Lionel Blair in 2010
|Born||Henry Lionel Ogus
12 December 1931
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Occupation||Actor, tap dancer, TV host|
|Spouse(s)||Susan Blair (1967-present; 3 children)|
Blair was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He is the son of Myer Ogus and Deborah (Della) Greenbaum (Mother's name given as Brenner on FreeBMD). His father was a barber; he emigrated to Canada to start a new life for him and his wife, she joined him shortly afterwards. His family was Jewish, and his paternal grandparents immigrated from Russia. Blair came to Britain when he was two years old. His first public performances were with his sister Joyce (born 1932) in London Underground Station air raid shelters during World War II. He attended the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in 1944, followed by London's University of East London, where he majored in Ethnography. Blair eventually rekindled his passion for musical theatre and joined the West End. He gave up acting for dancing in 1947 although he subsequently appeared in the fringe production, "Out of the Blue" (Chichester) and "Who Killed Agatha' Christie" (national tour) amongst other acting credits. He took his stage name around this time, later changing it by Deed Poll just before he married in 1967 (His sister also decided to use the same surname professionally).
Blair came to the fore in the 1960s, when, with his dance troupe, he appeared on television variety programmes. He also appeared in the films A Hard Day's Night and Absolute Beginners, cameoed in an episode of The Persuaders! and in television comedy, including the short film, The Plank. In addition, he choreographed films such as Jazz Boat (1960) and The Magic Christian (1969).
Blair is known for being one of the team captains on the gameshow Give Us a Clue from 1979 until the early 1990s and for being the second presenter of the British version of Name That Tune in the 1980s.
He published his autobiography "Stagestruck" in 1986.
In 2005, he was one of the celebrities taking part in the Channel Five reality series, The Farm. Until 2005 he appeared extensively in pantomime, for which he was earning up to £15,000 a week. Blair appeared in the 2007 Christmas special of the Ricky Gervais show Extras, as himself, portraying the end-stages of his showbiz career by trying to keep up his profile by appearing on Celebrity Big Brother alongside Lisa Scott-Lee and X Factor contestant Chico. In July 2010, Blair appeared in the "Great British Dog Walks" feature on ITV1's This Morning with his dog Lola. Also in 2010, he took part in the BBC's The Young Ones, in which six celebrities in their 70s and 80s attempt to overcome some of the problems of ageing by harking back to the 1970s. In December 2010, he appeared briefly in a sketch with Ronnie Corbett and Rob Brydon in BBC1's The One Ronnie. Blair also appeared as the celebrity darter for charity on Bullseye.
On 24 December 2011 he appeared on the ITV program Text Santa with Ant & Dec.
He is the elder brother of the late British actress Joyce Blair, with whom he sometimes appeared.
He was in the news in 2006 when his pet dog Florence was apparently kidnapped in Surrey. The cross-breed collie disappeared when Blair's wife took her for a walk in a park in Ewell near the couple's home. On 21 September 2006, Blair and comedian Alan Carr helped save a man about to fall from a pier in Blackpool. The man was holding on by his fingers.
Blair and wife Susan celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in March 2007. They have three children and two grandchildren.
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue
Blair's camp public persona is regularly mocked in the introduction to the game Sound Charades on BBC Radio 4's comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, normally by double entendre during over-the-top accounts of Blair's skills on Give Us A Clue. In one episode the host, Humphrey Lyttelton, introduced the game: "The expert's expert was, of course, Lionel Blair. Who could ever forget opposing team captain, Una Stubbs, sitting open-mouthed as he tried to pull off Twelve Angry Men in under two minutes?".
On 29 January 2011, during the Radio 4 show "Saturday Live", hosted by Fi Glover, Blair said of the remarks on the show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue that "My wife hates it" and that he had honestly never heard the remarks on the programme himself until "now with the internet". Referring to the presenter, (the deceased Humphrey Lyttelton), he added "People say you should always speak good of the dead. He's dead – good." Blair said in the same interview that he thought that double-entendres about his sexuality were no longer made on ISIHAC (i.e. since Lyttelton's death). In fact, new presenter Jack Dee carries on the tradition with gusto.
- "Still clued-up after 60 years", The Post, 3 December 2008
- "Banstead resident Lionel Blair celebrates 60 years in showbiz". This is Surrey Today/Banstead. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
- Nick McGrath. "Lionel Blair | My family values | Stage". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- Fame and fortune (25 February 2013). "Lionel Blair: 'I went from £15 a week to £15,000'". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- 14:45 (22 December 2010). "BBC One – The Young Ones". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- "Help me find Florence, pleads Lionel". Daily Mail. 18 April 2006. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
- "Entertainers in pier rescue drama". BBC News. 21 September 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
- "Saturday Live: Lionel Blair on Humphrey Lyttelton Blair on Lyttelton, on Radio 4's Saturday Live (29 January 2011)". Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- Lionel Blair chooses his friend Sammy Davis Jr on BBC Radio 4 Great Lives - listen online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wr8pq
- Humphrey Lyttelton's Sound Charade introductions, which often feature Lionel Blair.
- Blair on Lyttelton, on Radio 4's Saturday Live (29 January 2011)
- Lionel's appearance with dog Lola on ITV1's "This Morning" show