Entertainer Des O’Connor dies at age of 88 

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Tributes have poured in for ‘ultimate entertainer’ Des O’Connor following his peaceful death at the age of 88.

The entertainer had been admitted to hospital just over a week ago following a fall at his Buckinghamshire home but was recovering and in ‘great spirits’ while being visited by his family – in accordance with hospital lockdown regulations. 

O’Connor, an all-round entertainer whose success spanned decades, had been ‘looking forward to going home’ but his condition ‘suddenly deteriorated’ and he ‘drifted peacefully away in his sleep’ last night, his longtime agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith said. 

At the time of his death O’Connor was married to Jodie Brooke Wilson, his fourth wife. He is also survived by his son Adam and his four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina. 

A heartbreaking final photograph shows him waving to his daughter through a window while shielding amid the coronavirus outbreak.


Paying tribute through a statement, the agent added: ‘Des, who was 88, was so well loved by absolutely everyone. 

Des O’Connor 's last pictures shows him waving to his daughter through a window amid the coronavirus outbreak

Des O’Connor 's last pictures shows him waving to his daughter through a window amid the coronavirus outbreak

Des O’Connor ‘s last pictures shows him waving to his daughter through a window amid the coronavirus outbreak

Veteran entertainer Des O'Connor (centre) is pictured with Eric Morecambe (left) and Ernie Wise (right) in March 1999

Veteran entertainer Des O'Connor (centre) is pictured with Eric Morecambe (left) and Ernie Wise (right) in March 1999

Veteran entertainer Des O’Connor (centre) is pictured with Eric Morecambe (left) and Ernie Wise (right) in March 1999






Des O'Connor and wife Jodie at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, 2002

Des O'Connor and wife Jodie at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, 2002

Des O’Connor and wife Jodie at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, 2002

Legends: The presenter pictured with his former co-host Melanie Sykes in 2003 after winning a Royal Television Society Programme Award for their show Today With Des and Mel

Legends: The presenter pictured with his former co-host Melanie Sykes in 2003 after winning a Royal Television Society Programme Award for their show Today With Des and Mel

Legends: The presenter pictured with his former co-host Melanie Sykes in 2003 after winning a Royal Television Society Programme Award for their show Today With Des and Mel

Legend: Des O'Connor (centre) appeared in good spirits as he celebrated Bonnie Lythgoe's 70th birthday party at The Ivy in London with his celebrity friends in 2019

Legend: Des O'Connor (centre) appeared in good spirits as he celebrated Bonnie Lythgoe's 70th birthday party at The Ivy in London with his celebrity friends in 2019

Legend: Des O’Connor (centre) appeared in good spirits as he celebrated Bonnie Lythgoe’s 70th birthday party at The Ivy in London with his celebrity friends in 2019

Veteran entertainer Des O’Connor poses with his CBE for services to entertainment and broadcasting after it was presented to him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, 2008

‘He had the kindest of hearts’: Melanie Sykes leads tribute to her former presenting partner Des O’Connor after his death aged 88 

Melanie Sykes has led tributes to her former presenting partner Des O’Connor following his death aged 88.

Sykes and O’Connor, who died in hospital on Saturday after a fall at his home, presented Today With Des And Mel from 2002-2006.


She said O’Connor ‘had the softest hands of anyone I ever met and the kindest of hearts’.

In a post on Instagram, she wrote: ‘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.’

O’Connor, who was famous for shows such as Des O’Connor Tonight and Countdown, was mourned by many from the world of entertainment.

Former Countdown star Carol Vorderman expressed her sadness at the news as she recalled O’Connor saying he was ‘lively, funny, he ALWAYS wanted to entertain people’.  


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‘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 was born in Stepney in London’s East End in 1932 to a Jewish cleaner and an Irish binman. Following the outbreak of the Second World War he was evacuated to Northampton. 

After completing his national service with the Royal Air Force, O’Connor had his first brushes with showbusiness when he began to appear in variety shows and as a Butlin’s Redcoat.

His music career began in 1967 with the release of his first single Careless Hands.

The song was closely followed by I Pretend, which came out in 1968 and went to number one in the singles chart.

In total he had four top 10 hits and went on to record 36 albums.

However, in 1975 he appeared in a Morecombe and Wise sketch which joked that he could not sing.

After being presented with one of his records, Eric Morecambe asks: ‘Is this the one where he sings the right notes?’

O’Connor then arrives on the stage to take issue with Morecambe and Ernie Wise’s apparent criticism of him in the skit.

Des O'Connor joins the cast of musical' Dreamboats and Petticoats' Playhouse Theatre, London, October 2011

Des O'Connor joins the cast of musical' Dreamboats and Petticoats' Playhouse Theatre, London, October 2011

Des O’Connor joins the cast of musical’ Dreamboats and Petticoats’ Playhouse Theatre, London, October 2011

The entertainer had been admitted to hospital just over a week ago following a fall at his Buckinghamshire home (pictured: Des O'Connor with the Spice Girls)

The entertainer had been admitted to hospital just over a week ago following a fall at his Buckinghamshire home (pictured: Des O'Connor with the Spice Girls)

The entertainer had been admitted to hospital just over a week ago following a fall at his Buckinghamshire home (pictured: Des O’Connor with the Spice Girls)

O'Connor had been 'looking forward to going home' but his condition 'suddenly deteriorated' and he 'drifted peacefully away in his sleep' last night, his longtime agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith said (pictured: Cilla Black and Des O'connor with Anthony Andrews, October 2011)

O'Connor had been 'looking forward to going home' but his condition 'suddenly deteriorated' and he 'drifted peacefully away in his sleep' last night, his longtime agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith said (pictured: Cilla Black and Des O'connor with Anthony Andrews, October 2011)

O’Connor had been ‘looking forward to going home’ but his condition ‘suddenly deteriorated’ and he ‘drifted peacefully away in his sleep’ last night, his longtime agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith said (pictured: Cilla Black and Des O’connor with Anthony Andrews, October 2011) 

The all-round entertainer and chat show king whose success spanned decades

Des O’Connor, who has died at the age of 88, was an all-round entertainer whose success spanned decades.

He was a regular in prime-time television slots and he also had a string of hit singles.

O’Connor was born in Stepney in London’s East End in 1932 to a Jewish cleaner and an Irish binman. Following the outbreak of the Second World War he was evacuated to Northampton.

After completing his national service with the Royal Air Force, O’Connor had his first brushes with showbusiness when he began to appear in variety shows and as a Butlin’s Redcoat.

His music career began in 1967 with the release of his first single Careless Hands.

The song was closely followed by I Pretend, which came out in 1968 and went to number one in the singles chart.

In total he had four top 10 hits and went on to record 36 albums.

However, in 1975 he appeared in a Morecombe and Wise sketch which joked that he could not sing.

After being presented with one of his records, Eric Morecambe asks: ‘Is this the one where he sings the right notes?’

O’Connor then arrives on the stage to take issue with Morecambe and Ernie Wise’s apparent criticism of him in the skit.

Talk show Des O’Connor Tonight was launched in 1977 on the BBC, where it ran for five years before switching to ITV and being broadcast in the US. It enjoyed enduring success and was last broadcast in 2002.

At the age of 82, O’Connor revealed that the secret to being a good chat show host is to be polite.

‘You have to learn to listen,’ he said, adding: ‘If you ask someone something, then answer it yourself, it’s not very clever.

‘It’s about making the guest feel like a guest.

‘Don’t make jokes of them. It’s about being polite and friendly.’

 

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Talk show Des O’Connor Tonight was launched in 1977 on the BBC, where it ran for five years before switching to ITV and being broadcast in the US. It enjoyed enduring success and was last broadcast in 2002.

At the age of 82, O’Connor revealed that the secret to being a good chat show host is to be polite.

‘You have to learn to listen,’ he said, adding: ‘If you ask someone something, then answer it yourself, it’s not very clever.

‘It’s about making the guest feel like a guest.

‘Don’t make jokes of them. It’s about being polite and friendly.’

During the 2000s he appeared alongside fellow presenter Melanie Sykes in Today With Des And Mel, which saw the pair interview celebrity guests and run viewer competitions.

He was also known for appearing in game shows Take Your Pick and Pot Of Gold and in 2001 received the special recognition award at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall.

In 2007 he took over presenting duties at quiz show Countdown on Channel 4, where he remained for two years, presenting nearly 500 episodes.

O’Connor was made a CBE in 2008 for services to entertainment.

He continued working into later life and in 2012 he starred in a West End run of Dreamboats And Petticoats at the Playhouse Theatre.

That year also saw ITV broadcast a one-off special titled The One And Only Des O’Connor in tribute to his 50 years in showbusiness.

In 2015 he appeared alongside fellow variety performer Jimmy Tarbuck at the London Palladium for a charity show. 

Since the news was announced, tributes have poured in for the beloved entertainer.  

TV star Kate Robbins said Des O’Connor was a ‘true pro and a gorgeous person’.

She tweeted: ‘I’m so sad to hear that the wonderful Des O’Connor has died. He was a true pro and a gorgeous person. My love to Jodie and all his family at this sad time. Rest in peace Des. You are sorely missed already #RipDesOConnor’. 

Gyles Brandreth described Des O’Connor as the ‘ultimate professional’.

In a tweet he wrote: ‘Des O’Connor was such a nice, nice man. The ultimate professional, an impeccable entertainer, skillful, stylish, self-deprecating, fun to be with, lovely to know. One of the best. RIP Des – a privilege & a real pleasure to have known you. Thanks for the fun’.

Red Dwarf star Danny John-Jules paid tribute to the late Des O’Connor on Twitter, sharing a picture of them together.

Alongside it he wrote: ‘RIP Des O’Connor. A lovely man…’

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

She wrote on Instagram: ‘Des had the softest hands of anyone I ever met and the kindest of hearts.

'He was a joy to work with - he was talented, fun, positive, enthusiastic, kind and a total professional,' his agent said

'He was a joy to work with - he was talented, fun, positive, enthusiastic, kind and a total professional,' his agent said

‘He was a joy to work with – he was talented, fun, positive, enthusiastic, kind and a total professional,’ his agent said

Des O'connor, pictured at the Dreamboats and Petticoats press night at the Playhouse Theatre, Charing Cross, 2011

Des O'connor, pictured at the Dreamboats and Petticoats press night at the Playhouse Theatre, Charing Cross, 2011

Des O’connor, pictured at the Dreamboats and Petticoats press night at the Playhouse Theatre, Charing Cross, 2011

O'Connor launched his showbiz career in the mid-1950s and first began fronting his own TV show in 1963 (pictured: On The Alan Titchmarsh Show, 2014)

O'Connor launched his showbiz career in the mid-1950s and first began fronting his own TV show in 1963 (pictured: On The Alan Titchmarsh Show, 2014)

O’Connor launched his showbiz career in the mid-1950s and first began fronting his own TV show in 1963 (pictured: On The Alan Titchmarsh Show, 2014)

Pictured: Des O'connor with His Wife Jodie Brooke Wilson at the naming of the £470 million Cruise Liner Royal Princess in Southampton, 2013

Pictured: Des O'connor with His Wife Jodie Brooke Wilson at the naming of the £470 million Cruise Liner Royal Princess in Southampton, 2013

Pictured: Des O’connor with His Wife Jodie Brooke Wilson at the naming of the £470 million Cruise Liner Royal Princess in Southampton, 2013

The four-times married star has appeared on stages around the world including hundreds of shows at the London Palladium

The four-times married star has appeared on stages around the world including hundreds of shows at the London Palladium

The four-times married star has appeared on stages around the world including hundreds of shows at the London Palladium

‘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’.

TV star Julian Clary tweeted: ‘Always loved Des O’Connor. Cheerful and kind man. RIP Des’. 

He had his own US TV programme and his chat show Des O'Connor Tonight was a British television staple for a quarter of a century (pictured: Des O'Connor and Bradley Walsh)

He had his own US TV programme and his chat show Des O'Connor Tonight was a British television staple for a quarter of a century (pictured: Des O'Connor and Bradley Walsh)

He had his own US TV programme and his chat show Des O’Connor Tonight was a British television staple for a quarter of a century (pictured: Des O’Connor and Bradley Walsh)

Des O'Connor 'Office Party' performed at the Pleasance Theatre, London, 2011

Des O'Connor 'Office Party' performed at the Pleasance Theatre, London, 2011

Des O’Connor ‘Office Party’ performed at the Pleasance Theatre, London, 2011

Jimmy Tarbuck paid tribute to Des O’Connor, saying: ‘He was a kind person. He is one of the few people in showbusiness who become national heroes.

‘Cilla Black was a national hero. The Beatles are national heroes and Des O’Connor was one.’

The pair worked together just last year.

‘He was terrific… He was frail and he took it easy, but he was terrific. He had the audience cheering at the end and was a pleasure to work with.

‘He was very generous in sharing the laughs and not all comedians are like that.

‘And he was a giggler. You could get him giggling… It was a pleasure to get in the car and go to work, knowing I was working with Des O’Connor.’

The pair spoke just 10 days ago, he said, just before O’Connor had a fall at his home.

‘I said, ‘Let’s do another Palladium (after the pandemic), and he said, ‘That appeals, that’s a great idea. I’ll see if I can do it’.’

Olly Murs tweeted: ‘Very sad news to hear Des O’Connor has died, to be on his show in 2012 was a highlight after watching him throughout my childhood. An icon on TV, a gentleman and one of the best! Rest in peace Des x’.

Comedian Paul Chuckle tweeted: ‘RIP the brilliant Des O’Connor. From Butlins Redcoat to one of the best comedians AND singers in the business, and such a lovely guy. Sleep peacefully my friend’.   

O’Connor had launched his showbiz career in the mid-1950s and first began fronting his own TV show in 1963.

The four-times married star has appeared on stages around the world including hundreds of shows at the London Palladium.

He had his own US TV programme and his chat show Des O’Connor Tonight was a British television staple for a quarter of a century.

He also hosted Channel 4 quiz show Countdown with Carol Vorderman, with the pair bowing out together in 2008.

Aged 75 in 2007, he married singer-songwriter Jodie Brooke Wilson, then 38, four years after he first proposed and 17 years after they first got together.

They had a son three years before the wedding.

He had four daughters from his three previous marriages.

His singing career saw him sell 16 million records and spend 117 weeks in top 10 of the charts.

O’Connor was made a CBE for his services to entertainment and broadcasting.

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