TV star Des O'Connor dies, aged 88

15 November 2020, 09:21 | Updated: 15 November 2020, 15:15

Des O'Connor has died at the age of 88
Des O'Connor has died at the age of 88. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

TV legend and entertainer Des O'Connor has died at the age of 88, his agent has said.

The television star died on Saturday just days after a fall in his home, O'Connor's longtime agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith said.

He was best-known for shows like Today With Des And Mel, Des O'Connor Tonight and Countdown.

Ms Lake-Smith said in a statement: "It is with great sorrow that I confirm that Des O'Connor passed away yesterday (Saturday 14 November).

"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."

His agent said the TV legend was "well-loved by absolutely everyone" and 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."

O'Connor is survived by his wife Jodie, whose "world is shattered", their son Adam and his four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina.

"Des was the ultimate entertainer," she continued.

"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."

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".

Countdown's Susie Dent wrote on Twitter: "We have lost a true gent, one who was never more than a note away from a song or a laugh, and who never failed to say ‘piddle, bum, and stocking tops’ if any of us fluffed a line.

"Countdown audiences adored him - and so did we. Sing on, Des."

O'Connor launched his showbiz career in the mid-1950s and first began fronting his own TV show in 1963.

The four-times married star has appeared on stages around the world including hundreds of shows at the London Palladium.

He had his own US TV programme and his chat show Des O'Connor Tonight was a British television staple for a quarter of a century. He also hosted Channel 4 quiz show Countdown with Carol Vorderman, with the pair bowing out together in 2008.

Aged 75 in 2007, he married singer-songwriter Jodie Brooke Wilson, then 38, four years after he first proposed and 17 years after they first got together.

They had a son three years before the wedding and he had four daughters from his three previous marriages.

His singing career saw him sell 16 million records and spend 117 weeks in top 10 of the charts.

O'Connor was made a CBE for his services to entertainment and broadcasting.