Des O’Connor: Legendary British entertainer dies aged 88

Jacob StolworthySun, 15 November 2020, 4:08 pm GMT

 (Rex Features)
(Rex Features)

British TV legend Des O’Connor has died aged 88.

The “ultimate entertainer” whose career spanned six decades passed away in hospital on Saturday (14 November) following a fall at his home.

Tributes are pouring in for the singer, chat-show host and comedian after his death was was announced by his agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith.

“It is with great sorrow that I confirm that Des O’Connor passed away,” the statement read.

“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.”

Ms Smith said that the star’s condition “suddenly deteriorated and he drifted peacefully away in his sleep.”

O’Connor, who completed his national service in the royal air force and was a redcoat at Butlins, had an illustrious career that saw him present numerous TV shows and perform alongside music acts, including Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly and Barbra Streisand.

He recorded 36 albums and had four Top 10 singles, including the number one song “I Pretend”, which was released in 1968.

O’Connor also performed more than a thousand one-man shows at the London Palladium.

<p>Des O’Connor at a rehearsal for a Royal Command performance at the London Palladium in 1969</p>Getty
Des O’Connor at a rehearsal for a Royal Command performance at the London Palladium in 1969Getty

From 1963, O’Connor appeared on TV in shows including sketch series The Des O’Connor Show, game show Take Your Pick and chat show Today with Des and Mel, which he co-hosted with Melanie Sykes.

He replaced Des Lynam as the host of Countdown in 2007, appearing alongside Carol Vorderman. He left two years later, and was replaced by Jeff Stelling.

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

His agent’s statement continued: “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.

<p>Melanie Sykes and Des O’Connor in 2003</p>Getty
Melanie Sykes and Des O’Connor in 2003Getty

“He loved life, and considered enthusiasm almost as important as oxygen. He adored his family – they were everything to him.”

His friend and fellow comic Jimmy Tarbuck said the much-loved star was talking about a return to the stage just before his accident.

Mr Tarbuck said: “He was a kind person. He is one of the few people in showbusiness who become national heroes.”

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

“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.”

O’Connor is survived by his wife Jodie, their son Adam as well as his four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina.

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