UK

Sir Michael Parkinson hailed by Tarbuck as ‘giant of industry and giant friend’

Sir Michael Parkinson died on Wednesday aged 88 (PA)
Sir Michael Parkinson died on Wednesday aged 88 (PA) Sir Michael Parkinson died on Wednesday aged 88 (PA)

Jimmy Tarbuck has revealed he planned to have lunch with Sir Michael Parkinson this week as he paid tribute to a friend he called a “giant of our industry”.

Chat show host Sir Michael has been praised by his celebrity guests including Sir Elton John, Sir Rod Stewart, Sir David Attenborough and David Beckham following his death at the age of 88 on Wednesday night after a brief illness.

Tarbuck recalled his recent meeting with Sir Michael while speaking to Good Morning Britain on Friday.

The veteran comedian said: “Last week at the house, I was with young Michael, his son, and (I) said ‘I’ll go now, you’re getting a bit tired’. He said: ‘Yeah, okay. Thanks for coming, lunch next week?’

“I said: ‘You arrange it and I’ll be there,’ and unfortunately I won’t.”

Known as Parky, Sir Michael interviewed some of Hollywood’s biggest names throughout his illustrious career, though remained firmly grounded in his northern roots.

Tarbuck, 83, said Sir Michael was a “great journalist” and a “modest man” who was “delightful company”.

He also said: “Simply the best… he listened, and he could be serious and he had serious people on his shows.

“It was just compelling viewing and I think personally they should run (rebroadcast) nine of his shows, his best interviews, he gave birth to people (like) Billy Connolly – nationally…

“My first one on (his show), I’m not praising but I had a good night and it was so good that it got me back on (Tonight) At The Palladium and I was grateful to him.”

Looking tearful, Tarbuck added: “He was a giant, a giant of our industry. I’m getting choked now, he was a giant friend and he was a giant friend to me.”

Actress Dame Maureen Lipman, who recently had lunch with Sir Michael and was one of his first guests during his brief stint on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, told the PA news agency he was “interested and interesting” the last time she saw him.

She said: “He was one of the Northern lads for whom Granada (Television) was an extension of university. His transfer to light entertainment was a result of his good looks, personable manner and ready wit.”

After growing up in a council house in the coal-mining village of Cudworth, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire, Sir Michael left school aged 16.

He went on to work at a local paper, later joining the Manchester Guardian and then the Daily Express before landing his first TV job as a producer at Granada.

Sir Michael later moved to Thames TV, before landing his chat show Parkinson at the BBC.

His intimate celebrity interviews, most notably on BBC show Parkinson which first aired on June 19 1971, propelled him into the spotlight.

Sir Michael’s show enjoyed a successful run until 1982 before being revived by the BBC in 1998 and proving again to be an instant hit.

It switched to ITV1 in 2004 and ran until 2007 – the same year Sir Michael retired from his Sunday morning Radio 2 programme.

Jamie Cullum, who performed on Sir Michael’s show in 2003 in one of his first big TV appearances as a young musician, remembered his interview style.

The singer-songwriter told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “He was fascinated by people, and I always found that being interviewed by him, he would genuinely be interested in the answer, and I particularly found that with musicians.

“He has that passion for the minutiae of what it means to be any kind of artist or sportsman and what that particular obsession is that gets you to where you want to be. He just wanted to know – he was hungry for those answers.”

Sir Michael also made headlines with some more difficult encounters, including with actresses Dame Helen Mirren and US star Meg Ryan.

He famously introduced stage and screen star Dame Helen as the “sex queen” of the Royal Shakespeare Company during a 1975 chat show, and asked if her “equipment” hindered her being recognised as a serious actress.

In 2003, a frosty one-on-one with Hollywood actress Ryan while she was promoting the poorly received erotic thriller In The Cut saw her stony-faced for the sit-down, delivering one-word answers after allegedly being rude to fellow guests.

Dickie Bird, who opened the batting for Barnsley Cricket Club with Sir Michael in their youth and remained friends with him, spoke to PA of his “dear friend” saying: “There will never be another Parky.

“He was so close to me.

“His friendship meant more to me than anything else. If I wanted any advice I would ring Parky up. He helped me in so many, many ways.

“There will never be anyone better than him in your lifetime, my lifetime or anyone else’s lifetime.”