|Born||Desmond Bernard O'Connor
12 January 1932
Stepney, East London
|Occupation||Broadcaster, musician, comedian|
|Years active||1956–2010, 2012–13 (semi-retired)|
|Television||The Des O'Connor Show (1963–71)
Des O'Connor Entertains (1974–76)
Des O'Connor Tonight (1977–2002)
Take Your Pick (1992–98)
Today with Des and Mel (2002–06)
Phyllis Gill (m. 1953–59) (divorced); 1 daughter
Desmond Bernard O'Connor, CBE (born 12 January 1932) is an English comedian and singer. A former chat show host, he was the presenter of the long-running Channel 4 gameshow Countdown for two years. He has also recorded 36 albums and has had four top-ten singles, including a number-one hit with "I Pretend", with global sales of more than ten million records.
Desmond Bernard O'Connor was born in Stepney East London to an English-Jewish mother Maude (née Bassett) and an Irish father Harry O'Connor. O'Connor has a sister, Patricia, who is one year his junior. He wrote in his autobiography, Bananas Can't Fly!, that he is probably the only O'Connor ever to have had a bar mitzvah. He was evacuated to Northampton during the Second World War and was briefly a professional footballer with Northampton Town. After completing his National Service in the Royal Air Force, he worked as a shoe salesman before entering show business. Before his break in television, his first theatre appearances were in variety, where he appeared in venues throughout the country.
He has worked with many personalities of the day, from rock and pop stars, actors and TV performers, to politicians, princes, to luminaries such as Frank Sinatra, Adam Faith, Sean Connery, Liberace, the Beatles, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Cilla Black, Tony Blair and members of the Royal Family.
O'Connor has starred in a mainstream television show in almost every year since 1963, a feat that only one other television personality has achieved worldwide (US game show host Bob Barker, who hosted mainstream television shows from 1956 until 2007, with 1966-1972 being in syndication).
Between 1963 and 1971, O'Connor hosted The Des O'Connor Show, a British variety show for eight series on ITV. This was followed by Des O'Connor Entertains, a show which ran for two series between 1974 and 1976 and featured singing, dancing and comedy sketches.
Between 1977 and 2002, Des presented his own celebrity chat show series entitled Des O'Connor Tonight. The show lasted for 7 series on BBC Two and later 17 on ITV.
In 1992, Des became the presenter of the long-running game show Take Your Pick. The show came to an end in 1998. From 2002 to 2006, Des co-hosted Today with Des and Mel alongside Melanie Sykes. The show was a live afternoon chat and light entertainment with was aired on ITV. On 12 May 2006, the channel announced that the show would be one of a number to be axed in a "painful, but utterly necessary" move.
On 2 January 2007, Des replaced Des Lynam as co-presenter of the Channel 4 game show Countdown, alongside Carol Vorderman. He left the show in 2008 to spend more time on theatre and entertainment-based projects. Vorderman also left the show.In 2009, Des was replaced by sports presenter Jeff Stelling.
In 2012, Paul O'Grady hosted The One and Only Des O'Connor, a one-off show that celebrated O'Connor's 80th birthday, with guests including Katherine Kelly, Olly Murs, Robert Lindsay and Melanie Sykes contributing. The show aired on 8 April 2012 on ITV.
On 4 May 2012, Des took part in the TV game show Would I Lie to You.
O'Connor appeared as a guest on The Morecambe and Wise Show a number of times. He was the butt of many a joke by Morecambe, being referred to as "Des - short for 'desperate", and "Death O'Connor". One famous line, sung to the tune of Crazy Words - Crazy Tune was, "Roses are red, violets are blue, Des can't sing, we know that's true!".
On 3 December 2012, O'Connor was invited to celebrate 100 years of the Royal Variety Performance in a one-off ITV programme. On 20 December, O'Connor appeared alongside Lee Mack in a celebrity edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
O'Connor has had a successful career as a singer, recording 36 albums, five of which reached the Top 40 of the UK Albums Chart. O'Connor has always taken criticism in good humour, even appearing with Morecambe and Wise on their 1975 Christmas Show in a sketch that mocked him. He got his own back on the 1976 Christmas Show when he was in the firing squad at the end of the main sketch.
In 1969, thirteen of his variety hours were sold to NBC in the United States, as a summer replacement for the network's Kraft Music Hall. This series was broadcast in more than forty countries and was seen by 200 million people worldwide.
Awards and honours
In 2001, he was presented with the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards for his contributions to television.
O'Connor has married four times:
- Phyllis Gill (married 1953, divorced 1959)
- Gillian Vaughan (married 1960, divorced 1982)
- Jay Rufer (married 1985, divorced 1990)
- Jodie Brooke Wilson (married 23 September 2011)
Des has five children: Karen with Phyliss Gill; 2 daughters, Tracy and Samantha, with Gill Vaughan; 1 daughter with Rufer; and 1 son, Adam, with Jodie Wilson.
O'Connor received some criticism for having his fifth baby (Adam) later in life. Of this he said, "Happily, though, I'm not experiencing that at the moment. I had people saying I was selfish. But what's selfish about that? How can you say to a woman you've been with for 15-odd years, 'No, I've got four and we're not having any more?'. That would be selfish."
|1963-1971||The Des O'Connor Show||Presenter|
|1974-76||Des O'Connor Entertains||Presenter|
|1977-2002||Des O'Connor Tonight||Presenter|
|1992-98||Take Your Pick||Presenter|
|1996, 97||Royal Variety Performance||Compère|
|2001||An Audience with Des O'Connor||Presenter|
|2002-06||Today with Des and Mel||Co-presenter|
|2012||The One and Only Des O'Connor||Subject|
- Just For You - 20 Special Songs (Warwick) (1979)
- Remember Romance - 20 Great Love Songs (Warwick) (1980)
- Now - 16 Classic Songs (Telstar) (1984)
- "Book Des O'Connor - Celebrities from". The Mcleod Agency. 1932-01-12. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
- "This Is Your Life (1969 - 1993) @ EOFFTV". Eofftv.com. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
- BBC News Entertainment Des O'Connor to leave Countdown 25 July 2008
- The One and Only Des O'Connor ITV news, Monday, 19 March 2012, 7:07PM. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
- "Des O'Connor to leave Countdown". BBC News. 23 July 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- The London Gazette: . 14 June 2008.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 403. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
|Host of Take Your Pick
|Host of Countdown