Lionel Blair: Showbiz Legend Dies Aged 92

·3-min read
<strong>Showbiz veteran Lionel Blair who has died aged 92, his agent has said.</strong> (Photo: Fiona HansonPA)
Showbiz veteran Lionel Blair who has died aged 92, his agent has said. (Photo: Fiona HansonPA)

Showbiz veteran Lionel Blair has died aged 92.

Across a seven-decade career, he worked on television as an actor, tap dancer, presenter and choreographer.

Blair died in the early hours on Thursday morning, his agent said.

In recent years, he made appearances on shows including Celebrity Big Brother and The Real Marigold Hotel.

He married Susan Blair in 1967 and couple share three children. Tributes were immediate.

Comedian Julian Clary tweeted: “RIP dear Lionel Blair. A showbiz trooper if ever there was.”

Broadcaster Danny Baker tweeted: “A true chum, an entertainer beyond compare, an archive of a golden era, an immeasurable talent.

“Impossible to think he won’t be in some Green room somewhere, dropping names and living out fantastic tales. A Giant. Really.”

Author Emma Kennedy tweeted: “I am very glad I got to meet Lionel Blair. He was a Phenomenon. Full of magical, fruity, end with a wink anecdotes. What a career. What a talent. #RIPLionel”

Piers Morgan tweeted: “RIP Lionel Blair, 92. A wonderful all-round entertainer & lovely man. Sad news.”

The seasoned performer was from the old school of variety shows and was capable of turning his hand to almost anything – including choreography, dancing, acting and presenting.

He enjoyed a long and successful career on stage and screen and was best known as a team captain on charades-style TV show Give Us A Clue.

Christopher Biggins, TV star and friend, said he got to know Blair on 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.”

Blair always remained coy over his true age and famously once said: “I am 59 plus VAT.”

<strong>Sammy Davis Jr, Joyce Blair and Lionel Blair in 1966.</strong> (Photo: PA via PA Wire/PA Images)
Sammy Davis Jr, Joyce Blair and Lionel Blair in 1966. (Photo: PA via PA Wire/PA Images)

The performer was born Henry Lionel Ogus in Canada in 1928 before moving to Britain at the age of two.

He grew up in Stamford Hill, north London, and was evacuated to Oxford when war broke out, with his sister Joyce and mother Deborah.

His family were Jewish but not orthodox and their habit of eating bacon was frowned upon by their neighbours.

Blair cited Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Shirley Temple as figures who inspired him to pursue a life in showbusiness.

He began performing in plays as a child and attended the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in 1944 before joining a touring company called the Savoy Players.

After a stint on stage in the West End, he decided to swap acting for dancing and took the stage name Lionel Blair.

His stage credits included Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium, and had roles in Lady Be Good, Mr Cinders and Pageant.

His career saw him engage in a dance-off against Sammy Davis Jr at the Royal Variety Performance in 1961, appear in the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night and choreograph big screen features such as The Magic Christian.

On TV he choreographed and appeared in 1970s programmes such as The Mike And Bernie Show, The Tommy Cooper Hour and the Jimmy Tarbuck Show.

He pivoted to judging with New Faces in the late 70s, a talent show forerunner to series such as Pop Idol and X Factor.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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