Jess Yates

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Jess Yates
Born Jesse Frederick Joseph Yates
(1918-12-20)20 December 1918
Tyldesley, Lancashire, England
Died 9 April 1993(1993-04-09) (aged 74)
Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Wales
Nationality British
Occupation Television presenter, producer
Known for Stars on Sunday
Spouse(s) Elaine Smith (m. 1958–75)
Children Paula Yates (legal daughter)

Jesse Frederick Joseph Yates (20 December 1918 – 9 April 1993) was an English television presenter and producer. He was the creator, presenter and producer of Yorkshire Television’s religious programme Stars on Sunday, for which he gained the nickname 'The Bishop'.

He was born in Tyldesley, Lancashire. His family moved to Llandudno when he was five. After leaving school, Yates worked as a cinema organist. Yates was born into a show business family; his mother booked his stage acts. After the war he directed documentary films, joined BBC Television as a freelance designer and joined the BBC on the production side in 1949. He was involved with programmes such as Come Dancing, The Good Old Days and the Miss World competition. In later life, he lived in the village of Rowen, near Conwy in North Wales.

In 1968, he became head of children's programmes for Yorkshire TV. The following year, he began hosting Stars on Sunday. Yates would introduce the show seated at an electric organ – on which he occasionally performed using much tremulant – placed in front of a stained-glass window. One of his many observations was, "We can't see round the bend in the road, but God can." The programme attracted many special guests, including Harry Secombe, Dame Anna Neagle, Gracie Fields and Dorothy Squires. He was quoted as wanting stars to appear on the programme as that is what he thought would persuade viewers to tune in. At the end of the series, viewing figures had risen from 600,000 to seven million.

He was married to actress and author Elaine Smith (whose stage name was Helene Thornton and wrote under the pseudonym Heller Torren) from 1958 to 1975. His TV career ended in 1974 when it was revealed that he had been having an affair with young actress Anita Kay, although he was separated from his wife at the time. Amid the ensuing furore, Yates had to be smuggled from Yorkshire Television's studio complex in Leeds in the boot of a car. His contract with the company was terminated. Yates had an interest in antiques. Yates, who lived in North Wales, was also in demand as an after-dinner speaker. In 1976, he made an appearance on the panel of the new television show New Faces.

Towards the end of his life, it was reported in the media that Yates was in financial difficulties, with a small pension from Yorkshire Television as his sole income. It was also stated that he was no longer on speaking terms with his legal daughter, the television presenter Paula Yates, who was also believed to be his biological daughter at the time.

A few years after his death, a DNA test revealed that Paula's biological father was not Jess Yates, but the television presenter, Hughie Green.



  • The Daily Telegraph Third Book of Obituaries (Entertainers), edited by Hugh Massingberd

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