Eurovision's Graham Norton nearly died before he was famous after he was stabbed on London street and left for dead

Graham Norton has been one of the most popular TV personalities on British TV since his chat show launched on the BBC in 2007 -Credit:BBC/So Television/Christopher Baines
Graham Norton has been one of the most popular TV personalities on British TV since his chat show launched on the BBC in 2007 -Credit:BBC/So Television/Christopher Baines

Award-winning comedian and Eurovision commentator Graham Norton nearly died before he became famous after a terrifying ordeal back in the 1980s.. The host of the popular Friday night chat show on BBC One, who returns in this weekend's Eurovision Song Contest as host on the BBC, was stabbed and mugged and left to die on the street one evening in London. The star, by then only in his mid-20s, said he reached out for a stranger’s hand because he didn’t want to die alone.

“I didn’t know I was dying, I didn’t figure it out until later, and this is so not me but I remember saying to this little old lady ‘will you hold my hand’?”, reported The Mirror after Norton opened up about the ordeal on a podcast last year. “And it was a flicker on her face of ‘oh do I want to hold his hand’ but she did and she held out her hand. I held her hand and I think that’s something so deep within us and it motivates so much of our life that we don’t want to die alone.

“I think so many decisions in our lives like having a partner and having children are about not being alone when you die. It’s about having someone to hold your hand.It gave me a really good attitude to risk and to failure because if you think of the worst-case scenario, no failure compares to dying. I’m not recommending anyone do it but for me it was a very useful and powerful life lesson.”

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The 61-year-old, whose real name is Graham William Walker, was born in Dublin in 1963. Despite holding ambitions to be an actor, Norton turned to stand-up comedy in the early 1990s and appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival dressed as Mother Teresa in 1992. His performance was so impressive that it’s believed he actually fooled some into thinking it was the real Mother Teresa appearing on stage.

He appeared in a number of TV shows throughout the 1990s, including popular Irish sitcom Father Ted and chat show The Jack Docherty Show. Norton’s talent led to him being offered his own show on Channel 4, and by 2007 he was offered the chance to host The Graham Norton Show, which has proved a major hit with millions of viewers over the past 15 years. The show actually started on BBC2 before moving across to BBC1 in 2009.

Norton has been hosting the UK coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest since 2008, having taken over presenting duties from Sir Terry Wogan.

Norton is openly gay, and in 2015 he told The Mirror that he struggled to find love because “work comes first”. He also admitted that it would be easier to find love if he was straight.

Norton on his popular BBC chat show The Graham Norton Show -Credit:PA
Norton on his popular BBC chat show The Graham Norton Show -Credit:PA

The chat show host said: “But because I’ve worked so hard to get where I am, I continue to prioritise my job over other bits of my life. That’s probably very foolish, something I’ll live to regret. When I look back at my romantic history, I have to say it’s taken second place to my job. Perhaps I don’t expect my love affairs to last. Or it could just be that I have a low attention span.”

He even said that he may have found dealing with relationships easier had he not been gay. “I have a theory,” explained Norton.

“I think there’s something about having a male partner that makes it more difficult. This will sound sexist but that doesn’t mean it’s any less true. If I were a straight man, my female partner would have a role in the eyes of society. She would be the mother of my children, my hostess, the person on my arm at red carpet events. She would have a defined function.

“But that’s not the case if your partner is male. Every man – no matter how young or fey – has something of the alpha in him.

“So all the things they thought they’d enjoy about going out with me become loathsome in the end because they haven’t earned it for themselves. Increasingly, that puts a strain on the relationship.”

Norton’s previous partners include fashion consultant Trevor Patterson and music marketing consultant Andrew Smith. Since splitting from Smith in 2015, Norton has been guarded about his relationship status and not spoken publicly about any partner, despite rumours that he has been dating a crew member he met on the set of his BBC1 show.

Norton's net worth is reportedly almost £30m, according to Celebrity Net Worth, and he earns more than £700,000 a year from the BBC. He also sold a production company that he set up in the late 1990s to ITV in 2012 for around £17m.