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Des O’Connor has died aged 88 - Ant and Dec among the stars paying tribute

Des O'Connor
(Image credit: Corbis via Getty Images)

Des O'Connor started out his career while completing his national service in the RAF

Des O’Connor, one of the true greats of the entertainment world, has died aged 88.

The much-loved star died on Saturday, the BBC reports, following a fall at his home in Buckinghamshire just over a week ago.

The tributes have been pouring in for the London-born presenter, chat show host, singer and comedian.

Ant and Dec, who return tonight with a new series of I’m A Celeb (opens in new tab), wrote: “We are very sad to hear of the passing of Des O’Connor, a consummate professional and a lovely man. He was a regular on our TV’s growing up and a gentleman whenever we met. Eric & Ernie will be waiting to have a laugh with you tonight Des.”

Carol Vorderman, who worked with Des when he fronted Countdown, tweeted: “So sad this morning to hear that Darling Des has passed away. He was the host of Countdown for a couple of years and was a joy to work with. Lively, funny, he ALWAYS wanted to entertain people. I will remember him most tho for his brilliant chat shows in the days when families would gather round the telly to watch, Des O’Connor was the King.”

Des O'Connor hosts a festive TV Times Awards in 1989

Des O'Connor on the cover of TV Times magazine

Des rose to fame in the 1950s with gameshow Spot the Tune and during the 1960s he hosted The Des O’Connor Show. He was also a regular at The Royal Variety Performance and popped up on everything from The Harry Seacombe Show to The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.

Des O'Connor... and Morecambe and Wise

Des O'Connor with Morecambe and Wise

Eric looks thrilled about getting a Des album! (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times via Getty Images)

Morecambe and Wise famously loved to tease Des about his singing, but the star of course had a hugely successful singing career, including four Top 10 hits. He made many appearances on Top of the Pops, spanning the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

More recently he hosted Today with Des and Mel and Countdown. For his 80th birthday in 2012 he made an ITV special called The One and Only Des O’Connor.

During a chat with TV Times, Des recalled how he started out his career while completing his national service in the RAF.

“There was one time I was doing an impression of the commanding officer and all the boys stopped laughing. I heard this slow clapping and the officer was there. He said, ‘Very funny O’Connor. I think the entire camp should see that.’ I was literally ordered onto the stage!”

Talking in the same interview about the highlights of his career, Des said: “It was wonderful filming An Audience with Des O’Connor in 2001. Walking on to 500 famous faces and seeing them all stand up. It made up for all the insults over the years!”

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!