Michael Parkinson Dies: Revered UK Chat Show Host Was 88

Legendary UK broadcaster and chat show host Michael Parkinson has died aged 88, according to his family.

A statement from his family to the BBC read: “After a brief illness Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home last night in the company of his family. The family request that they are given privacy and time to grieve.”

The British broadcaster was an evergreen on UK screens in a career spanning seven decades, and he interviewed the world’s biggest stars on his long-running chat show.

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High-profile guests included Muhammad Ali, Elton John, Madonna, Helen Mirren and Billy Connolly.

Parkinson received radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer in 2013, but got the all-clear from doctors two years later.

BBC Director General Tim Davie called him “the king of the chat show” and said he had “defined the format for all the presenters and shows that followed.”

“He interviewed the biggest stars of the 20th century and did so in a way that enthralled the public,” he added. “Michael was not only brilliant at asking questions, he was also a wonderful listener.”

He went on to call him “truly one of a kind, an incredible broadcaster and journalist who will be hugely missed.”

Born in 1935 near Barnsley, Parkinson began as a journalist on local newspapers before working his way up to The Daily Express in London. He moved into TV in the 1960s, starting as a reporter and presenter on Twenty-Four Hours on BBC One.

He landed his own show, the BBC’s Parkinson in 1971, and this ran first for 11 years and then returned between 1998 and 2007, moving to ITV halfway through. During this time he had hosting gigs on various other shows.

Parkinson made his name for some of the biggest interviews of the latter half of the 20th century, sometimes generating controversy and at other times eliciting truths from the stars of the day.

By his own reckoning, Parkinson interviewed around 2,000 celebrities. Others he spoke to included Sir Ian McKellen, George Best, Robert De Niro, Peter Sellers and Tom Cruise.

During his final show in 2007, Parkinson fought back tears as he was given an enormous standing ovation, and he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II the following year. Since then, he had continued to write and appear on TV and radio.

He is survived by wife Mary Parkinson, a British journalist and TV presenter, and three children.

More tributes came flooding in on Twitter following the news.

BAFTA, which awarded Parkinson for Best Entertainment Performance in 1999, said it was “saddened to hear” of his death, and that he had interviewed “some of the world’s biggest stars” during his seven-decades-long career.

Presenter Eamonn Holmes said it had been “a privilege to know him on and off screen and to learn from him.” “They don’t make them like that anymore,” he added.

Eddie Izzard called Parkinson “king of the intelligent interview,” while Today host Nick Robinson said he was the “greatest interviewer of our age.”

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