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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lisa McLoughlin

Tributes pour in for Sir Michael Parkinson following death aged 88

Tributes have poured in for legendary broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson following his death aged 88.

Sir Michael, considered the king of British chat show hosts, is said to have died “peacefully at home” on Wednesday night following a short illness.

A statement from his family on Thursday morning 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.”

In light of the sad news, comedian Stephen Fry took to social media to remember the chat show host and said being interviewed by Parkinson was “impossibly thrilling”.

He wrote on Instagram alongside a photo with the late broadcaster: “The genius of Parky was that unlike most people – and most of his guests, me included, he was always 100 per cent himself. On camera and off. ‘Authentic’ is the word, I suppose.

“For one of the shows I was on with Robin Williams, a genius of unimaginable comic speed and brilliance. Now they’re both gone. One should get used to the parade of people constantly falling off the edge, but frankly one doesn’t. So long. #Parky.”

BBC News anchor Simon McCoy also paid tribute to the late journalist and penned on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Simply the best. Anyone who was anyone was interviewed by him. What an amazing career he had. Thoughts with his family in the wake of his passing.”

Meanwhile, Lord Alan Sugar wrote: “Very sad news on the passing of Michael Parkinson. End of a (sic) era. RIP.”

Posting a photo of them from yesteryear, British singer and actress Elaine Paige described Parkinson as a “legendary interviewer”, penning: “Such very sad breaking news that Sir Michael Parkinson has died.

“Have known him for many years, sang on his TV chat show and attended many events with him. A legendary interviewer that will be remembered as the best of his profession. We will never see his like again.”

While BBC broadcaster Nick Robinson shared: “He was the greatest interviewer of our age who owned Saturday night TV for year after year. Michael Parkinson – king of the chat show – has died.”

Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, remembered Parkinson as “the king of the chat show” and an “incredible broadcaster and journalist”.

He said in a statement: “Michael was the king of the chat show and he defined the format for all the presenters and shows that followed. He interviewed the biggest stars of the 20th century and did so in a way that enthralled the public. Michael was not only brilliant at asking questions, he was also a wonderful listener.

“Michael was truly one of a kind, an incredible broadcaster and journalist who will be hugely missed.”

Eddie Izzard remembered Parkinson as the “king of the intelligent interview”, writing: “Very sad to hear that Michael Parkinson has left us. He was the king of the intelligent interview.”

Broadcaster and author Gyles Brandreth admitted that the broadcaster was “one of my heroes” in a moving post on social media.

He tweeted: “They were chat shows, of course – but they were much more than that: they were truly engaging conversations that brought out the best in his guests.

“And what an array of guests. ‘Parky’ was one of my heroes – and a lovely guy. A privilege to have known and worked with him.”

While Eamonn Holmes shared a photo with Parkinson and said it was a “privilege” to have known him.

He wrote on X: “Parky. King of The Chat Show Hosts. A privilege to know him on and off screen and to learn from him. They don’t make them like that anymore. RIP Sir Michael Parkinson.”

Actor and presenter Matt Lucas remembered the chat show host as a “titan of television” in his social media tribute.

He penned: “Sir Michael Parkinson was a titan of television, the ultimate chat show host. We’ll never forget his brilliant interviews with Muhammad Ali, Dame Edna, Billy Connolly and, of course, ‘that bloody emu’.”

Irish comedian Dara O Briain recalled his appearances on Parkinson and branded his interactions with the broadcaster as “encouraging”.

He wrote: “I had the privilege of doing the Michael Parkinson show 3 times and it the most I ever felt like I was in “proper showbiz”. He was a consummate pro on-screen, and generous and encouraging off-screen. He also did the coolest thing I ever saw pre-show.

“I was standing with the guests, waiting for the show to start. Michael arrived, chatted away to us, not a nerve in sight, when the band starting playing the theme tune.

“Michael paused, smiled and said ‘They’re playing my tune’ and walked straight out and started the show. Lovely. The other guest was Samuel Jackson, as far as I remember, rather adding to how cool it all was.”

Sky News presenter Kay Burley has paid tribute to the “magnificent” broadcasting legend on X, sharing: “Devastated to hear about the passing of TV broadcaster and journalist, the magnificent Sir Michael Parkinson.

“I was lucky enough to meet him professionally and socially on many occasions. He was always fun, informed and generous with his time. I will miss him. RIP Michael”.

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer also added her voice to the hordes of tributes for Parkinson, writing: “Michael Parkinson was a broadcasting giant who set a gold standard for the television interview.

“He spent his life entertaining millions of us with his Saturday night talk show & was one of our most treasured TV personalities. My thoughts are with Michael’s family & friends.”

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 to be 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.

During hundreds of episodes of his talk show, he also interviewed stars including David Bowie, John Lennon and Celine Dion.

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.

Speaking on the final show, he said: “Over the years it has been a privilege to meet some of the most intelligent and interesting people. It has always been a great joy and I shall miss it.”

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 received an honorary doctorate in 2008, alongside cricket umpire and his good friend Dickie Bird, at the Barnsley campus of Huddersfield University.

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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