Michael Parkinson, photographed in 1987, dies aged 88.
Veteran British broadcaster Michael Parkinson has died aged 88, his former employer the BBC announced on Thursday, citing a statement from his family.
“After a short illness, Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home with his family by his side last night,” the statement read, the BBC reported. His family requested privacy.
Parkinson interviewed many of the world’s most famous people on his long-running show, which began in 1971. It initially ran for 11 years, returning in 1998 and ending in 2007.
Guests include Muhammad Ali, John Lennon, Elton John, Nelson Mandela and Judi Dench.
Tim Davey, director-general of the BBC, paid tribute to the “king of the chat show” who “defined the format of all presenters and programmes.”
“He interviewed the biggest stars of the 20th century and captivated the public. Not only was Michael brilliant at asking questions, he was also a wonderful listener,” Davey added in a statement Thursday.
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Michael Parkinson interviewed actress Bette Davis in October 1975.
Parkinson’s interview style marked a shift from traditional American chat shows, eschewing desks in favor of a more intimate setting.
“When you’re interviewing people, you can’t have anything holding you back, taking you away from that intimacy that you hope will develop,” Parkinson said at a BAFTA event celebrating her career in 2016.
This produced some notable moments from his guests, such as Ali famously remarking: “How come everything is white?” When describing the entrenched nature of racism, and when then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair said God would judge his decision to go to war in Iraq.
Among Parkinson’s wide-ranging interviewees was Victoria Beckham, who revealed on the show that her husband, David, nicknamed her “Golden Balls”.
Plaudits poured in for Parkinson on Thursday, with BBC journalist Nick Robinson calling him “the best interviewer of our age”, and even actor and comedian Stephen Fry describing Parkinson’s interview as “incredibly thrilling”.
However, Parkinson also faced criticism for a 1975 interview with actress Helen Mirren, in which she asked if his “accessories” and “physical attributes” were hindering his career.
Years later, Mirren described the exchange as “sexual”. Daily Telegraph In 2011: “It was the first talk show I ever did. I was terrified. I watched it and I literally thought, bloody! I did great. I was so young and inexperienced.
Parkinson admitted in a 2016 BBC interview that he “behaved like a brat” but didn’t think he needed an apology. Mirren and Parkinson appeared together on another show in 2008, the TV host told the BBC, and “smiled like two wise men.”