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TV Legends: Des O’Connor



When it comes to being well-preserved, sun-bronzed entertainer Des O’Connor makes Cliff Richard look more like Cliff Michelmore. The man with the tan started his showbiz career in the 1950s and has never looked back.

Des was born in 1932, the son of road sweeper. He was a sickly child and fought to overcome illnesses such as rickets, diptheria and glandular fever.

Early Ambition
Des’s early ambition was to be a professional footballer, which ironically led to his showbiz career. ‘I played in one match,’ says Des. ‘And the manager said I ought to be a comedian. And here I am.’

Early Years
Des’s first job was as a complaints clerk in a shoe factory. He then broke into showbiz as a redcoat at Butlins holiday camp.

TV Debut
In the late 1950s Des appeared on the musical quiz game Spot the Tune.

Des O'Connor

Des with Tom Jones on his 1960’s self titled show.

Big Break
The Des O’Connor Show, a mixture of comedy, music and chat which ran throughout much of the Sixties. Des was ably assisted by the likes of Jack Douglas with his legendary Alf Ippititimus act.

Musical Magic
Des has had a string of hits and, although they have been the butt of many a joke (most notably the running Morecambe and Wise gag of Des’s lack of singing skills), it has been ol’ smiler himself who has been laughing all the way to the bank. His first big hit was Careless Hands in 1967, which reached Number Six in the charts. This was followed by his only UK Number One I Pretend. Although never quite reaching those dizzy heights again, Des had a string of lesser hits including the memorable 1-2-3 O’Leary, Dick-a-Dum-Dum, Loneliness, I’ll Go On Hoping, The Tip of My Fingers and together with Roger Whittaker The Skye Boat Song in 1986.

Career Highlights
Apart from being a regular sparring partner of Morecambe and Wise and having his singing being the butt of many of their jokes Des hosted long running The Des O’Connor Show. He has also hosted Des, Des O’Connor Entertains, Des O’Connor Tonight, Take Your Pick and Pot of Gold. He has also been compere of Sunday Night at the London Palladium. He also found time to host Countdown for a couple of years from 2007-2008.

Des O'Connor

In Private
Des has been divorced three times and married four times. He married his first wife, Phyllis, in 1951 and they divorced in 1958. They have a daughter, Karen. In 1962 he married wife number two, Gillian. This time the marriage lasted 19 years and they have two children, Tracey and Samantha. Des married for the last time in 1987 to Jay and the marriage ended in 1991. They have a daughter, Kristina. In 1992 Des began stepping out with 31-year old singer Jodie Wilson, who used to bang the gong for Des on Take Your Pick, they married in 2011.

Des on Des
‘I have been called a workaholic but I have never done a day’s work since I came into showbusiness. Anyone who is lucky enough to love what they’re doing is not really working.’



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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