Comedian Des O’Connor died ‘peacefully’ in his sleep aged 88 yesterday, his agent has confirmed.
The entertainer began his illustrious career on the stage, appearing in venues all over the country, before landing his very own television show.
His extensive work on our screens spanned across seven decades, kicking off with The Des O’Connor Show in 1963, a variety programme that quickly made him a household name.
Other popular programmes including Des O’Connor Entertains, Des O’Connor Tonight, Take Your Pick and Today with Des and Mel followed, the latter being a daytime hit for Channel 4 co-hosted by Melanie Sykes.
More recently, he served as a presenter on the iconic game show Countdown for two years until 2008, when he handed the reins over to Jeff Stelling.
“He was a joy to work with,” his agent said. “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.”
Although best known for his television work, O’Connor also enjoyed a successful music career, working alongside greats like Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and Shirley Bassey, as well as scoring a number one single in 1968 with I Pretend.
In 2012, ITV celebrated the entertainer’s 80th birthday with a special programme titled The One and Only Des O’Connor, which featured several guests including his friend Paul O’Grady, comedian Matt Lucas and singer Olly Murs.
O’Connor took on smaller roles in the years that followed, not fronting his own prime time show again, but making several guest appearances on other popular programme, including Would I Lie to You? and Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule.
His agent added: “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.”