign of slowing down, Sir Bruce Forsyth will be back on our screens again this autumn for the new series of Strictly Come Dancing. Speaking from his home overlooking the fairways of Wentworth, here he chats to Surrey Life about everything from golf to Glastonbury and the gorgeous walks along the River Wey

It’s difficult to call to mind any entertainer who can match Sir Bruce Forsyth’s 72 years in the business. From his big TV break in the 1950’s with Sunday Night at the London Palladium, via his dominance of the Saturday night schedule with game shows The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right, The Price Is Right and You Bet!, to host of the hit BBC TV series Strictly Come Dancing, the undisputed showman of modern entertainment has rarely been off our screens.

Indeed, while many television personalities come and go, the 85-year-old remains one of the key figures in UK entertainment who can also be credited with helping to shape so much of what we see on our screens today. Not bad then for a man who has now suffered two decades of journalists asking if he’s ready to retire.

But Bruce’s response is typically good humoured. “Well, it’s not as though I’m irreplaceable!” he laughs, chatting to Surrey Life from his home overlooking Wentworth golf course. “Loads of people could do this job; it’s just whether they’d fit in with it. But I do feel very lucky at this stage in my career, just as I’ve felt lucky for all of the nice things that have happened to me along the way.

“I’ve been 54 years on prime-time TV. There’s no achievement I have that’s greater than that. When I think about it, it’s enormous. It’s beyond my wildest dreams!”


Return of Strictly

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Showing little sign of slowing down yet, the veteran presenter will be back at the helm with co-host Tess Daly for this autumn’s eleventh run of Strictly Come Dancing, scheduled to hit our screens this month.

This year’s line-up of hopeful celebrities is rumoured to include Abbey Clancy (wife of footballer Peter Crouch), pop stars Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Joe McElderry and actress Donna Air. Also due to be there are Teri Hatcher, former Bond girl Fiona Fullerton, footballer Michael Owen and swimmer Rebecca Adlington, while Hairy Bikers chef Dave Myers and golfing star Tony Jacklin are tipped to complete the set.

“Strictly can be pretty exhausting but it’s a show that gives me so much pleasure, and we’ve got some fantastic contestants involved this year,” says Bruce. “I can’t give too much away yet, but suffice to say anyone who watches it is in for a toe-tapping treat!”

Although he still loves every moment of presenting the hit TV series, he admits that one of his favourite parts is actually the audience warm-up beforehand where he really comes into his own. As an entertainer in the truest sense, while the hosting of Strictly does allow room for his star to shine, he’s never happier than when he is performing in front of a live audience.

“If I’m being honest, presenting is not really my bag of tricks; I’ve always considered myself more of a performer,” he admits. “I’m best when I’m bouncing off an audience and ad-libbing. Put me into a situation with lots of people asking me questions, having fun with them... I think that’s been my mainstay and what I score better at than anything else, but do I love what I do? Yes.”

Bruce was back doing what he enjoys most this summer with a one-man show that took in a handful of impressive venues including London’s Royal Albert Hall. But the highlight was undoubtedly his star turn on the Avalon Stage at the Glastonbury Festival.

“It was a great opportunity to do those performing bits,” he smiles. “I can be what I’ve always been from day one, a performer. It was all about singing, dancing, playing the piano, impressions... I loved involving the audience all the way through the show. It was incredibly special.”

As a packed crowd at Glastonbury testified, this veteran of show- business is loved and respected in equal measure by generations apart – perhaps because he waves a flag when it comes to good, clean fun. But the modern deluge of less tasteful TV just isn’t his thing.

“I think there’s too much crudity on television,” Bruce asserts. “I’ve always been a family entertainer and I always work as I would do to a family audience. I don’t agree with a lot of the obscenities used today.”


Green grass of home

A genuine national treasure, it is fair to say that he is also regarded as one of Surrey’s most cherished residents – with many of them throwing their weight behind the campaign to get him knighted a couple of years ago. His “little pocket”, as he calls it, comes complete with a balcony that overlooks the beautiful fairways of Wentworth golf course. It’s been his home for over half of an illustrious career, and he clearly has no plans to uproot any time soon.

“I couldn’t leave here,” he says. “I adore the place. I feel lost if I’m not here or in Puerto Rico,” (where he often escapes to during the cold winter months). “Virginia Water is our village and Surrey is just such a lovely county. I very often stop to look at all the beautiful trees and the greenery.

“Surrey – and Berkshire too for that matter – fills me with so much joy. They’re wonderful areas and we’re very privileged to be able to spend so much time here.”

He shares his home with his wife of 30 years, Puerto Rican former Miss World Wilnelia, and, needless to say, he’s content with his lot – the serene view over the golf course from his lofty perch undoubtedly helps. So how does Brucie relax?

“Well, you’d think golf, but sometimes it’s impossible to relax… it can be such an infuriating game!” he says. “If you’re playing well, it’s easy. If you’re playing badly, then the hypertension that goes through your body is enormous!

“But I am a good relaxer. People see me rushing around here and there, doing this and that, and they think I’m always like that. But just yesterday I was sitting on our balcony, looking out towards the golf course, having a little drink. That makes me so happy.

“I would like to be better at golf though. I was an eight handicap but now I’m 14. I say to my wife, ‘we’ve been married 30 years and you’ve cost me a shot every five!’”


My Favourite Surrey

Restaurant: There are some great Chinese restaurants – such as Lux II in Virginia Water – and excellent Indian restaurants too. I like world food and we vary what we eat. There’s always been a good choice around here.

Shop: You’ll never get me raving about going shopping. Honestly, I do most of my shopping on Amazon!

View: Well, that’s an easy one – looking across Wentworth golf course from my balcony, of course! It’s just so beautiful.

Place to visit: Anywhere that offers outside space. I do like walking – there are some gorgeous parts along the River Wey to enjoy – and some stunning National Trust places to visit as well, such as Runnymede.