Lionel Blair death – Star, 92, dies surrounded by wife & kids with cause not revealed as Piers Morgan leads tributes

LEGENDARY showbiz entertainer Lionel Blair has sadly died at the age of 92.

The Give Us a Clue star and Celebrity Big Brother contestant was a prominent figure on British TV screens since the 70s.

His management company said that he died surrounded by his family.

His agent said: "He got to a very ripe old age, he was loved by his family, and I think he died in their company, which is lovely."

Read our Lionel Blair live blog below for the latest news and updates…

  • Milica Cosic

    'Lucky' to have him appear on GMB (Continued…)

    Good Morning Britain's Ben then said: "I think it's Melvyn Hayes who was just talking then, and said that at the drop of a hat he'd do a tap dance, and that is how I remember him.

    "We were lucky enough to have him come into the studio on a number of occasions. He was always so warm and generous with his time, and so keen to entertain. He never lost that love of entertaining did he."

    Kate said: "He was just really happy to meet people, see people. I think his last television appearance was on this show," with Ben adding: "Yeah, with us."

    She called him "incredibly positive" and said: "It's a shame but 92… and he worked all of his life."

  • Milica Cosic

    Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway pay tribute to Lionel

    Good Morning Britain hosts Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway remembered the “generous” and “warm” late entertainer Lionel Blair following the sad news of his death.

    Lionel died on Thursday morning surrounded by his family aged 92, his agent confirmed.

    His last TV appearance came in January this year, when he appeared on GMB via video link with Kate and Ben in the studio.

    Lionel was in high spirits on the show, as he revealed all after having his coronavirus vaccine – with him opening up on shielding from the virus.

    Speaking about this and his passing on Friday, Ben and Kate remembered speaking with him over the years and on the final occasion, and paid tribute to the star.

    Ben opened the show, stating: “Very sad news, Kate.”

    Kate went on to say: “Isn’t it just. Lionel Blair’s passing. It feels like the showbiz world has sort of shifted on its axis a bit, because he’s been with us for… well we all watched him growing up.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Explained: Did Susan and Lionel have any children together?

    The couple had three children together, and three grandchildren, with Blair saying his family held the secret to his happy life.

    "We've got a very, very normal family, and for me everything comes back to family. If they're sad, I'm sad.

    "I want them to be happy all the time," he said.

  • Milica Cosic

    Who is Lionel Blair’s wife Susan?

    Susan Blair is a former actress, who had a small role in 1968 movie Salt and Pepper.

    Blair once revealed on ITV's Loose Women how he had stolen his future wife from a friend after a "Cupid's arrow" moment at a dinner party.

    He said: "I walked in the room and honestly, I took one look at her and it hit me. I thought, 'That's the girl I am going to marry'… six weeks later we were married."

    The couple wed in 1967 at Kensington Registry Office in London.

    Lionel was 38 years old and Susan was 21 at the time, and they were happily married for 54 years.

    Blair once told The Guardian: "The secret of a successful marriage is memories… that's why my dad insisted that we went everywhere together, so we could talk about things.

    "I'm so lucky to have a wife who is a nest builder. Her nest is the most important thing in the world to her."

    Lionel Blair with wife Susan at Odeon Leicester Square in 2014 Credit: Rex
  • Milica Cosic

    Blair's father died aged 13

    Blair was 13 when his father died after going in for surgery on a hernia and duodenal ulcer.

    "It changed everything," Blair said.

    "It was the first time I'd ever thought, I'm never going to see him again. It was so awful and I don't think I've ever experienced a loss like it."

    Blair said he had to grow up "artificially fast" following the death of his father, and he was already making a name for himself as an actor. 

    However, then came the death of his mother, leaving him an orphan.

  • Milica Cosic

    Christopher Biggins and Lionel often spoke

    Christopher Biggins, TV star and friend of Lionel Blair, said they often spoke on the phone and Blair had called him two weeks ago but was out at the time.

    He told BBC News: “He was just the most wonderful, kind, funny, real giver of life. His energy was extraordinary.”

    Biggins said he got to know Blair on the long-running show Give Us a Clue which Blair did opposite Una Stubbs who also died this year.

    “He’s up there now entertaining with Una, I’m sure,” he said.

    Biggins said Blair was “very competitive” and “loved to win”, adding: “He was just marvellous, a wonderful entertainer who will be sadly missed.”

    The TV star said Blair had a “great sense of humour” and was a “tribute to his wonderful family”, describing him as the “king of the pantomime” and a man who was “adored” by the public. 

    He added: “He could sing, he could dance, he was just like Bruce Forsyth.”

  • Milica Cosic

    A dancer, choreographer, TV presenter, director and actor

    Throughout his showbiz career, he has been a dancer, choreographer, TV presenter, director and actor – covering the entire sphere of the business.

    In the West End he played the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium, and had roles in Lady Be Good, Mr Cinders and Pageant.

    He choreographed and appeared in TV shows featuring stars such as Anthony Newley, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Liza Minnelli, as well as a Royal Variety performance with Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr.

  • Milica Cosic

    Blair's secret behind his long marriage

    In an interview with the Guardian in 2013, Blair discussed the secret behind his long marriage to Susan.

    He said: “The secret of a successful marriage is memories.

    “You must have memories together.

    “That’s why my dad insisted that we went everywhere together, so we could talk about things.

    “I’m so lucky to have a wife who is a nest builder. Her nest is the most important thing in the world to her.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Lionel was a prominent figure on British TV

    The dancer and Give Us a Clue star was a prominent figure on British TV screens since the 70s.

    He died surrounded by his family, his management company said.

  • Milica Cosic

    Lionel shot into fame in the 1960s

    Lionel really shot into the spotlight in the 1960s by appearing on a number of variety shows as part of his dance troupe.

    In the 1970s, Lionel turned his hand to writing as he wrote a musical based on Tolstoy's War and Peace, which toured around the UK for six months.

  • Milica Cosic

    'A powerhouse of positivity'

    Writer and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth said on Twitter that Blair was a "a powerhouse of positivity and a wonderful talent as a dancer, choreographer & entertainer", who had a trove of stories about figures such as Hollywood star Errol Flynn and novelist Ernest Hemingway.

    "He lived his long life to the full & leaves a legacy of style & smiles & laughter," Brandreth said.

  • Milica Cosic

    Greg Scott among actors to say goodbye

    On Twitter, Greg wrote about Lionel's amazing career, despite only working with him once.

    He wrote: "Just heard that Lionel Blair has died.

    "Only worked with him once – But what a bloody nice bloke – And what a career. You don’t have longevity like that by being nasty and talentless.

    "He was one of the best. Never heard a bad word said about him."

  • Milica Cosic

    What really happened when Lionel joined The Real Marigold Hotel

    He jumped at the chance to spend a month in India for the new series of The Real Marigold Hotel – with the backing of his wife Susan.

    “My wife said: ‘You’ve got to go, darling. You have to take every opportunity that comes at your age!’” he said.

    “As an experience, it was wonderful.”

    Inspired by the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the first series on BBC2 pulled in over four million viewers.

    “When we dined outside it was like a family dinner. I bonded with all of them,” says Lionel.

    “Amanda was one of my backing dancers over 50 years ago, Miriam had interviewed me, and lots had been on Give Us A Clue [a game show on which Lionel was a team captain] back in the day. I didn’t know Paul that well, but we laughed all the time.”

    In the first episode, Lionel struggled with the heat, the food, the surroundings and, most of all, an overwhelming bout of homesickness.

    Read more here.

  • Milica Cosic

    Agent pays tribute

    His agent said: "He got to a very ripe old age, he was loved by his family, and I think he died in their company, which is lovely."

    As well as performing as a dancer and entertainer on British TV, Blair also presented the quiz programme Name That Tune.

  • Milica Cosic

    Co-stars lead tributes

    Lionel's Real Marigold Hotel co-star Sheila Ferguson led tributes writing: "OMG. I just heard that my darling #LionelBlair has passed away.

    "Iconically I was just thinking about him today. My heart hurts. #RIPLionelBlair. Friend since the 70’s, #TheRealMarigoldHotel and beyond. 💔."

    Morning TV legend Nick Owen added: "So sorry to hear that Lionel Blair has passed away.

    "Always good company and great guest on the breakfast sofa at TV-am and Good Morning with Anne and Nick. RIP Lionel."

    Comedian and author Julian Clary added: "RIP dear Lionel Blair. A showbiz trooper if ever there was."

    Actor Eddie Marsan posted the dancer's 1961 performance at the Royal Variety Performance with Sammy Davis Jr writing: "Terribly sad that Lionel Blair has died.

    "Want to know how talented he really was? Check this out."

  • Milica Cosic

    Who was Lionel Blair?

    Lionel was born Henry Lionel Ogus in Canada and moved to Britain when he was just two years old, with his family settling at Stamford Hill.

    He began performing in plays when he was a child and attended the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in 1944.

    The entertainer went on to work in the West End but decided to give up acting in 1947, during which he took up his stage name Lionel Blair.

  • Milica Cosic

    Explained: How did Lionel Blair become famous?

    Blair featured in a string of films since 1953, including The Limping Man, The World of Suzie Wong, The Beauty Jungle and Absolute Beginners.

    He provided the choreography for blockbusters Jazz Boat and The Magic Christian in the 1960s.

    Between 1979 and the early 1990s, Lionel was of the team captains on ITV game show Give Us A Clue.

  • Milica Cosic

    Appearing in the second series of The Real Marigold Hotel

    The actor appeared in the second series of The Real Marigold Hotel in 2017.

    The documentary followed eight pensioners trying out retirement living in India and after a successful first series a new batch returned, this time in Kochi, South West India.

    Lionel appeared alongside TV cook Rustie Lee, singer Sheila Ferguson, presenter Bill Oddie, snooker ace Dennis Taylor, TV’s Dr Miriam Stoppard, actress Amanda Barrie and actor Paul Nicholas.

  • Milica Cosic

    Piers Morgan pays tribute

    Piers Morgan took to Twitter to pay his respects to Lionel.

    He wrote: "RIP Lionel Blair, 92.

    "A wonderful all-round entertainer & lovely man.

    "Sad news."

  • Milica Cosic

    Christopher Biggins and Lionel often spoke

    Christopher Biggins, TV star and friend of Lionel Blair, said they often spoke on the phone and Blair had called him two weeks ago but was out at the time.

    He told BBC News: "He was just the most wonderful, kind, funny, real giver of life. His energy was extraordinary."

    Biggins said he got to know Blair on the long-running show Give Us a Clue which Blair did opposite Una Stubbs who also died this year.

    "He's up there now entertaining with Una, I'm sure," he said.

    Biggins said Blair was "very competitive" and "loved to win", adding: "He was just marvellous, a wonderful entertainer who will be sadly missed."

    The TV star said Blair had a "great sense of humour" and was a "tribute to his wonderful family", describing him as the "king of the pantomime" and a man who was "adored" by the public. 

    He added: "He could sing, he could dance, he was just like Bruce Forsyth."

  • Milica Cosic

    Lionel and Alan Carr talked a man from taking his own life

    Blair's ubiquity in British entertainment helped save a man's life.

    In 2006, he and comedian Alan Carr were forced to abandon filming for a comedy to talk a man out of taking his own life.

    The pair were shooting a pilot for Carr's End Of The Pier show on the North Pier in Blackpool, when a man was seen on the edge of the pier, threatened to throw himself off.

    Carr and Blair talked him down until police arrived to help him home.

    "It really scared me – I've never experienced anything like that before," Blair said.

    "We spent about 10 minutes talking to him. He just kept saying he wanted to end it all. Then someone said it was Lionel Blair from TV and he did a double take."

    Lionel then said: "I reached out, then he grabbed both our arms and we heaved him up."

  • Milica Cosic

    Blair always remained coy over his true age

    Showbiz veteran Lionel Blair has died at the age of 92, his agent has told the PA news agency.

    However, Blair always remained coy over his true age, saying famously on once occasion: “I am 59 plus VAT.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Lionel was a prominent figure on British TV

    The dancer and Give Us a Clue star was a prominent figure on British TV screens since the 70s.

    He died surrounded by his family, his management company said.

  • Milica Cosic

    A dancer, choreographer, TV presenter, director and actor

    Throughout his showbiz career, he has been a dancer, choreographer, TV presenter, director and actor – covering the entire sphere of the business.

    In the West End he played the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium, and had roles in Lady Be Good, Mr Cinders and Pageant.

    He choreographed and appeared in TV shows featuring stars such as Anthony Newley, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Liza Minnelli, as well as a Royal Variety performance with Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr.

  • Milica Cosic

    Blair's father died aged 13

    Blair was 13 when his father died after going in for surgery on a hernia and duodenal ulcer.

    "It changed everything," Blair said.

    "It was the first time I'd ever thought, I'm never going to see him again. It was so awful and I don't think I've ever experienced a loss like it."

    Blair said he had to grow up "artificially fast" following the death of his father, and he was already making a name for himself as an actor. 

    However, then came the death of his mother, leaving him an orphan.

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