Chat show host Sir Michael Parkinson dies, aged 88

Former cricket umpire Dickie Bird has paid tribute to his close friend Sir Michael Parkinson, telling the PA news agency: “There will never be a chat show host like Michael Parkinson. He was the best. There will never be anyone better than him in your lifetime, my lifetime or anyone else’s lifetime.”

Sir Michael, the veteran broadcaster considered the king of British chat show hosts, has died aged 88, his family told the BBC.

A statement from Sir Michael’s family said: “After a brief illness Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home last night in the company of his family.

“The family request that they are given privacy and time to grieve.”

The chat show host interviewed some of Hollywood’s biggest names throughout his illustrious career – with names such as Jimmy Cagney, Fred Astaire, Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergmann on the list.

Sir Michael became a familiar face on both the BBC and ITV because of his intimate celebrity interviews, most notably on the BBC show Parkinson.

Parkinson first aired on the BBC on June 19 1971, and enjoyed a successful run until 1982. In 1998, the chat show was revived on the BBC and proved an instant hit.

It switched from the BBC to ITV1 in 2004 and ran until 2007 – the same year Sir Michael retired from his Sunday morning Radio 2 programme.

His career saw him welcome the likes of boxer Muhammad Ali, sporting star David Beckham and Rod Hull – with puppet Emu – onto his chat shows during a long and distinguished career.

Before his TV career, he started life as an only child, growing up in a council house in the coalmining village of Cudworth, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

When his dreams of playing cricket for Yorkshire were dashed, he left school aged 16 and began working at a local paper, later joining the Manchester Guardian and then the Daily Express.

His first TV job was as a producer at Granada, and he later moved to Thames TV, before landing his chat show Parkinson at the BBC.

He had a short-lived term at TV-am as part of the original presenting line-up alongside the likes of Angela Rippon and David Frost, and appeared on the shows Give Us A Clue, one-off drama Ghostwatch and Going For A Song.

Sir Michael brought down the curtain on more than 30 years of his chat show at the end of 2007 with a final show featuring Beckham, Sir Michael Caine, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Edna Everage, Sir Billy Connolly, Peter Kay and Jamie Cullum in a two-hour special.

As well as his television career, he was a respected radio broadcaster, having hosted Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 as well as his own sports shows on Five Live. He was also an award-winning sports writer, having been a lifelong cricket fan.

He was knighted by the late Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2008, and said of the accolade: “I never expected to be knighted – I thought there was more chance of me turning into a Martian really.”

In 2013, he spoke openly about being diagnosed with prostate cancer following a routine health check.

He had three sons with wife Mary, who he married in 1959.

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