Des O’Connor had numerous successful TV shows across the decades as well as recording 36 albums and nabbing four top 10 singles.
Des O’Connor has died at the age of 88 following a fall at his home, his agent has confirmed.
The TV all-rounder had achieved a rare feat in the often fickle world of entertainment, heading up his own primetime TV chat shows for over 45 years.
Pat Lake-Smith said in a statement: “It is with great sorrow that I confirm that Des O’Connor passed away yesterday.
“He had been admitted to hospital just over a week ago, following a fall at his home in Buckinghamshire. He was recovering well and had been in great spirits, visited by his family – in accordance with hospital lockdown regulations – and looking forward to going home. Unfortunately yesterday evening his condition suddenly deteriorated and he drifted peacefully away in his sleep.
“Des, who was 88, was so well loved by absolutely everyone. 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. He adored his family – they were everything to him. He is survived by his wife Jodie, their son Adam and his four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina.
“Jodie’s world is shattered, she and Adam and Des’s daughters are hurting more than you could possibly imagine.
“Des was the ultimate entertainer. He loved being on stage – entertaining a live audience. He always said the sound of laughter was like the sound of heavenly music. He had a fabulous international TV career, presenting his own prime-time TV shows for over 45 years. On stage he starred at almost every leading venue throughout the world.”
O’Connor’s co-host of four years, Melanie Sykes, posted a tribute to the star, and said working with him was one of the best moments of her career.
Along with a picture of the pair together, she wrote: “Des had the softest hands of anyone I ever met and the kindest of hearts. 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. When he chose me to be his co host on the Today daytime show it was one the greatest days of my professional life. It was an education and a privilege to work with him for the years that followed.
“We worked long hours but always laughed lots, not least because when it it was showtime he would always tell me I looked like robbers dog! These years I will never forget and nor will I forget him. Darling Des you will be forever missed. Melanie x”
Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness tweeted: “Such sad news. Des O’Connor was never afraid to laugh at himself and that was part of his charm.
“Whether it was Eric Morecambe ridiculing him, or Freddie Starr smashing his studio set up, Des always laughed along. Another part of my childhood telly viewing gone. RIP Des O’Connor”.
Countdown’s dictionary corner expert Susie Dent paid tribute to her former colleague on Twitter, writing: “We have lost a true gent, one who was never more than a note away from a song or a laugh, and who never failed to say ‘piddle, bum, and stocking tops’ if any of us fluffed a line. Countdown audiences adored him – and so did we. Sing on, Des.”
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “So sorry to hear of the death of entertainer, comedian and all round lovely man Des O’Connor.
“Des was the entertainer l saw most on telly when l was a kid growing up, l send my deepest condolences to the Family and Friends of Des. R.I.P.”
Born in Stepney, east London, to a Jewish mother and Irish father, the comedian joked that he was the only O’Connor who ever had a Bar Mitzvah.
A young O’Connor briefly flirted with football as a career, playing professionally with Northampton Town, before serving his national service in the royal air force, and then joining Butlins holiday camp as a redcoat.
He went on to perform in theatre variety shows, before getting his big screen break in 1963 when The Des O’Connor show was commissioned on ITV.
Other bespoke shows followed, including Des O’Connor Tonight, An Audience With Des O’Connor and Today With Des And Mel.
He also fronted several well-known game shows including Take Your Pick and Countdown.