DEBBIE McGEE shocked millions of Strictly viewers by kissing hunky dance partner Giovanni Pernice on the lips after a pulsating paso doble.
The passionate embrace was so intense the couple sparked talk they could become the latest in a long line of romances to emerge from the BBC1 show — despite their 31-year age gap.
But the former magician’s assistant admits they will never get up to any tricks between the sheets.
Chatting over a cup of coffee next door to where she trains, 58-year-old Debbie said: “I can categorically say that I’m not romantically connected with Giovanni. Look at me, I’m older than his mother. I may be blonde, but I’m not stupid.
“If I was in my twenties he’d probably break my heart, but I’m not. I have lots of Italian friends, so I’m used to Italian men. They’re very friendly.”
Despite ruling out romance, Debbie is clearly very fond of the Italian stallion — and the feeling is mutual.
He is the first man she has got close to since the death of her husband, legendary TV magician Paul Daniels, in March last year.
She said: “I thought I would get one of the older dancers like Brendan Cole or Anton Du Beke because of my age. I was over the moon when I was paired with Giovanni.
“We laughed with each other and I felt immediately comfortable with him.
“There are some people who you have that extra click with. That’s how I feel with Giovanni.
“He’s charming and wise and I get on well with people who work hard.
“We have the same work ethic and that’s why we’ve got such a strong relationship. He’s a very good teacher.
“We’re doing between four and six hours a day. Strictly just makes you close, it is special.”
After spending more than three decades performing magic shows on stage with Paul, who died of a brain tumour aged 77, Debbie insists he would have no problem seeing her plant a kiss on Giovanni.
Debbie said: “Paul would have definitely approved of that kiss.
“He loved showbiz and when people did something that got a reaction.”
The ex-ballet dancer met Paul when she was 21 after a spell in Tehran with the Iranian National Ballet.
She landed a job as his assistant for a summer season in Great Yarmouth.
They married in 1988 despite Paul, a divorced dad-of-three, warning her she would be labelled a gold-digger because of the 20-year age gap.
The happy marriage proved doubters wrong and the couple spent their final days together at their £2.5million Berkshire home, eating Magnum ice creams in the garden and watching TV quiz show The Chase.
The grieving process has been tough for Debbie, made harder after claims by her stepson Paul Jr she cheated him out of a slice of his dad’s £1.5million estate.
She thanks the BBC1 dance show for helping to get her sparkle back.
Debbie said: “It’s made me feel alive again and given me my strength back.
“For a long time I felt very vulnerable and weak. It felt like my right arm had been cut off and I lost my way for a while.”
Paul took part in Strictly in 2010 and Debbie says her involvement has ignited a lot of memories. She said: “Sometimes just being in the studio can trigger it. Last week I really missed him and got really emotional.
“I was having such a good time and it was the feeling of him not being there any more. I don’t believe in ghosts but I feel the presence that he’s had in my life is always there.”
Debbie does not rule out dating in the future but is not looking for love.
She said: “I’m living the moment. If it arrives — that there’s somebody I feel I want to go out with — I’m sure it will happen one day.
“Since Paul died I don’t expect anything and I don’t look back. Things happen when you’re not looking for them.”
Since starting Strictly, Debbie says men keep stopping her in the street to wish her luck.
She has a fabulously flexible figure, which she puts down to years spent as Paul’s assistant and having to fit into small spaces.
Debbie said: “I’ve never had any cosmetic surgery or Botox but I always make an effort with my outfit, hair and make-up.
“It makes me feel better and more confident. My only beauty regime is taking my make-up off at night and moisturising my entire body every evening.”
It is soon time for Debbie to head back to rehearsals to prepare for her quickstep. She and Giovanni are dancing to Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off in Saturday’s movie week.
But before she goes, there is one thing we have to clear up — that infamous urban myth about her getting over-friendly with a dog.
It is something she has not previously commented on, despite Paul discussing and denying it in his autobiography. So, is it true? Debbie said: “The Alsatian pictures are absolute rubbish. They’re just silly rumours, completely false.” In rehearsals, Debbie is in full make-up, wearing snazzy leggings, pink vest top and legwarmers.
She is prepared to wear most of whatever the costume department says is right for her dances, however sexy.
Debbie said: “I’ll never wear anything I think I’m too old to wear.
“But by the same token I think that if you’ve got a good body and you’re older, you can show it off.
“I’m sure they’ll give me some sexy little numbers for the rhumba if I get that far.”
So how does Debbie feel about an intimate dance with a shirtless Giovanni?
“Of course I wouldn’t mind if they put Giovanni in a topless costume. What woman would?”