British TV Entertainer Des O'Connor Dies at 88

British TV Entertainer Des O'Connor Dies at 88
Des O'Connor, Jodie Brooke Wilson, and Adam O'Connor attend the press night for "Wicked" at Apollo Victoria Theatre in London, on Dec. 19, 2013. (Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Alexander Zhang

British TV entertainer Des O'Connor has died at the age of 88.

O'Connor had a long, internationally acclaimed career on television and on stage, presenting prime-time shows for 45 years.

He died “peacefully in his sleep” on Saturday, a week after suffering a fall at home, his agent and family friend Pat Lake-Smith confirmed.

Lake-Smith said O'Connor was “well loved by absolutely everyone” and “a joy to work with.”

Paying tribute to the TV legend, Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter: “A wondrously talented, warm, funny, charming man. Truly one of the nicest people in showbiz. What very sad news. Thanks for all the fun, Des.”

Susie Dent, the Countdown star, said: “We have lost a true gent, one who was never more than a note away from a song or a laugh, and who never failed to say ‘piddle, bum, and stocking tops’ if any of us fluffed a line. Countdown audiences adored him—and so did we. Sing on, Des.”

O'Connor “never took himself too seriously, which I always liked,” said Stephen McGann, the Call the Midwife star. “That generation of variety stars are slowly slipping away.”

O'Connor was born on Jan. 12, 1932, in Stepney, East London. During World War II his family moved to Northampton. After National Service with the Royal Air Force, during which his talent as a performer was acknowledged by his commanding officers, he entered the entertainment industry.

On stage he has starred at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, the Sydney Opera House, The O’Keefe Centre in Toronto, and made over 1,200 solo appearances at the London Palladium.

After landing his first television series in the UK in 1963, O’Connor starred in his own mainstream television show for over four decades.

He was also a successful recording star, producing 36 albums with sales of over 16 million, and spending 117 weeks in the top ten charts.

In 2007 O'Connor took the helm of the popular daily quiz show, Countdown, on Channel 4 for two years.

In 2001, he received the Special Recognition Award at the National TV Awards at the Royal Albert Hall. He was awarded a CBE in June 2008.