My Brucie is still hot stuff: Wilnelia Forsyth says he's as sizzling in the ballroom as he is in the bedroom

Wilnelia with her Brucie: The couple both share a love of dancing and golf

Wilnelia with her Brucie: The couple both share a love of dancing and golf

He might be a national treasure, but can you imagine actually living with Bruce Forsyth? Surely all that tap-dancing and the endless one-liners would get supremely irritating - even to a former Miss World trained to smile through anything?

Mrs Bruce Forsyth is trying to work out why their 25-year marriage has been such a success. Is it because Brucie is always out on the golf course, rather than at home, getting under her feet? Apparently not (she plays golf, too, albeit less often and rarely with Jimmy Tarbuck).

Is it because, even at the age of 80, Brucie boasts of his sexual prowess, insisting that he doesn't yet need Viagra? She gives a little giggle. 'That is true. I have to tell you. Lucky me, hey?'

After much deliberation, though, she concludes that the reason she is still by dear Brucie's side is because of his unique sense of humour. 'He's funny, but not in a jokey way,' she explains. 'He doesn't tell me jokes, because he doesn't know any.'

How odd. Is she talking about the same Brucie we all know and, er, love? The Brucie who trots out a string of jokes - each one cornier than the last - as he fronts Strictly Come Dancing every week? Suddenly, the conundrum of their happy marriage is solved. It works simply because Brucie doesn't bring his jokes - or his tap-dancing, for that matter - home.

Clever man. And he presumably doesn't have to stumble over an autocue in the domestic setting either, which must also help keep the marital mystique alive. It is more than 30 years since Wilnelia Forsyth, now 49, was crowned Miss World, but she is still jaw-droppingly stunning. She met Brucie when they were both judging the 1980 Miss World contest in London.

A few years previously, the shy girl from Puerto Rico, who didn't even speak English, had been hailed the most beautiful woman in the world. He was 31 years her senior, and had racked up five children from two previous marriages.

Little wonder the sceptics rolled their eyes. 'People didn't give us a year,' she smiles.

'Mainly because of the age difference, but also because they didn't really know me.

They misjudged me. But I never had any doubts that it could work. Age is just a number. Besides, you can't worry about what might happen because bad things can happen to anyone, at any age. Besides, Brucie doesn't feel, or look, 80. He looks after himself, eats the right things and exercises. Anyway, I feel 80 some days.'

She is fiercely loyal, and angry that there has been so much muttering about whether it's time Brucie should step down from prime-time TV presenting. She reveals that she often goes along to watch the Strictly show being recorded, but - interestingly, given her own background in the limelight - prefers to sit backstage rather than out front.

And from Wilnelia's vantage point, Bruce is still doing a fine job. 'I don't know why there has been so much criticism,' she says. 'It is very easy to make mistakes because it's a live show, but he doesn't make that many. I'd like to see anyone, even someone younger, work from 8am till midnight - which they do on filming day - and not get tired. It needs so much adrenaline.

'I've presented a live television show myself in Puerto Rico, and I was petrified, and I wasn't doing it every Saturday.

'Brucie doesn't even wear glasses - but I do. What people don't realise, either, is that he has someone in his ear all the time saying, "Hurry up, move along". I think what he does is amazing. I'm so proud of him. I admire him very much because everything he's made he's made himself.'

Indeed, it was Brucie's confidence - in asking her out in the first place, as much as anything - that attracted her to him all those years ago.

Wilnelia winning Miss World in 1975

Wilnelia winning Miss World in 1975

She was just out of high school when she won the Miss World title, and soon discovered that her beauty put off as many men as it attracted. 'I think, if you are attractive, most men are too scared to even come and say hello because they are afraid of rejection.

Older guys are so much more confident. Brucie was - and so sure of himself. I liked that.'

She liked the fact that he could dance, too. 'Of course! I could never have married someone who couldn't dance! I hear the music and my feet just go; it's part of my nature. I think you suddenly know when you are in love, and that you want to be with that person forever. I'm like a leech. I'm glued to Bruce. I'm a typical Latina. I'm terrible. I love him to bits!'

If she is sometimes presented as the ultimate trophy wife, though, it is understandable. When they first met, she was living in the US, trying to establish her modelling career, but within months had moved to England, to be at Brucie's side.

'Transatlantic affairs are fun and exciting to begin with, but they don't last very long,' she says. 'One of you has to move eventually.'

She was the one who made that sacrifice - and she admits it wasn't easy. 'The first year I was here, I was lonely. I'd left everything behind. It was actually Bruce's daughters who helped me through that time.

I could have been scared off when he told me he had five children, but because they are near my age, it was like having friends round all the time.'

She has obviously worked hard at their marriage, though. The shared interest in golf, it seems, is no coincidence.

'When I met Bruce, I thought he was a professional golfer because he loves it so much,' she says. 'Now it's something we play as a family. I learned because it's something we can do together. If he loved fishing, I'd be doing that!

'I'm good enough at golf that I can play it with him when we're on holiday. Wherever we are, we have to be near a golf course, even on our honeymoon! Before I met Bruce I didn't know there were so many golf courses in the world.'

Naturally enough, their home in the UK is right on the edge of Wentworth golf course in Surrey. But for half the year they decamp to their second home in Wilnelia's native Puerto Rico. Here, it is Wilnelia who is the national treasure.

'Coming from a small island, we celebrate anyone who's had international success, like Ricky Martin or Jennifer Lopez, so I'm still a big celebrity there,' she explains. 'Bruce loves the attention being on me, because he just likes to be a beach bum when he's in Puerto Rico. But because he has one of those faces everyone recognises, people now say, "Oh, you're Wilnelia's husband!"'

Bruce with Strictly Come Dancing co-presenter Tess Daly

Bruce with Strictly Come Dancing co-presenter Tess Daly

Even in London, where he has always been the more famous one, Wilnelia has noticed a huge increase in Brucie's public profile in recent years. 'He gets all the attention!' she jokes. 'Sometimes I have to look at myself twice before I leave the house because no one looks at me. I find myself thinking, "Do I look okay?"'

Of course, Bruce has won a Bafta award, countless Personality of the Year trophies, and been awarded an OBE. There has also been a petition on the Downing Street website calling for him to be knighted. His wife is clearly poised for her big day at the Palace.

'We have letters coming to the house saying that Bruce should get a knighthood, and that's so lovely,' she says. 'It would be a complete honour. But these days,  Wilnelia isn't just Mrs Brucie. She is still involved with Miss World: she's designed the bikinis for several years and is still a member of the judging panel. She'll be in Johannesburg for the 58th Miss World grand finale next month.

Sadly for her, and presumably Brucie, who always had an eye for the ladies, he won't be able to join her because of Strictly. Isn't she worried about leaving him in the company of all those lissom dancers? 'Oh no, I think it's wonderful!' she laughs. 'I don't get jealous. And he's not the jealous type either, that's what I liked about him from the beginning. You have to trust the person you're with.'

The union between Brucie and Wilnelia has produced one son. Luckily for JJ (as they call Jonathan Joseph), he has inherited his father's talent for entertaining and his mother's looks. 'Many people say JJ looks more like me, and he's four inches taller than his dad, at 6ft 31/2in. But he's very English and like Bruce in every other way.'

Other strands of the family have been bitten by the showbiz bug, too. 'Bruce's daughter Julie sings in a country band with her husband Dominic - they're very famous in Holland - and his grandson, Nicky, has an amazing voice, too.

'Showbusiness is in their blood. JJ has his own band and plays the bass guitar. I think he'll be very successful one day, because he puts his heart into what he does. He'll make the most amazing husband one day, too! I'm excited about getting some grandchildren, especially a girl.'

She can't quite believe that she is talking about being a granny, though. Such reflection brings her back to the subject of that long-lasting marriage. Her conclusion is that it works, so why analyse it too much?

'Time has gone so quickly. If we didn't have a 22-year-old son, I'd have thought we got married yesterday. We renewed our vows in Las Vegas last year. Sometimes relationships don't work even if you're the same age. No one knows what's inside that relationship and personally, I couldn't be luckier.'

Miss World will be shown on Challenge TV on 13 December at 7pm.

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