Des O’Connor: The all-round entertainer and chat show king whose success spanned decades


Des O’Connor, who has died at the age of 88, was an all-round entertainer whose success spanned decades, appearing as a regular in prime-time television slots. 

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 and as a Butlin’s Redcoat.

His music career began in 1967 with the release of his first single Careless Hands.

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 (pictured: Des O’Connor, 1970)

His music career began in 1967 with the release of his first single Careless Hands (pictured: Des O'Connor in 1967)

His music career began in 1967 with the release of his first single Careless Hands (pictured: Des O’Connor in 1967) 

Des O'Connor (centre) with Eric Morecambe (left) and Ernie Wise (right), March 1999

Des O’Connor (centre) with Eric Morecambe (left) and Ernie Wise (right), March 1999

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.

However, in 1975 he appeared in a Morecombe and Wise sketch which joked that he could not sing.

After being presented with one of his records, Eric Morecambe asks: ‘Is this the one where he sings the right notes?’

O’Connor then arrives on the stage to take issue with Morecambe and Ernie Wise’s apparent criticism of him in the skit.

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. It enjoyed enduring success and was last broadcast in 2002.

At the age of 82, O’Connor revealed that the secret to being a good chat show host is to be polite.

In total he had four top 10 hits and went on to record 36 albums (pictured: Des O'Connor, Nyree Dawn Porter, Jodie Wilson, 1992)

 In total he had four top 10 hits and went on to record 36 albums (pictured: Des O’Connor, Nyree Dawn Porter, Jodie Wilson, 1992) 

O'Connor (pictured) is survived by his son Adam and his four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina

O’Connor (pictured) is survived by his son Adam and his four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina

1968: Des O'Connor with his wife Gillian and children Tracy-Jane, 6, and Samantha, 4, as they left Heathrow Airport, London, to spend Christmas in Barbados

1968: Des O’Connor with his wife Gillian and children Tracy-Jane, 6, and Samantha, 4, as they left Heathrow Airport, London, to spend Christmas in Barbados

‘You have to learn to listen,’ he said, adding: ‘If you ask someone something, then answer it yourself, it’s not very clever.

‘It’s about making the guest feel like a guest.

‘Don’t make jokes of them. It’s about being polite and friendly.’

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 and in 2001 received the special recognition award at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall.

In 2007 he took over presenting duties at quiz show Countdown on Channel 4, where he remained for two years, presenting nearly 500 episodes.

Des O'Connor at the 2001 National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall

Des O’Connor at the 2001 National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall

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. It enjoyed enduring success and was last broadcast in 2002 (pictured: O'Connor with his family, 1969)

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. It enjoyed enduring success and was last broadcast in 2002 (pictured: O’Connor with his family, 1969) 

Des O'Connor posing with his CBE for services to entertainment and broadcasting, which was presented to him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, London, with wife Jodie and four-year-old son Adam, 2008

Des O’Connor posing with his CBE for services to entertainment and broadcasting, which was presented to him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, London, with wife Jodie and four-year-old son Adam, 2008 

Des O'Connor arriving for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the centenary of the London Palladium theatre, 2010

Des O’Connor arriving for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the centenary of the London Palladium theatre, 2010

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

He continued working into later life and in 2012 he starred in a West End run of Dreamboats And Petticoats at the Playhouse Theatre.

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.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk