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‘Ultimate entertainer’ Des O’Connor dies aged 88

Des O'Connor

Entertainer Des O’Connor has died at the age of 88, his agent has confirmed.

The comedian, singer and TV host died on Saturday following a fall at his home in Buckinghamshire just over a week ago.

He was known hosting his own chat show, as well as Take Your Pick and Countdown – and for his friendship with Morecambe and Wise.

In a statement his agent said he was “well loved by absolutely everybody” and “loved life”.

His long-time agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith described him as the “ultimate entertainer” and said he had been recovering from the fall before his condition had suddenly deteriorated.

She said: “He was a joy to work with – he was talented, fun, positive, enthusiastic, kind and a total professional. He loved life, and considered enthusiasm almost as important as oxygen.”

London-born O’Connor presented his own prime-time TV shows for more than 45 years but also had success as a singer.

His friendship with comedy duo Morecambe and Wise saw him mocked for his singing ability in sketches despite a successful career which included four Top 10 hits and more than 30 albums. captionDavid Sillito looks back at Des O’Connor’s career

O’Connor appeared on stages around the world including hundreds of shows at the London Palladium.

His fame soared when he was hired to host The Des O’Connor Show, which ran on ITV from 1963 to 1971.

In 1977 he began hosting Des O’Connor tonight, which started on BBC Two before moving to ITV, where it stayed until it ended in 2002.

He later hosted the Channel 4 quiz show Countdown alongside Carol Vorderman, with the pair bowing out together in 2008, and was made a CBE for his services to entertainment and broadcasting in that year’s birthday honours.

Des O'Connor
image captionO’Connor was made a CBE in the 2008 Birthday Honours

O’Connor was married four times, and has described the end of his first three relationships as casualties of his obsession with work.

In 2007, he married long-term girlfriend Jodie Brooke Wilson, who was 37 years his junior and gave birth to their son Adam when O’Connor was 72.

Tributes have been paid following his death, with Countdown co-host Vorderman saying he was a born entertainer and it had been a “complete joy to work with him”.

She told BBC News: “I grew up throughout the Dennis O’Connor years, when he was on the television all the time, on Des O’Connor Tonight and the Morecambe and Wise shows.

“Up to 20 million people would sit around the television and watch and laugh, and I mean laugh until they cried.

“He was the king; he was one of the very great British television entertainers.”

Fellow Countdown star Susie Dent described him as a “true gent” while Call the Midwife star Stephen McGann said O’Connor “never took himself too seriously”.

Melanie Sykes, who hosted TV show Today With Des And Mel alongside O’Connor, said it was an “education and a privilege to work with him”.

She wrote on Instagram: “He had talent in every fibre of his being and was stubborn as a mule. He was the full ticket as a friend and colleague.”

Broadcaster Tony Blackburn said “he was a great entertainer and more importantly a very nice person”, and TV presenter Gyles Brandreth described him as “the ultimate professional”.

Speaking about his sketches with Morecambe and Wise, comedian David Baddiel said: “RIP Des O’ Connor. It’s worth remembering how brilliant he is at his own expense in these sketches.”

Northampton Town Football Club also joined the tributes to their former reserve player.

The club said: “We are very sorry to learn of the passing of Des O’Connor. Des famously played for our reserve team on a few occasions just after World War Two. Our thoughts are with all who knew Des.”

O’Connor leaves behind his wife Jodie, their son Adam, and his four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina.


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