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Cheerful to the end, Des O’Connor finally bows out at 88

National hero’:
Chat show host
and entertainer
Des O’Connor,
pictured fronting
his popular
Saturday night
television variety
show in
1970
PICTURE: ITV/REX

AN OUTPOURING of grief has accompanied tributes to Britain’s ‘ultimate entertainer’ Des O’Connor following his death at the age of 88.

In a last public photo, as he shields from coronavirus in May, the singer, comedian and presenter remains smiling to the last.

The snap, shared across social media yesterday, shows him giving a thumbs up from his window while his youngest daughter, Kristina, visits him. Tragically, they were unable to hug due to lockdown restrictions.

Afternoon hit: O’Connor with co-presenter Melanie Sykes, right, and guest Kylie Minogue on the Today With Des And Mel chat show in 2004 PICTURE: REX

The TV star died on Saturday after a fall at his home in Buckinghamshire.

Agent Pat Lake-Smith said he had been in a cheerful mood despite spending a week in hospital.

‘He was recovering well and looking forward to going home. Unfortunately his condition suddenly deteriorated and he drifted peacefully away in his sleep,’ she said. O’Connor lit up TV screens after a singing career in which he sold 16million records. Rising through the variety tradition, his chat shows, including Des O’Connor Tonight, were a TV staple for a quarter of a century. He enjoyed a revival on afternoon TV in the mid-2000s with Today With Des And Mel, co-presenting with Melanie Sykes, and hosted Countdown with Carol Vorderman.

Friend and entertainer Jimmy Tarbuck said he was talking about a return to the stage just before his accident. ‘He is one of the few people in showbusiness who become national heroes,’ he added.

Joy through pane: Des makes daughter Kristina crack up

O’Connor was a frequent guest on the Morecambe & Wise Show and often the target of jokes. In April, The Times diary recalled how O’Connor, after Eric Morecambe had a heart attack in 1968, paused a gig and asked the audience to pray for him. When told of this, Morecambe said: ‘Those six or seven people might have made all the difference.’

Melanie Sykes paid tribute to her former co-host, saying it was an ‘education and a privilege to work with him’.

The shielding photo was originally posted by Sykes on Instagram in May, with his daughter posting the snap again last month on Twitter.