Des OConnor: Tributes paid to gentle entertainer

Des OConnor: Tributes paid to gentle entertainer

Ant and Dec have paid tribute to the much-loved comedian, singer and TV host Des O’Connor.

O’Connor died on Saturday aged 88, following a fall at his Buckinghamshire home just over a week ago.

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

The Geordie TV double act described O’Connor as “a consummate professional and a lovely man”.

“He was a regular fixture on our TVs growing up and a gentleman whenever we met,” they posted on their joint Twitter account.

“Eric & Ernie will be waiting to have a laugh with you tonight Des. RIP X.”

Fellow comic Russ Abbot added that O’Connor’s death was a “great loss” to anyone who met him or saw him on TV.

“I had the privilege of being on his show many times and he was a wonderful, generous host, always wanting his guests to shine,” said Abbot. “He really was the ultimate entertainer but, even more, he was a thoroughly nice man.”

O’Connor presented Today With Des And Mel from 2002 to 2006. His former co-host Melanie Sykes posted on Instagram that he 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,” wrote Sykes. “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,” she added.

“It was an education and a privilege to work with him for the years that followed.”

Carol Vorderman, another of O’Connor’s former on-screen colleagues, from his two years spent presenting the Channel 4 quiz show Countdown, said he was “lively, funny,” and “always wanted to entertain people”.

“So sad this morning to hear that darling Des has passed away,” she tweeted.

She added a favourite memory from her younger days, when she would watch his show on TV with the rest of her family.

“We’d cry laughing when Freddie Starr would pretend to be behaving and things would go badly wrong,” recalled Vordeman. “Des will surely be entertaining the angels now.”

Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness tweeted in response to the “sad news”. “Des O’Connor was never afraid to laugh at himself and that was part of his charm,” he wrote.

Singer Kim Wilde, who performed alongside O’Connor, thanked him for the good times. “Gorgeous memories of singing Something Stupid with Des O’Connor,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker labelled him as a “truly lovely man and one of the great old school entertainers”.

Actress Sophie Evans, who starred alongside him in The Wizard Of Oz at the London Palladium in 2012, tweeted that it was an “absolute pleasure” to work with the then 80-year-old, who had “a glisten in his eye and that old school hard-working mind set”.

Northampton Town Football Club also tweeted in remembrance of O’Connor, who played for their reserve team in the 1940s.

“We are very sorry to hear of the passing of Des O’Connor,” a Twitter post on the club’s page said.

“Des famously played for our reserve team on a few occasions just after World War 2. Our thoughts are with all who knew Des.”

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

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.

O’Connor appeared on stages around the world and performed 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.

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.

O’Connor also had four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina from his previous marriages.

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