Artist, choreographer and dancer Lionel Blair has died surrounded by his family at the age of 92, his agent said, ending a decades-long career on stage and on television.
A staple of show business for decades, Blair was an old-school variety show talent who could turn to almost anything.
He worked as an actor, tap dancer, presenter and choreographer and was a prominent figure in British television in the second half of the 20th century – best known for being captain of the men’s team in a game show, Give us a hint.
In recent years he has made appearances on shows such as Celebrity Big Brother and The real Marigold hotel.
Tributes poured in from the entertainment and broadcasting world when news of Blair’s death broke.
Actress Bonnie Langford tweeted a photo of herself dancing with Blair, adding, âDear Lionel. Privileged to have been your dance partner.
Singer Michael Ball said he was “funny, kind, generous, compassionate and talented.”
âSo sad for his family and for our business. A total off. RIP handsome man, âhe tweeted.
Piers Morgan tweeted, âRIP Lionel Blair, 92. A wonderful all-round artist and a lovable man. Bad news.”
Blair has always been shy about his true age, saying on one occasion: “I’m 59 plus TVA.”
Regardless of the date, Blair was born Henry Lionel Ogus in Canada before moving to Britain at the age of two.
He grew up in the Stamford Hill area of âânorth London and was evacuated to Oxford when World War II broke out, along with his sister Joyce and mother Deborah.
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The family returned to London after witnessing a German plane crash. The event prompted his father, Myer, to recall them to the capital.
“If it can happen there, what good is it to be in the country far from each other?” Blair said his father told him.
Young Blair got a taste of show business while watching Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Shirley Temple at the movies.
Blair was 13 when his father died after having surgery. âIt changed everything,â Blair said. âIt was the first time I thought, ‘I’ll never see him again.’ It was so horrible and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a loss like this.
The artist said he must have grown up “artificially fast” after his father died.
He started to make a name for himself as an actor in the fifties and sixties.
In the West End he played the Child Catcher in Chitty chitty bang bang at the London Palladium, and played roles in Lady be good, Mr. Cinders, and Historical reconstitution.
He has choreographed and appeared on TV shows with stars including Anthony Newley, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Liza Minnelli, as well as a Royal Variety performance with Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr.
He and the singer became good friends and Blair picked the singer for an episode of Beautiful lives on BBC Radio Four in 2010.
Blair also appeared in the Beatles film A hard day’s Night as a choreographer. However, he is best known for being the captain of the men’s team of Give us a hint, ITV’s game show.
He reprized the role in a Comic Relief special in 2011 and was back on screens for Celebrity Big Brother in 2014. He spent 15 days in the house, coming out third after boxer Evander Holyfield and model Jasmine Waltz.
Blair married his wife Susan in March 1967. He once said that the secret to a successful marriage is memories.
He died early Thursday morning, his agent said, and is survived by Susan and their three children and three grandchildren.
PA contributed to this report