Tony Barber pays tribute to late wife with 'dapper' dance

Tony Barber performs the Foxtrot with his Dancing With The Stars partner Melanie Hooper in the 2013 series debut show.
Tony Barber performs the Foxtrot with his Dancing With The Stars partner Melanie Hooper in the 2013 series debut show. Contributed by Channel 7

TONY Barber might joke about being the oldest celebrity on Dancing With The Stars, but there's a serious side to his decision to go on the show.

Speaking to APN on the DWTS dance floor shortly after his debut on Tuesday night, the TV legend revealed that he nearly went on the show nine years ago.

"I was supposed to do this and I was set; I'd signed off on it," he said.

"But then my late white Helen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that week. So that was the end of that.

"I haven't done much work at all for a few years, but now I've remarried I'm ready to go back to work and this is a good way to express it."

Barber said the decision to enter the ballroom foray this year was an emotional one, with him paying tribute to his late wife by raising funds for The Forgotten Cancers charity.

"Yeah (it was emotional) but I was ready," he said.

New judge Kym Johnson called Barber "dapper" in his Foxtrot performance, but Todd McKenney said he needed more practice to keep up with his much younger competitors.

As the second to last act to perform in the show's two-hour debut, Barber joked it was past his bedtime.

The 73-year-old hopes to set an example for older Aussies to keep fit and active.

He is showing that three hip replacements, a knee replacement and a toe reconstruction are no barriers to fitness.

"I thought the physical is going to be very dangerous for me, but funnily enough the body is standing up OK," he said.

"It's no good living to be into your 70s, 80s or 90s unless you're doing something. I'm putting my body where my mouth is."

Barber is near the bottom of the 12-team ladder after he and dance partner Melanie Hooper scored 24 points for their Foxtrot, but it's worth noting he tied with former Miss Universe Australia Jesinta Campbell.

Dancing With The Stars airs Tuesdays at 7.30pm on Channel 7.

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