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Cilla Black

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Date of Birth: 27 May 1943, Vauxhall, Liverpool, UK
Birth Name: Priscilla Maria Veronica White
Nicknames: Cilla Black

Cilla Black, broke through in the 1960s as a buck-toothed pop singer in the Merseybeat boom and went on to become one of the enduring stars of television light entertainment, hosting the brassy Saturday night favourites Surprise, Surprise and Blind Date. 
In August 1963 she was a 20-year-old typist in a Liverpool office. A month later, having left the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein smitten, she recorded her first hit, Love of the Loved, a Paul McCartney number. By 1965 she had become the female symbol of British youth  with two No 1 hits and a season at the London Palladium, and by 1968 she was a millionaire at 25. A quarter of a century later she was the highest-paid female entertainer on British television. 
She made a career out of what one critic described as “the phenomenon of ordinariness”. Indeed she would scarcely demur at the description “dead common”. “Class, I haven’t,” she conceded, “but style I’ve got.” As the Liverpool docker’s daughter and ingenue pop star trailing in the Beatles’ wake, Cilla Black resolutely adhered to type: lacquered mane of flame-red hair (the consequence of a sixpenny rinse at the age of 13) short skirts, long legs and a strong Scouse accent. 

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After starring in her own BBC series Cilla in the late 1960s, she moved to ITV to star in a live Saturday night variety show, popping up “somewhere in Britain” with a camera crew to knock at someone’s front door. She once famously disturbed a man who skulked blinking on to his balcony followed by someone else’s wife wrapped in a sheet; another “Come on, luv, it’s Cilla 'ere” intrusion took her into a room where rows of embarrassed men on chairs who muttered one-word answers to her increasingly querulous questions turned out to be the clientele of the local brothel. 

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It was her ability to combine mischievous curiosity with deadpan humour that sealed her success with Surprise, Surprise (1984) on ITV, the strangely gripping show for which she was paid £15,000 a week. As well as emotional reunions of long-lost relatives, the show featured “Cillagrams”, in which she again turned up at a location unannounced but this time marking some special occasion with a song. Invited to the run-down port of Holyhead by the local Mayor, she sang Hooray for Holyhead in the main street, the watching crowds swelled by the staff of Woolworths who trooped out to hear her while looters trooped in through the back door and plundered the shop. 
Unashamedly working-class, the show was panned by the critics as rubbish, but Cilla was unflinching. “I didn’t choose television. Television chose me,” she said. “I was a bit of fun and a bit of Scouse rough and everybody liked me, I was normal. I could have been the kid next door. And then I turned into the auntie next door. And now I’m the granny next door.” 
But accusations of bad taste followed when, at Christmas 1987, the show took her to a hospital at Zeebrugge where victims of the ferry disaster were being treated, and she led medical staff and survivors through the streets of Bruges singing Little Drummer Boy. 
“She really is a battler,” noted The Daily Telegraph critic, “and has honed to a fine edge her skills of cajolery, intimacy and self-deprecation .” 

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Her second television hit, Blind Date, launched in 1985, was a game of flirtatious lucky-dip between the sexes featuring participants separated by a screen who paired off without seeing each other amid laboured, scripted repartee. She had seen the show while touring in Australia, thought it hysterical and urged LWT to make a British version. The programme was compulsive viewing for many, although it came to be criticised for its increasingly explicit sexual innuendo. 
The success rate for many of the couples was low, and most viewers tuned in to watch Cilla’s brilliantly scathing put-downs delivered (usually to the men) with robust Scouse grit. Three of the paired-up couples did, however, get as far as the altar after meeting on the show, and Cilla was guest of honour at all three weddings. In January 2003 she announced during a live broadcast that she was leaving Blind Date after 18 years. Paul O’Grady and Dale Winton were both lined up to replace her, but the show was cancelled after she left. 
Priscilla Maria Veronica White was born in Liverpool on May 27 1943, the only daughter of a Mersey docker. Her mother ran a market stall selling stockings and trinkets. The family lived in a four-roomed council flat above a barber’s shop on Scotland Road, the rough and ready “Scottie Road” of Liverpool folklore and an Irish-Catholic stronghold; until she was nine, they had no indoor lavatory and bathed in a tin tub in front of the kitchen stove. 

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Priscilla Maria Veronica White was born 27 May 1943, Vauxhall, Liverpool, UK and educated at St Anthony’s Catholic secondary modern school nearby, she left at 15 to learn office skills at Anfield Commercial College. Within a year, she had taken a job at £4 a week as a filing clerk at British Insulated Callenders Cables, where she typed and deployed her 80wpm shorthand, supplementing her wages during her lunch hour by checking the coats at the Cavern Club, the up-and-coming music venue in Mathew Street in Liverpool city centre. At night she sang with some of the emergent Merseybeat groups such as Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and the Big Three. 
At the nearby Iron Door club, she also sang with the still-unknown Beatles, courtesy of John Lennon who called her “Cyril”. In early 1962 Lennon introduced her to the Beatles’ new manager, Brian Epstein, who rejected her after she underwent an impromptu audition in the middle of a Beatles show at the Majestic ballroom in Birkenhead; she sang Gershwin’s Summertime but it was not in her key. 
Her luck changed when, accompanied by John Rubin’s modern jazz group, she sang a few standards at the Blue Angel club, not knowing that, again, Epstein was in the audience. By now the Beatles were on their way to stardom, and Epstein’s talent stable was expanding. “Why didn’t you sing like that before?” Epstein asked. He was convinced that Cilla would become a huge star. Having changed her name to Cilla Black (the local Mersey Beat newspaper had mistakenly called her by the wrong colour) she made her first proper appearance with the Beatles at the Odeon, Southport, on August 30 1963, watched by Epstein’s father, Harry, who predicted she would be “the next Gracie Fields”. 

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A week later, over Sunday tea, Cilla and her father signed a contract with Brian Epstein. She was to be his first designer pop star and so was born Cilla black. 
Cilla’s first single, Love of the Loved, written by Paul McCartney, charted disappointingly at number 35. But in February 1964 she had her first number one with Burt Bacharach’s Anyone Who Had A Heart. The American singer Dionne Warwick, who had already released her own recording of the song in the US, was miffed; while her version sounded effortless it was apparent that, as one critic put it, “Cilla was straining her garters”. Cilla Black herself recalled 30 years later: “Dionne was dead choked and she’s never forgiven me to this day.” 
Epstein had heard Warwick’s record in the USA and had returned to Britain with a copy which he played to the producer George Martin. He immediately declared it would be perfect for Shirley Bassey. When Epstein insisted he had earmarked it for Cilla, Martin doubted that the Liverpool singer had the vocal ability to pull off such a powerful number. In the event Cilla’s recording sold a million copies. 
When in May she followed up with a second No 1, You’re My World, Cilla became the first British female singer to have two successive No 1 hits. She appeared in that year’s Royal Variety Performance, where she met Gracie Fields, who did not take to her. Nor did Noël Coward, watching in the stalls, who thought her “ghastly beyond belief”. 

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In November 1966 she appeared with the comedian Frankie Howerd in Way Out in Piccadilly (Prince of Wales), the start of a long-standing friendship between them. The following year she signed a £63,000 contract to present her own series, Cilla, on BBC Television. Paul McCartney wrote the signature tune, Step Inside Love, and the critics loved her. “She’s ordinary and unassuming,” noted Philip Purser in The Sunday Telegraph, “and still tickled to death at being plucked out of the typing pool by the great god Pop.” 
Cilla Black married her long-time boyfriend and manager, Bobby Willis, in 1969 who later died in 1999.

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An appearance on Terry Wogan’s television chat show in 1983 was followed by a similar date with Jimmy Tarbuck on ITV; this was seen by John Birt, then director of programmes for LWT, who was struck by her fresh, unaffected, and “delicious, naturally funny” style. Realising her potential as a game show host, he booked her for Surprise, Surprise. She became a regular guest at Birt’s lunches for fellow celebrity Scousers when, with the likes of Anne Robinson, Roger McGough and Robert Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury, she tucked in to chip butties, scouse stew with pickled beetroot and jelly and evaporated milk. 
Cilla Black never refused an interview request, the River Room at the Savoy being her venue of choice, and the presence of her beloved husband being a pre-condition a relic of her being invited, by one journalist in the 1960s, to stroke his war wound. 
Politically, she swung from supporting Harold Wilson in the 1960s to backing John Major in the 1990s. She was an enthusiastic supporter of Margaret Thatcher . In August 2014, she was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to the Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September’s referendum. 
Cilla Black was named ITV Personality of the Year for Blind Date in 1987 and Variety Club Showbusiness Personality of 1991. She won a Bafta in 1995, but disliked being labelled a television presenter. “I always think of myself as a singer. That’s what I want on my gravestone: Here lies Cilla Black, singer. Not TV presenter.” 
Appointed OBE in 1997, the proudest moment of her career, she once declared, was “absolutely rubbing shoulders with and meeting the Royal family”. At her own palatial 10-bedroomed house in Denham, Buckinghamshire, once owned by Sir Malcolm Sargent and bought in 1965 for £40,000, she enjoyed her 17-acre garden and, in keeping with her lifelong frugality, vacuumed it herself every Sunday (the housekeeper’s day off) “in case the Queen drops in”. 
She published her memoirs, Step Inside, in 1985. In 1994 she turned down an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University (formerly Polytechnic) when some of the students complained it would “devalue” their degrees. 

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In 2014 the actress Sheridan Smith gave a highly acclaimed performance in Cilla, a three-part television drama about Cilla Black’s rise to fame, acted, noted The Daily Telegraph, with a “killer combination of warmth, mischievousness and vulnerability”. Cilla herself described the portrayal as “terrific”, adding, “but God knows how she sang so well with those false teeth in.” 
“I didn’t want to be Doris Day,” Cilla Black once reflected, “but I wanted what went with it. She’d talk about her backyard and it was three acres of lawn; our backyard was where we kept the coal. I wanted her backyard, the fame and fortune. If there had been Blind Date then, I would have been first in the queue.” 

Joan Rivers

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Date of Birth: 8 June 1933, Brooklyn, New York, US
Birth Name: Joan Alexandra Molinsky
Nicknames: Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers, was best known for her acerbic, backbiting humour. Tiny and sharp-boned with candyfloss blonde hair and talon-like fingernails, she started her routines with her catchphrase “Can we talk?” and maintained that she only asked “the questions that truly obsess America”.
She insisted that she got most of her source material from the notorious American publication the National Enquirer (“I never go to the bathroom without it”), and often used headlines such as “Who chooses the Queen’s clothes?” as the basis for her insult-laden comments.
Described by fellow comics as having a “karate-like attack” and a “knee to the groin” delivery, Joan Rivers’s stage persona relied heavily on the quick-fire insult (“Mosquitoes see Liz Taylor and shout 'Buffet!’”) combined with an endless stream of self-deprecating satires (“I’m the tackiest person I know, and I haven’t forgotten Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter”). She claimed that she drew her inspiration from Lenny Bruce, whom she first saw in the early 1960s: “He confirmed my ideas about comedy, of using personal pain and insight to generate comedic material.”

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Dismissed by some critics, who saw her masochistic routines (“Men who look down my dress usually compliment me on my shoes”) as a throwback to the 1950s, Joan Rivers nevertheless proved successful with audiences. After spending 15 years playing what she described as “mafia-owned strip joints”, she emerged as America’s most highly paid comedienne. In 1983 she became the first woman regularly to host the Tonight Show when presenter Johnny Carson was on holiday, establishing her firmly in the pantheon of the nation’s television entertainers. In 1986 she defected to Rupert Murdoch’s recently launched Fox Broadcasting Co to star in a rival to Carson’s programme.
Similarly, when she was signed by London Weekend Television for a series of six programmes (Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?) in 1986, the early shows attracted some 11 million viewers, but by the end of the series the public was expressing a preference for alternatives such as Gardeners’ World and One Man and His Dog.
Later, after the suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, Joan Rivers returned to the cabaret circuit, touring extensively in both the United States and Britain. Following an appearance as a presenter of the 1987 Emmy awards and seasons at Las Vegas, she became a regular guest on ABC’s Hollywood Squares game show.

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She was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn, New York, on June 8 1933, the younger daughter of Dr Meyer Molinsky and his wife Beatrice. Both her parents were Russian-Jewish refugees, and Rivers recalled that her mother never fully adjusted to life in the United States (her family had been responsible for supplying the Tsar with furs in pre-Revolution Russia). “She had a pathological fear of poverty,” Rivers recalled. “She spent her time talking about her childhood in Russia and forcing my father to pay for maids and governesses.”
She also remembered her childhood as being “full of domestic tension”. As a “fat, ugly child”, she felt that she could never fulfil her parents’ expectations, and that she was “outshone” by her elder sister. “It made me a manic overachiever,” she said. “I wanted to be better, smarter and thinner than my sister at any cost.” In later life, her horror of being fat and unattractive manifested itself in chronic dieting and plastic surgery.

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Joan Rivers said that her earliest hopes were of becoming a serious actress after playing “the Healthy Tooth” in a production at kindergarten. She immediately encountered serious opposition from her parents, who considered acting an unsuitable profession for a girl. Her mother’s antipathy continued throughout Joan’s childhood and adolescence. At her private school, Joan took elocution lessons (though she would never lose her strong Brooklyn accent), and also learnt to play piano and violin.
Still against her parents’ wishes, at school Joan became involved in drama. Aged eight, she had sent a photograph of herself and her personal details to the casting department of MGM; and at 17 she landed a small part in the film Mr Universe. Threatened by her family with being cut off from her family and friends, she capitulated, agreeing to attend Connecticut College and later Barnard College, where she studied English and Anthropology.
On completing her course she turned down both an opportunity to study at Rada in London and an apprenticeship at a local drama company. This was to placate her mother, who was eager that she should marry and settle down. After working for a time as fashion coordinator for a large chain store (and taking the surname Rivers), in 1957 she married the boss’s son, Jimmy Sanger. The union was annulled after only five months. “We tried marriage guidance,” Joan Rivers recalled, “but the counsellor took one look at us and said 'No way’.”
Six months later she returned to her original plan of becoming an actress. As previously threatened, her parents disowned her, and Joan was forced to find work as a temporary clerk to finance her embryo acting career. But she discovered that she could earn $5 a night as a stand-up comic at a local club (50 cents more than she was earning as a clerk), and made her professional debut in 1960.
Now seeing herself as a primarily as a comedienne, Joan joined an improvisational theatre company in Chicago. A year later she returned to New York where, unable to find work, she began performing for nothing at a number of clubs in Greenwich Village, among them the Showplace.
By the early Sixties Joan Rivers had developed her confidential style of performance, saying that she wanted to speak “directly and personally to the audience”. After an unsuccessful year in the comedy trio Jim, Jake and Joan, she returned to solo performance in 1964 at The Duplex, where she was spotted by Roy Silver (who had earlier launched the career of Bill Cosby).
While Silver tried repeatedly to get her a booking on the Tonight Show, Joan wrote for television shows such as Candid Camera and The Ed Sullivan Show, and producing material for Zsa Zsa Gabor and Phyllis Diller. By 1965, agents had begun to dismiss her as “too old” to make a success as a solo comic, but after eight auditions Silver finally secured her a spot on the Tonight Show. She was an immediate hit, and was offered bookings in all the leading comedy clubs; she was placed under contract by NBC, and recorded her first comedy album for Warner Brothers (Joan Rivers Presents Mr Phyllis).

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After a five-year engagement at Upstairs at the Downstairs in Greenwich Village, and a cameo role in the Burt Lancaster vehicle The Swimmer (1968), she was offered her own show by NBC. That Show was screened every morning and included Joan Rivers’s monologues and ad lib conversations with the audience.
Throughout the Seventies, Joan Rivers continued to gain popularity, despite occasional flops such as the Broadway comedy Fun City (1971). In 1971 she was the first woman to host the Tonight Show for a full week; in 1973 she wrote and produced the hugely popular television film The Girl Most Likely To…; and in 1978 she made her directorial debut in Rabbit Test. Although this film was panned by the critics, it made a profit and enabled her to set up her own production company, Shafta Productions.
She also wrote a thrice-weekly column for The Chicago Tribune from 1973 to 1976, and published her first book, Having a Baby Can Be a Scream (which she described as a “catalogue of gynaecological anxieties”) in 1975.
By the early 1980s Joan Rivers was established as one of the most popular comediennes in the United States, enjoying sell-out tours. She appeared as guest host of Saturday Night Live and released another album, What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?, which won a Grammy. In 1983 she was made permanent guest host on the Tonight Show, a slot she filled for the next three years. She distinguished herself from other chat show hosts by routinely insulting her guests.
On one occasion she claimed that she “had Victoria Principal [the Dallas actress] hysterical” when she inquired about the star’s proposed marriage to the Bee Gee Barry Gibb; Victoria Principal dismissed the rumour, at which point Joan Rivers claimed that Victoria had earlier shown her the engagement ring.

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By now Joan Rivers was appearing on magazine covers; addressing the National Federation of Republican Women; and commanding fees of $200,000 for a five-night booking at Las Vegas. Her first novel, The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz, topped the bestseller list for 18 weeks. In 1984 she made her first appearance in Britain, in LWT’s An Audience With.
In 1986 Joan Rivers published an autobiography, Enter Talking. It was also the year she fell out with her mentor Carson over the Fox Network’s The Late Show with Joan Rivers. This was in direct competition with Carson’s Tonight Show, on which Rivers frequently guest hosted. As it turned out, the Rivers show was soon cancelled after dropping in the ratings; the critics had complained that Joan Rivers was “too kind” to the guests on her show. She fared little better when she came to Britain for Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?
Carson, meanwhile, hurt that Rivers hadn’t consulted him about her plans, banned her from appearing on his show. She responded in an allusion to Carson’s numerous divorces that she was “the only woman in the history of the world who left Johnny Carson and didn’t ask him for money”. The prohibition lasted until earlier this year, when the current host Jimmy Fallon finally invited the comedienne back. “The last time I was on the show, Melissa [her daughter] was in diapers,” Rivers joked. “Now, I’m in diapers.”
Joan Rivers believed that the cancellation of her talk show was what led to her husband’s suicide in 1987. Rosenberg had served as executive producer on the show and had been suffering from heart trouble. “The guilt never goes,” Rivers said in 2002. “For years and years I would suddenly stop and find myself thinking: you son of a b----! How could you?” She surprised some of her fans by embarking on what she called “a merry widow tour”, performing in clubs in Europe and the United States. It drew mixed reactions: in Los Angeles she was booed after telling gags about her husband’s death (“I couldn’t identify the body, I hadn’t looked at him for years. I said, 'I think it’s him, let me see the ring’.”) She also confided to friends that her relationship with Rosenberg had been a “total sham”, and complained bitterly about his treatment of her during their 22-year marriage.

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The performer threw herself into her various business projects. As she entered her seventh decade there was no sign that her energy was flagging. She recalled that her aunt Alice used to say that “the person who is happy is the person who gets up wanting something”. In Joan Rivers’s case, the mixture of excitement and anxiety involved in making money, and avoiding penury, drove her on.
She was intermittently successful: her Joan Rivers Worldwide Inc business, selling opulent costume jewellery on television shopping channels, turned over more than $25 million a year at its height. However, that all went wrong when a partner in the business absconded with $37 million. “I used to wake up thinking of that number,” Rivers recalled. The partner went to jail but Rivers had to sell her name and jewellery designs to stave off bankruptcy.

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In 2010 a warts-and-all documentary, Joan Rivers: a Piece of Work, showed a workaholic Rivers at 77 performing her one-woman show in the UK and being chauffered to gigs. It opened with alarmingly close shots of Rivers’s surgically enhanced face without make-up.
Joan Rivers’s career experienced an upswing during the last years of her life. She continued performing both live and on television. Recently she stirred up controversy by making tasteless jokes about the Israel-Gaza crisis. When a reporter told her that 2,000 Palestinians had been killed in the conflict, she raised her hands in mock shock and said: “They were told to get out. They didn’t get out. You don’t get out, you are an idiot.”
She enjoyed collecting antiques (“If Louis XIV hasn’t sat on it, I don’t want it”) and described her offstage persona as “shy, introverted and bookish” “That awful, vulgar, loud woman on stage, that’s not me. I wouldn’t want to be her friend.”

Peaches Geldof

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Date of Birth: March 13 1989, London, UK
Birth Name: Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof
Nicknames: Peaches Geldof

Peaches Geldof, who has died suddenly aged 25, was a journalist, model and television presenter. But her chief occupation was being Peaches Geldof, daughter of the celebrities Bob Geldof and Paula Yates.
This was by no means an easy task. Her parents divorced when she was seven; her mother, also a television presenter, then began dating the Australian rock singer Michael Hutchence, who was found hanged in 1997. Three years later Paula Yates herself was dead of a heroin overdose.
The daisy-chain of tragedy in which Peaches Geldof found herself enmeshed ensured that she was, even before she turned 12, projected firmly into the public eye. It was a spotlight from which she was never able, or never willing, to withdraw. Indeed, it was typical of her relationship with publicity that she gave interviews to rail against the media. Recently, with the rise of social media, she became a dedicated user of Twitter and Instagram, showering her hundreds of thousands of followers with personal thoughts and pictures. Her final tweet, written the day before she died, was: “Me and my mum”. It provided a link to a photo of the infant Peaches in Paula Yates’s arms.
Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof was born in London on March 13 1989, the second of three sisters, of whom Fifi Trixibelle was the eldest and Pixie the youngest. She would also gain a half-sister, Tiger-Lily, from her mother’s relationship with Hutchence.

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Peaches’s upbringing was marked not just by her parents but also by the family nanny, Anita Debney, who reportedly helped provide a stable environment for the three girls. That stability was fatally undermined when Paula Yates went to live with Hutchence. The stress of the bitter divorce was exacerbated by Paula Yates’s drug taking. Anita Debney was fired, and “family friends” later told newspapers that Peaches “got the worst” of the fall out. “I can’t even begin to describe what that poor girl lived through,” said one, Gerry Agar.
On the day of Paula Yates’s death, Peaches and her siblings moved in with Bob Geldof and his French partner, Jeanne Marine. Living in south-west London, Peaches attended Queen’s College in Harley Street.
But it soon became apparent that she was not going to retreat into a normal, if privileged, adolescence. Instead she began writing a magazine column for Elle Girl; The Telegraph and The Guardian also published articles under her byline which revealed a clever, bombastic teenager with refreshingly unvarnished opinions. “At the prospect of spending time in the country, I shudder,” she wrote in this paper. “This feeling hasn’t grown on me gradually I’ve always hated it. Not only is it boring but, I also genuinely believe that it slowly drives people insane.” Her media career had begun.
By 2006 her fame was such that she was being interviewed in her own right, offering her thoughts on everything from Jane Austen to Tony Blair her plummy-toned musings peppered with the refrains “Omigod” and “like”. Even then, however, a large part of the fascination she held for onlookers appeared to be whether or not she would manage to avoid the fate of her mother.
“Some newspapers are saying she’s set on the same trajectory as her mother: hooked on fame, got her tongue pierced, goes to too many parties, blah blah blah. I can’t see it,” wrote Robert Crampton in The Times in 2006. Two years later, Giles Hattersley, in The Sunday Times, was more concerned. “I worry for her,” he wrote. “She missed her childhood and now has to cope with living on her own, dodging paps and having all her mistakes splashed on the front pages and she is still only 19. On reflection, I don’t think she’s like her mother. But this clever, troubled baby-woman would benefit from having her around.”
The person most aware of this was Peaches Geldof herself, particularly as she began to dabble with drugs something she was prepared to admit (though she denied taking crack, and said that one story of an “overdose” was “overblown”). Comparisons with her mother were, she said, “lame”, fears for her well-being, misplaced, voyeuristic even. “It’s like people almost wish it would happen. But if my mother died in a car crash, does that mean I would have to run out in front of a car and it would be history repeating itself? If I was photographed by a road, would it be: 'Peaches Geldof gets too close! She’s following in the path of her mother!’ every time?”
By then her media career had quickly moved from print to the screen, first with a documentary series (Peaches Geldof, Teenage Mind, 2005) and then, three years later, with the reality show Peaches: Disappear Here for MTV. She designed a collection for the fashion label PPQ and signed a lucrative contract to become “the face” of Ultimo underwear. But the deal was scuppered when scurrilous pictures of her and more rumours of drug taking began to circulate on the internet. In 2011 she presented the chat show OMG! with Peaches Geldof on ITV, but it was not a rating success.

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In September the following year she married Thomas Cohen, a singer with the London band S.C.U.M. the wedding was held in Davington, Kent, in the church where her parents had married and where mother’s funeral had been held in 2000. Fulfilling a promise made in a Telegraph column to “carry on this ancient tradition of exotic yet pointless names” she named their sons Astala Dylan Willow and Phaedra Bloom Forever. The children’s arrival seemed to mark a new era in her life. “I’m in bed by 8pm nearly every night,” she said in October last year. “This is not what I thought I’d be doing three years ago when I was the poster girl for partying in London.”
It was her second marriage, following her first, brief, union, in August 2008 at the age of 19 to Max Drummey, a musician with the American band Chester French. They had known each other for a month and announced their split after nine months.
Peaches Geldof’s evident curiosity stretched far and wide. She declared herself fascinated by “quantum physics” and “wormholes” and “Stephen Hawking’s theories and Richard Dawkins’s theories. I’ve always been really interested in how we came to be and why. Which is how I guess I got involved in spirituality and stuff.”In 2009 she declared that she was “a Scientologist. I feel like I needed a spiritual path. I felt I was lacking something when I didn’t have a faith.” That November she attended the 25th anniversary of the International Association of Scientologists at Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, West Sussex, with 5,000 other Scientologists reportedly including the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
She later flirted with elements of Judaism and then, last year, waxed lyrical about “a belief system to apply to day-to-day life to attain peacefulness”. The system in question was the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) founded in the early 20th century and indelibly linked to the occultist Aleister Crowley. She had the initials OTO tattooed on her left forearm.
Peaches Geldof seemed to be looking forward to getting old. Or at least older. “I have so much shit put on me,” she said in 2008. “I haven’t felt like I was a teenager since I was 12. I’ve felt like I was 30 since I was 13. I don’t think I had a teenage time. Maybe my twenties will be easier.”

Norman Collier

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Date of Birth: 25 December 1925, Hull, UK
Birth Name: Norman Victor Collier
Nicknames: Norman Collier

Norman Collier belonged to the tradition of northern comics on which television feasted in the 1970s and 1980s before dumping them in favour of “alternative” comedians.
Collier started out on the northern club circuit, attracting an enthusiastic regional following before coming to wider attention with his debut on the Royal Variety Show in 1971. “Unknown comedian Norman Collier won a standing ovation for his act,” reported the Daily Express. “Norman turned out to be one of the big successes of this year’s Royal knees-up,” agreed the Daily Mirror.
He is perhaps best remembered for his recurring gag in which a northern club compère struggles with an intermittently faulty microphone; and another in which he created the noises, gestures and movements of a chicken, using his out-turned, off-the-shoulder jacket to suggest the creature’s wings, a routine that recalled the antics of Max Wall.
Drawing on the tradition of the 1950s radio comedian Al Read, Collier perfected a style of absurd situational monologues rather than relying on the usual rattle of quick-fire jokes. Although his set pieces often drew on northern working-class stereotypes, he made a point of avoiding the kind of racist material that proved the undoing of some other comedians, and made them unusable on television.
As well as making regular appearances on popular radio and television shows of the 1970s and 1980s, including The Generation Game, Blankety Blank and The Little And Large Show, Collier also toured extensively in Britain, the United States, Canada, Europe and the Far East. Jimmy Tarbuck became a fan, acclaiming Collier as “the comedian’s comedian”.
Collier stumbled into showbusiness by chance. In 1948, when he was working as a builder’s labourer, a friend invited him for a pint at the social club in Perth Street, round the corner from his house in Hull. When the booked comedian failed to appear, Collier stepped forward. “In those days, if the act didn’t turn up, they asked for a volunteer,” he explained. “The next thing I knew, I was being announced.”
Notwithstanding his lack of experience, Collier paid five shillings (25p) for a Variety Artists’ Association card that allowed him to work in the clubs; in post-war Hull the working men’s clubs were all privately owned.
While venturing further afield to appear at nightclubs in Doncaster and Goole, he spent his days employed as a labourer at the DCL chemical works (now BP) at Saltend, on the outskirts of Hull. Once, when moving some scrap, he found a funnel and, using it as a prop, started shouting “Vote for Collier” through it. When he realised the boss was watching, Collier expected to be sacked. Instead, when the boss pointed to all his smiling colleagues, he was told to carry on.
By 1962 Collier was getting so much nightclub work that he turned professional. Booked for a show called Clubland Performance in Blackpool, hosted by Michael Aspel, he was subsequently signed to Lew Grade’s talent agency and billed with Cliff Richard and the Shadows. Collier was soon touring Britain with other big stars of the day, such as the Everly Brothers.
One of Collier’s sketches about a mythical northern working men’s club in which he played various characters, including the cloth-capped chairman became the basis of Granada Television’s popular Wheeltappers’ and Shunters’ Social Club series in the mid-1970s.

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His own television debut was in 1965 on Let’s Laugh, made by the BBC in Manchester. Also on the bill was another unknown northern comedian, Les Dawson, and the singer Tom Jones, who, despite seeing his second single, It’s Not Unusual, rocket to the top of the record charts, arrived at the studios in a little blue van.
The eldest of eight children, Norman Victor Collier was born in Hull on Christmas Day 1925, and is said to have weighed 15lb 4oz at birth. His expanding family lived in a two-bedroomed house with an outside lavatory and no hot water. As the eldest child, Norman had to run errands and bathe the other children.
“We were like rats in a box,” he recalled. “Everything was on tick, and I used to run round to the shops at nearly closing time on a Sunday night and ask them to fill my carrier bag up with stale pastry for twopence. I also used to go to the old marketplace in Hull and bid for meat, sixpence a joint.”
At the age of 17 he joined the Royal Navy, and towards the end of the Second World War served as a gunner in an aircraft carrier.
Throughout his years on the club circuit, Collier invariably returned home to Hull after his show, regardless of whether he had been performing in Wales, London or on the south coast.
He claimed that he was kept “grounded” by his wife, Lucy, who would dispatch him and their son, Vic, who drove the car, with “snap” boxes of sandwiches wrapped in tin foil together with tea bags and powdered milk.
Collier also appeared frequently in pantomime, notably as Widow Twankey opposite the comedians Little and Large in Aladdin at the New Theatre, Hull. He continued to perform into his eighties. In 2009 he appeared with Tom O’Connor, Faith Brown, Bucks Fizz, Cannon and Ball and Ray Allen in a 25-night tour of The Best of British Variety.
Collier, a long-standing member of the Grand Order of Water Rats, raised thousands of pounds for charity by organising golf tournaments, and also played golf for the Variety Club of Great Britain. His autobiography, Just a Job, appeared in 2009.

Harry Greene

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Date of Birth: 21 November 1923, Bargoed, Wales, UK
Birth Name: Henry Howard Greenhouse
Nicknames: Harry Greene

Harry Greene became in the 1950s British television’s first do-it-yourself handyman, and created the formats for some of the home makeover shows that flourished on the small screen some 40 years later.
In 1955, with his wife, the actress Marjie Lawrence, Greene had starred in an early ITV soap opera, Round at the Redways, about a couple who run a DIY store, with Greene playing an inept repair man. When the producers were casting round for cheap new programme ideas, his wife suggested that Greene should film a DIY show about him renovating their flat in Primrose Hill, north London.
The result was Handy Round the Home, a programme launched in January 1957 in which Greene gave practical demonstrations that viewers at home could copy, always emphasising “Safety first DIY second”, which became his catchphrase.
Greene’s background lay in the theatre. In 1950 he had joined Joan Littlewood’s touring Theatre Workshop company, throwing up his job as a drama teacher for an itinerant life as an actor, scene-builder and stagehand on £3 a week. His transition to television in 1955 subsequently led to his appearing in some 35 feature films, alongside such stars as Sean Connery, Sir John Gielgud, Melina Mercouri, Lana Turner and Jean Seberg. Between acting jobs, Greene developed his own building company, learning individual trades by hiring subcontractors and working as, for example, an apprentice plasterer or bricklayer .
In the 1980s he devised, wrote and produced a TV-am series called Dream Home, in which he renovated a small tumbledown house in Hampshire which was later given away in a competition. In On The House he undertook a similar project for the BBC , building and completing a house from scratch. Greene contributed to the rash of home improvement shows that proliferated on daytime television from the 1990s. His concept proposal for a show called Room for a Change became the popular BBC strand Changing Rooms, which ran for eight years from 1996. For 10 years he was the DIY presenter on the QVC shopping channel.
He was born Henry Howard Greenhouse on November 21 1923 at Bargoed, south Wales, and brought up in the small mining town of Rhymney . From Rhymney Grammar School, he went to Newport Technical College, but on the outbreak of war joined the REME, from which he was seconded to classified work on tank design. Post-war he studied at Cardiff College of Art and trained as a draughtsman’s assistant, but at weekends he worked as a stagehand at the New Theatre, Cardiff. This led to amateur acting roles with the Unity Theatre company, and as a volunteer assistant on the weekly radio shows on BBC Wales starring the Welsh actor Eynon Evans.
In 1950, while teaching art and drama at Tredegar Grammar School, Greene took a class to see a performance of Ewan MacColl’s Uranium 235 by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. Littlewood was looking for a young Welshman to play Shakespeare’s Owen Glendower, and Taffy in MacColl’s Paradise Street. She also wanted someone who could build theatre sets . Greene resigned his teaching job the following day, joined the company, and realising that Harry Greenhouse would be a tight fit on theatre posters shortened his name to Harry Greene.
When the Theatre Workshop settled at a permanent base in Stratford, east London, Greene married an actress with the company, Marjie Lawrence, with whom he starred in commercial television’s first soap opera, the twice-weekly drama Round at the Redways.
He was the author of more than 20 books on DIY and home improvements, including The Harry Greene Complete DIY Problem Solver (2003).

Derek Batey

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Date of Birth: 8 August 1928, Brampton, Cumbria, UK
Birth Name: Derek Batey

Derek Batey, once asked a contestant on Mr and Mrs to name his wife's favourite flower. "Oh Derek, that's easy," came the reply from the husband as he smiled at his wife. "It's Homepride."
But the ITV show with which the Cumbrian presenter became synonymous, and which was watched by 11 million ITV viewers on Saturday nights by the late 1970s, was not premised on spreading marital misinformation to a nation of couch potatoes. Rather, its aim was to encourage conjugal felicity: the show's theme song went "Mr and Mrs, be nice to each other / Mr and Mrs, we've got to love one another". Coterminous with an era in which divorce rates soared and casual sex became socially unexceptionable, Mr and Mrs proselytised for the straight and narrow virtue of heterosexual commitment.

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The show's format was simple: one partner sat in a soundproofed booth while Batey asked the spouse three questions. For example: What is your partner's favourite way to eat an egg? What part of your partner's body is she or he most embarrassed about? What animal is your partner most scared of? The pair then swapped places. Couples who got one question correct won £10 and those who got all six right won a jackpot of £2,000. Losers received a carriage clock and Batey's condolences.
For viewers, one of Mr and Mrs' pleasures was the insight into the otherwise inscrutable privacy of the British marriage. Batey once asked: "When you're having a meal at home and there's no one else around, just you and your wife, do you always have serviettes, sometimes have serviettes, or never have serviettes?" "He looked at me for about three minutes," recalled Batey, "and then said slowly, 'Do you mean boiled or fried?' " It wasn't always husbands who gave dopey answers, but mostly. Perma-smiling Batey, with his dapper bouffant and unflappable geniality, was a perfect foil to such follies. The show made him a national star.
Until 1967, though, he had been merely a presenter and interviewer on Border Television, the long-defunct ITV franchise based in Carlisle. In that year, he saw a tape of a Canadian version of the show that had been on air for four years, and he realised its potential. "I liked it and decided to run a Border Television version of it for 13 weeks. The response from our viewers was fantastic and it stayed in our local schedule every year from then until daytime television opened up in 1973, when it was taken by the full ITV network and was an immediate hit nationally."

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He presented Mr and Mrs 500 times on television and 5,000 times on stage. For 12 years from 1975, he presented a Sunday-night stage version of Mr and Mrs at Blackpool's Central Pier.
Batey was born in Brampton, Cumbria, and won a scholarship to the local grammar school. He developed showbiz aspirations after watching variety acts including Arthur Askey, Will Fyffe, Ted Ray and Harry Lauder, and ventriloquist AC Astor, at Her Majesty's theatre, Carlisle.
In 1940, he bought a ventriloquist's doll for three guineas and called him Alfie. One day, little Derek was practising his ventriloquism act in the bedroom. "I heard a sort of squeaking noise behind me and turned round to see our window cleaner just about to fall off his ladder at the sight of a 12-year-old boy talking to a wooden doll in a mirror." After leaving school in 1944 to become articled to a firm of accountants, he continued with semi-professional "vent shows" several nights a week.
Batey's break came when he was booked by the BBC to perform his ventriloquism act, improbably, on local radio. Later he became a radio reporter on The Voice of Cumberland and Points North, a radio show from Manchester introduced by Brian Redhead. In 1957, he moved to TV as a regional compere on Come Dancing. In 1960 he was lured to become a presenter on the newly launched Border Television; there he produced and presented programmes about religion, politics and sport, and wrote calypso numbers.
As well as for Mr and Mrs, Batey was known in the 1970s for Look Who's Talking, a talk show whose guests included Ken Dodd, Norman Collier, Dukes and Lee, and Jim Bowen. At the height of his celebrity, Batey was on ITV three times a week – he also hosted Your 100 Best Hymns. In 1978, he joined Border's board of directors.

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After retirement, Batey divided his time between homes in St Anne's in Lancashire (where he kept his collection of ventriloquist's dolls, including the venerable Alfie), Gran Canaria and Florida.
ITV axed Mr and Mrs in 1988, but in 2006 the production company Celador considered a version with gay and/or unmarried contestants. Batey, who owned the rights to the show, frowned on the idea, saying: "It is a format that has lasted throughout the times and I see no reason to change it." But it did change: now Phillip Schofield presents a celebrity version of Mr and Mrs on ITV.

John Ammonds

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Date of Birth: 21 May 1924, Kennington, London, England, UK
Birth Name: John Ammonds

John Ammonds was one of British television's finest producer/directors specialising in the field of light entertainment. He shaped countless peak-time shows during the so-called "golden age" of TV; and helped Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise and many other major stars reach the summit of their small-screen careers, setting a standard of quality in terms both of content and form that continues to command respect.
Among his distinctive contributions to the success of the Morecambe and Wise show was the droll little dance with which Eric and Ernie ended each performance (Ammonds got the idea from seeing Groucho Marx do something similar in the 1932 film comedy Horse Feathers), the deployment of star guests as unlikely comic stooges, and Eric's use of the close-up to make conspiratorial remarks to the viewers (a conceit that has inspired many imitations). He also ensured, as the writer Eddie Braben's amiably relentless taskmaster ("If you sent him a Christmas card, you'd expect him to send it back for a rewrite"), that the standard of the scripts remained remarkably high.
Ammonds was a calmly efficient organiser and encourager of diverse talents, temperaments and techniques; he could be creative and flexible as well as disciplined and managerial; he possessed an exceptionally sharp eye and ear for detail; and he always acted as though he was the servant of the public rather than of his profession. The most polished of populists, he epitomised the BBC's traditional dictum about "giving viewers what they want but better than they expected it".
He was born in Kennington, London, to working-class parents. His mother, Jessie, one of 16 children, had married his father, John, a watchmaker, in what John junior described as a "shotgun wedding" and he would say later that he remembered only the arguments between this "quite unsuited" couple during his formative years.
It was his father who introduced him to the world of entertainment. As a frustrated actor with a passion for the work of Charles Dickens, Ammonds senior sometimes co-opted his son into the amateur dramatic troupe he had formed, the Dickensian Tabard Players, to tour the workhouses and prisons in and around Southwark. One of the most vivid memories John would retain of these juvenile performances was of the occasion when, aged about 13, he appeared as Oliver Twist in a production staged inside Holloway prison before an audience of "extremely interested" women prisoners: "They were good and started shouting and screaming only after Bill Sikes had killed Nancy."
Although John won a scholarship to a grammar school at Sutton in Surrey, he found much of his education uninspiring, preferring to amuse himself at home by constructing a variety of crystal and cat's whisker radio sets in his father's garden shed. Rather than stay on to complete his Higher School Certificate, he left at the age of 15 and instead sat the entrance examination to become a civil servant at the London county council (mainly because it seemed to promise a job for life and a pension at the end of it). After sampling the job on a part-time basis, however, he decided to try something else.
His career in broadcasting began in 1941, after he sent a speculative letter to the BBC asking if there were any openings for a junior engineer and was invited to apply to become a sound effects operator in the corporation's engineering division. He spent the next 13 years in the BBC's variety department at London, Bristol and Bangor, before moving to Manchester to be a producer. By the mid-1950s, he was responsible for several popular radio shows, working with such popular northern performers as Jimmy Clitheroe, Dave Morris and, in their debut series, Morecambe and Wise.
Moving into television at the end of the decade, John soon won a reputation not only for the competence of his productions but also for his knack of embellishing the image of his stars. It was his idea, for example, to begin Harry Worth's shows with a much-mimicked optical illusion, involving his "levitated" reflection in a shop window, and his idea again to get Val Doonican to croon one song each week sitting in the rocking chair that ended up being his trademark.
It was after he was reunited with Morecambe and Wise in 1968, however, that John achieved his greatest success, proving himself, not only as producer/director but also as an all-purpose creative sounding board, as invaluable to the pair as George Martin had been to the Beatles. He taught them how best to use their talents for television, turning their show into the most admired entertainment of the time.
He left the show in 1974, after eight series, in order to devote more time to his wife, Wyn, whom he had married in 1952 and had then recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. However, he continued to oversee numerous other productions for both the BBC and ITV, including shows featuring Mike Yarwood, Dick Emery and Les Dawson. He was also reunited once again with Morecambe and Wise when they asked him to supervise their final few shows for Thames.
Ammonds was appointed MBE in 1975 for his services to entertainment who retired from broadcasting in 1988. Living in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, he continued to help care for his wife until her death in 2009, and acted as a wise and generous adviser to many writers and documentary makers keen to chronicle the era of television he had graced.

Robert Marlowe

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Date of Birth: 19 April 1929, England, UK
Birth Name: Robert Marlowe

The days of the summer show, especially those staged on seaside piers, are almost over. One who championed their cause in the latter years was Robert Marlowe, who became particularly associated with productions in the Norfolk resort of Cromer.
He was stagestruck as a child. At the age of eight, he built a theatre from a summer house, designed and painted its sets and played a starring role, wearing a crimson velvet cloak with a fur-lined collar.
He worked first in engineering and dentistry, but then took up ballroom dancing and began winning medals as a teacher. His professional theatrical career began in a summer show at Clacton in Essex in 1953, followed by a pantomime at the Alhambra, Bradford, in which he quickly had to learn how to dance on stilts.

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Soon after that, he joined a nationwide tour of a Folies Bergere production, Paris to Piccadilly, which had enjoyed a long run in the West End. He spent four years with the comedian famous for his “odd odes”, Cyril Fletcher, who also ran summer shows. Over the years, Marlowe worked as a dancer, singer, cabaret artist, actor and writer of pantomimes.
His first association with Cromer came in 1982 when, at the invitation of the impresario Richard Condon, he took over a show in which the cast of 12 was occasionally outnumbered by the audience. Soon Marlowe’s production, Seaside Special, was attracting coachloads of theatregoers from all over eastern and south-east England. He ran the show for 20 years.
One of his friends, Paul Holman, whose company presents pantomimes and summer shows, said: “Bob was a great man of the theatre. He was an inspirational man and his passion was his profession.”

Andy Williams

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Date of Birth: 3 December 1927, Wall Lake, Iowa, US
Birth Name: Howard Andrew
Nicknames: Andy Williams

Through the popularity of his television show and his mellifluous tenor voice, Andy Williams, who has died aged 84 after suffering from bladder cancer, was one of the best-loved figures in American popular culture. In a career that spanned eight decades, he sold more than 100m albums. Ronald Reagan described Williams's distinctive voice as a "national treasure".
The Andy Williams Show was also a favourite on British television and he had numerous UK hits in the 1960s and 70s. Among the biggest were Can't Get Used to Losing You (1963), Can't Help Falling in Love (1970) and Where Do I Begin (1971), the theme from the 1970 film Love Story.
Williams's British career was revived in 1998 when his 30-year-old hit Can't Take My Eyes Off You was used in a commercial for Peugeot cars. Soon, a Fiat advertisement revived Music to Watch Girls By, and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (from one of his eight Christmas albums) was chosen for a Marks & Spencer Christmas campaign in 2002. He even appeared in an episode of Strictly Come Dancing in 2009 to sing Moon River.
Williams grew up in Wall Lake, Iowa, the second youngest of six children, to Jay and Florence Williams. His father, a railway worker, arranged for Andy and his three elder brothers, Bob, Don and Dick, to be the choir at the town's Presbyterian church. The quality of their harmonising inspired Jay to train the quartet for a professional career, beginning with performances at weddings and socials. His ambition for the boys led the family to move to Des Moines in 1936 to seek a regular radio show. There, Jay's perfectionism hardened into an obsession: Andy was to claim that his self-confidence was deeply dented by Jay's edict that "you have to practise harder because you're not as good as others out there".
The Williams Brothers were eventually awarded their own 15-minute show on a station where Reagan was a sports reporter. But the family were still not well off, and when the youngest child died of spinal meningitis, the only way the family could pay the funeral costs was for the brothers to sing hymns at the funeral parlour after school for several months.

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There were further moves to Chicago and Cincinnati so that the Williams Brothers could perform on more prestigious radio stations, and in 1944 the family uprooted again to Los Angeles. There, Jay Williams, by now his sons' full-time manager, negotiated a studio contract with MGM, which gave the quartet cameo roles in several B movies. He also persuaded Bing Crosby to employ them as backing singers on his hit record Swinging on a Star.
The group broke up as each brother was called up for second world war service – the 17-year-old Andy was briefly in the merchant navy and did not re-form until 1947. They next performed as a cabaret act, appearing in Las Vegas and the Café de Paris in London before splitting up in 1953. The actor and choreographer Kay Thompson then launched Andy on a solo career, which ignited when he landed a job as resident vocalist on Steve Allen's late night television show on NBC (1954-56).
In 1956 he signed a recording contract with Cadence, and the following year had a No 1 hit in both the US and Britain with Butterfly. Although Williams studied Elvis Presley's recordings, he avoided rock'n'roll and had four more top 10 hits with ballads. In 1961 CBS offered him a lucrative record deal.
The 1960s were to be his golden decade. The Andy Williams Show ran on NBC from 1962 to 1971, with consistently high ratings, and he had at least one album in the US top 10 in every year, aided by his musical director, the acclaimed jazz pianist Dave Grusin. The essential blandness of the show was reassuring to middle America, but it introduced new singers, notably the Osmonds, whom Jay Williams had spotted performing at Disneyland, and the fledgling Jackson Five, featuring a seven-year-old Michael.
The popularity of the show kept the crooning Williams afloat during the tidal wave of pop in the 1960s. Also, while contemporaries such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett were baritones, Williams, a tenor, shared his vocal range with the Beatles and Beach Boys.
All his albums of the 1960s sold more than one million copies each, with Moon River and Days of Wine and Roses each selling almost 2m. The latter was No 1 in the album charts for 16 weeks in 1963. When his contract with CBS came up for renewal in 1966, his manager, Alan Bernard, negotiated an unprecedented guarantee against royalties of £0.93m. In return, Williams agreed to record 15 albums over the next five years.
The formula for his albums was carefully calculated to attract fans of the television show. Williams seldom recorded new or unknown songs. Instead, he chose a mix of titles from successful movies, Broadway shows and versions of recent pop hits. Williams and his producer, Bob Mersey, were careful to include material by songwriters of the rock era, albeit their most melodic numbers. Thus, he recorded songs from the pens of Lennon and McCartney (Michelle), Burt Bacharach (Don't You Believe It) and Jim Webb (McArthur Park).
On one occasion, he decided to experiment with a "concept" album of songs by the arranger Mason Williams (no relation), depicting existence from birth to death. Clive Davis, the head of CBS Records, warned him that sales would suffer. After some haggling, the concept songs took up one side of the LP Bridge Over Troubled Water. Davis was proved right and the album sold only half a million copies.
The loss of his television show led to falling record sales for Williams in the early 1970s. However, his celebrity enabled him to play lucrative concerts and cabaret engagements throughout the US and Europe. In 1992 he opened his own Moon River theatre in Branson, Missouri, where he appeared for several months each year.

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Although he was a lifelong Republican, Williams became a close friend of Robert and Ethel Kennedy in the mid-60s. He was present when Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles during the 1968 campaign for the presidential nomination. Williams sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic at the funeral and voted for George McGovern at the Democratic party convention, having been nominated as a delegate by Kennedy. More in keeping with his political convictions was his outspoken criticism of Barack Obama, and he allowed the rightwing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh to broadcast his recording of Born Free with added gunshot sounds. Sony Music (now the owner of CBS Records) forced Limbaugh to remove it.
Williams was married twice. He had three children, Noelle, Christian and Bobby, named after Robert Kennedy, with his first wife, the singer and dancer Claudine Longet. After their divorce, he was publicly supportive when, following the death of her new partner in a shooting incident, she was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in 1977. He is survived by his second wife, Debbie Haas, and his children.