Blair in 2010
|Born||Henry Lionel Blair Ogus
12 December 1928
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Occupation||Actor, choreographer, tap dancer, television presenter|
|Spouse(s)||Susan Blair (1967–present); 3 children|
Blair was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He is the son of Myer Ogus and Debora "Della" Greenbaum (mother's name given as Brenner on FreeBMD). His father was a barber; he emigrated from Russia to Canada to start a new life and his wife joined him shortly afterwards. The family was Jewish.
Blair came to Britain when he was two years old. His first public performances were with his sister Joyce (1932–2006) in the Manor House Underground station air raid shelters and on the trains of the Piccadilly line during the air raids of the Second World War. He attended the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in 1944.
Blair eventually rekindled his passion for musical theatre and began working in 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) among 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 The Limping Man (1953), The World of Suzie Wong (1960), The Cool Mikado (1963), The Beauty Jungle (1964), A Hard Day's Night (1964), Maroc 7 (1967) and Absolute Beginners (1986), cameoed in an episode of The Persuaders!, and appeared in television comedy, including the short film, The Plank. In addition, he choreographed films such as Jazz Boat (1960) and The Magic Christian (1969).
In 1972, Blair wrote a musical based on War and Peace. It toured around the UK for six months. Blair was one of the team captains on the game show Give Us a Clue from 1979 until the early 1990s, and was the second presenter of the British version of Name That Tune in the 1980s.
He published his autobiography Stagestruck in 1986. In 2005, he took part in the Channel Five reality series, The Farm. Until 2005 he appeared extensively in pantomime, for which he earned 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.
In July 2010, Blair appeared in the "Great British Dog Walks" feature on ITV'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 BBC One'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. In 2012, he was cast in the film version of Ray Cooney's farce Run for Your Wife.
On 3 January 2014, he entered the Celebrity Big Brother house with Made in Chelsea media personality Ollie Locke after being handcuffed together as part of a task set by Big Brother. He became the third housemate to be evicted on 17 January 2014.
Blair continues to work as an actor, having filmed an episode of BBC One's medical soap opera Doctors in 2014. He also played a main character in the British short film Evil's Evil Cousin in 2016. On 14 December 2016, Blair appeared as a guest on the ITV panel show, Loose Women, to announce and celebrate his recent 88th birthday. The panellists presented him with a personalised cake. In 2017 Blair was one of the celebrities appearing in the BBC reality series The Real Marigold Hotel.
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.
- "Still clued-up after 60 years", The Post, 3 December 2008
- "Banstead resident Lionel Blair celebrates 60 years in showbiz". This is Surrey Today. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
- Interview: Lionel Blair, The Jewish Chronicle, 9 December 2009
- who is lionel blair Radio Times, 11-17 February 2017, p.32 "I always used to lie about my age . I'm proud that I'm still tap dancing at 88"
- McGrath, Nick (15 February 2013). "Lionel Blair: My family values". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- Explained by Blair in the BBC programme "Back in Time For Christmas, Episode 1" (at around 18m), first aired on 14 December 2015
- "Lionel Blair: 'I went from £15 a week to £15,000'". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- "BBC One – The Young Ones". BBC. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- "Lionel Blair evicted". Daily Mirror. London. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- "The Doctors cast are joined by showbiz legend, Lionel Blair" BBC. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- "Help me find Florence, pleads Lionel". Daily Mail. London. 18 April 2006. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
- "Entertainers in pier rescue drama". BBC News. 21 September 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2007.