Tributes roll in to king of light entertainment Des O'Connor after his death aged 88 

The entertainer Des O'Connor has died at the age of 88 - days after a fall at his home. The star died on Saturday, according to his long-time agent and family friend, Pat Lake-Smith. She said in a statement that the "ultimate entertainer" had been recovering from the fall when he died. "It is with great sorrow that I confirm that Des O'Connor passed away yesterday," she said. "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. "Unfortunately yesterday evening his condition suddenly deteriorated and he drifted peacefully away in his sleep." 'The ultimate entertainer'  O'Connor presented his own prime-time TV shows for over 45 years. He was known for shows like Today With Des And Mel, Des O'Connor Tonight and  in 2007-8 as presenter of Channel 4's 'Countdown'. 1978: Japes with Eric Morecambe at the Wellington Hospital, London  Credit: PA 1988: Clowning around with Spike Milligan on Des O'Connor Tonight  Credit: Avalon  1998: With Dolly Parton on the Des O'Connor show Credit: Shutterstock  His agent said: "Des, who was 88, was so well loved by absolutely everyone. 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. Tributes from across the entertainment world  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 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". 2004: Interviewing Kylie Minogue alongside Melanie Sykes on Today with Des and Mel  Credit: Shutterstock  Jimmy Tarbuck said: "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'."  1984: Jimmy Tarbuck, Des O'Connor, Ernie Wise and Bruce Forsyth at the London Palladium. Tarbuck and O'Connor had talked recently of a fresh show  Credit: PA Tommy Cannon has spoken of the lasting legacy O'Connor had on the world of variety shows and entertainment, saying: "I don't think it's ever going to be repeated". Cannon, part of successful comedy duo Cannon & Ball, said: "Things change you know, variety and vaudeville, everything changes, whether that changes for the better I don't know but that's what happens in the world we live in and there's so many TV channels now, for instance my partner Bobby (Ball) passed away... and we often talked about it you know, 'where's variety going?' and what happens is it slowly disappears, which is a shame because... he'll leave a legacy of good family entertainment". Bobby Ball died in hospital on October 28 aged 76 after testing positive for Covid-19 and alongside Cannon, the pair had found fame on the smash hit The Cannon And Ball Show which ran from 1979 to 1988. Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness tweeted: "Such sad

Tributes roll in to king of light entertainment Des O'Connor after his death aged 88 

The entertainer Des O'Connor has died at the age of 88 - days after a fall at his home.

The star died on Saturday, according to his long-time agent and family friend, Pat Lake-Smith.

She said in a statement that the "ultimate entertainer" had been recovering from the fall when he died.

"It is with great sorrow that I confirm that Des O'Connor passed away yesterday," she said.

"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.

"Unfortunately yesterday evening his condition suddenly deteriorated and he drifted peacefully away in his sleep."

'The ultimate entertainer' 

O'Connor presented his own prime-time TV shows for over 45 years.

He was known for shows like Today With Des And Mel, Des O'Connor Tonight and  in 2007-8 as presenter of Channel 4's 'Countdown'.

1978: Japes with Eric Morecambe at the Wellington Hospital, London  Credit: PA
1988: Clowning around with Spike Milligan on Des O'Connor Tonight  Credit: Avalon 
1998: With Dolly Parton on the Des O'Connor show Credit: Shutterstock 

His agent said: "Des, who was 88, was so well loved by absolutely everyone. 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.

Tributes from across the entertainment world 

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 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".

2004: Interviewing Kylie Minogue alongside Melanie Sykes on Today with Des and Mel  Credit: Shutterstock 

Jimmy Tarbuck said: "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'." 

1984: Jimmy Tarbuck, Des O'Connor, Ernie Wise and Bruce Forsyth at the London Palladium. Tarbuck and O'Connor had talked recently of a fresh show  Credit: PA

Tommy Cannon has spoken of the lasting legacy O'Connor had on the world of variety shows and entertainment, saying: "I don't think it's ever going to be repeated".

Cannon, part of successful comedy duo Cannon & Ball, said: "Things change you know, variety and vaudeville, everything changes, whether that changes for the better I don't know but that's what happens in the world we live in and there's so many TV channels now, for instance my partner Bobby (Ball) passed away... and we often talked about it you know, 'where's variety going?' and what happens is it slowly disappears, which is a shame because... he'll leave a legacy of good family entertainment".

Bobby Ball died in hospital on October 28 aged 76 after testing positive for Covid-19 and alongside Cannon, the pair had found fame on the smash hit The Cannon And Ball Show which ran from 1979 to 1988.

Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness tweeted: "Such sad news. Des O'Connor was never afraid to laugh at himself and that was part of his charm. Whether it was Eric Morecambe ridiculing him, or Freddie Starr smashing his studio set up, Des always laughed along. Another part of my childhood telly viewing gone. RIP Des."

The former Countdown star Carol Vorderman wrote on Twitter, writing: "So sad this morning to hear that darling Des has passed away.

"He was the host of Countdown for a couple of years and was a joy to work with. Lively, funny, he ALWAYS wanted to entertain people. I will remember him most tho for his brilliant chat shows in the days when families would gather round the telly to watch , Des O'Connor was the King.

"We'd cry laughing when Freddie Starr would pretend to be behaving and things would go badly wrong. Des will surely be entertaining the angels now. Rest In Peace & Laughter my friend."

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, skilful, 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".

From son of a binman to star

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. 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.

1965: Sandie Shaw, Kathy Kirby, Des O'Connor and Bruce Forsyth at the Daily Mirror Golden Ball Credit: Mirrorpix

His 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. The programme enjoyed enduring success and it was last broadcast in 2002.

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

O'Connor was made a CBE in 2008. He continued working into later life and in 2012 he starred in a West End run of Dreamboats And Petticoats at the Playhouse Theatre.

2012: Starring in "Dreamboats and Petticoats" at the Playhouse Theatre in London Credit: Robbie Jack 

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.

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.