Lionel Blair death latest: Tributes pour in for 'legendary' dancer presenter, 92, after passing with family by his side

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…

  • Joseph Gamp

    When did Lionel meet wife Susan?

    However, Lionel wasn't on his own for long and met his wife, Susan, of over five decades in 1967.

    He first had to overcome one tiny obstacle. She was dating one of his close friends.

    Lionel recalled: "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'."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Grew up 'artificially fast' after tragic loss

    Devastatingly for young Lionel, a year after the family returned to London his father, Myer Ogus, passed away during an operation. At the time the performer was just 13 and the loss deeply affected him.

    Lionel said: "He had a hernia and thought he'd cured it but he hadn't and it became strangulated and he had a duodenal ulcer as well. He went into an operating theatre and came out dead. It was a huge shock for the whole family.

    "It changed everything. 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. After Dad died, I had to grow up artificially fast. We had no money so I had to work. I'd started work as a boy actor and my dad had been thrilled about that, but I became too old for little boy parts and too young for grown-up parts.

    "I could dance so I got into musicals and started performing with Joyce. But just as we were becoming well known on television, my mother died and so we were orphans. Then Joyce met her first husband, Eddie, so I was on my own."

  • Joseph Gamp

    His family was the ‘real success’ of his life

    Susan and Lionel had three children and for all his showbiz triumphs, Lionel always said his family was the real success of his life. 

    “For me, everything comes back to family. We’ve got three grandchildren, and it’s heaven. I love them to distraction,” he said. 

    At first, his children found it difficult to have a famous father. Lione’s outgoing persona led to his children being teased at school, and eventually Lionel and Susan decided to send all three to a theatre school. 

    And that changed everything, with Blair once saying: “There were kids there who were almost jealous because they [my kids] had a famous father”.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Co-stars and celebs continue to pay tribute

    Author and screenwriter Emma Kennedy said: “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.”

    Bonnie Langford wrote: “Dear Lionel. Privileged to have been your dance partner.”

    TV blogger Elliot Gonzalez added: “He was the definition of showbiz.

    “A natural-born entertainer and phenomenal CBB housemate. Sad to read that Lionel Blair has passed away at 92.

    “My thoughts are with his family and friends.”

    Broadcaster Nick Owen said: “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.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    Did Lionel Blair have any grandchildren?

    Lionel and Susan have three grandchildren.

    Very little is in the public domain about his grandchildren.

    Lucy has been pictured at events with her father and son Oscar.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Where was Lionel Blair from?

    Even though Lionel Blair was raised in Britain, he was actually born in Montreal, Canada.

    Before attending the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 1944, he performed alongside his sister Joyce during the air raids of the Second World War.

    He originally trained as a dancer, but decided he wanted to pursue a career in acting in 1947.

    Blair passed away at the age of 92 on November 4, 2021.

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

  • Joseph Gamp

    What TV shows did Lionel Blair star in?

    Since rising to fame, Lionel has been a reality TV show regular and panellist.

    He entered the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2014, where he was famously handcuffed to Made In Chelsea’s Ollie Locke and had a blazing row with Luisa Zissman.

    Another of his most famous ventures was his appearance on Channel Five reality series The Farm, where he competed against popstar Mikey Green and model Emma Noble.

    In 2016, Lionel shocked Loose Women viewers when he FINALLY revealed how old he is.

    The choreographer had been using 85 as his “stage age”, before he let it slip that he was actually 88-years-old.

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

  • Joseph Gamp

    How did Lionel get his big break?

    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.

  • Joseph Gamp

    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.

  • Joseph Gamp

    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

    Norfolk theatre boss' memories of Lionel Blair (Continued…)

    The former boss of the Norwich Theatre Royal Peter Wilson MBE spoke about Lionel's starring role in the theatre’s first pantomime.

    Recalling his memories, Peter said: "From the start he was breathtakingly watchable. He brought out the Player’s brazen seediness, his love of performing, his enjoyment of being in the spotlight, his deep knowledge that he was a star. Lionel had – apart from the seediness – all of those attributes, and in rehearsal he was gracious, professional, line perfect every time, simultaneously inventive and humble about taking direction.

    "I directed him again two years later, and we kept in touch. So it was logical that I asked him to star in and direct the first pantomime under my leadership at Norwich Theatre Royal in 1992. He accepted without hesitation, so it was my privilege to have brought my friend, this all-round entertainer and star, to the city and theatre that I love so much."

  • Milica Cosic

    Former Norfolk theatre boss' memories of Lionel Blair

    The former boss of the Norwich Theatre Royal Peter Wilson MBE has reflected on his time working together with Lionel – and his starring role in the theatre's first pantomime.

    He said: "Lionel’s agent phoned me one day in 1987 suggesting that his client – who had been a star of the light entertainment world since the 1950s – would like to try some serious acting.

    "I was then planning a production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and, though I’d cast the two young leads, was still considering the part of the Player, whose trajectory in the play weaves confidently around that of the querulous courtiers."

    He continued to say: "The Player is usually cast as a bombastic actor-manager, deep voiced and imposing. Lionel was neither of those things, but as a ‘name’ he was certainly worth considering, and Stoppard had no objection. So I cast him, after a bit of fencing around over terms and billing."

  • Milica Cosic

    Tributes continue to pour in

    Author and screenwriter Emma Kennedy said: “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.”

    Bonnie Langford wrote: “Dear Lionel. Privileged to have been your dance partner.”

    TV blogger Elliot Gonzalez added: “He was the definition of showbiz.

    “A natural-born entertainer and phenomenal CBB housemate. Sad to read that Lionel Blair has passed away at 92.

    “My thoughts are with his family and friends.”

    Broadcaster Nick Owen said: “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.”

  • Milica Cosic

    The passing of his father

    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

    Inspired by Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers

    As a boy he became inspired by watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at the cinema and then copying their routines at home.

    He later turned his hand to acting and worked with, or counted as friends, showbusiness legends including Bob Hope, The Beatles and Liza Minnelli.

  • Milica Cosic

    Blair's best pal remembers him

    Lionel's pal Rustie Lee appeared on Good Morning Britain yesterday morning (5 November) to remember him.

    She said: "He was absolutely lovely, we got on from the word go when we went off to India.

    "We got to India, and when we got there he was I think a bit upset because he was missing home, and when we got to the hotel he wanted to go home and said, 'I don't know, I'm missing Sue', because he was all family and was missing his family, and we had a good chat and he stayed."

    She recalled him putting on a show in India, saying: "He was just absolutely amazing, he started tap dancing, he did a magical trick and he was a total, utter joy.

    "I can remember him and will remember him for his laughter, fun and being totally professional and at the top of his business. A lot of younger people could learn a lot from him because his professionalism is great."

  • Milica Cosic

    Falling in love with Susan at first sight

    Lionel Blair remained devoted to wife Susan for 54 years marriage but admitted ahead of their 50th wedding anniversary it was love at first sight when they first met a party.

    Appearing on Loose Women, then age 88, he recalled: ''I went to my friend's house for a dinner party and his girlfriend was there. He took a call on the phone.

    "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."

    ''I had to go to Hong Kong to do Cabaret and I came back and six weeks later, we were married."

    The couple tied the knot in 1967 when Lionel was 38 years old and Susan was 21, and they were happily married for 54 years.

  • Milica Cosic

    A household name opposite Una Stubbs

    Blair became a household name opposite Una Stubbs in the long-running Give Us A Clue.

    Speaking in 2014, he said of the ITV show: “Twelve years and over 1,000 shows. But I really wanted to be an actor.

    "I was the breadwinner after my father died when we were quite young, and I got into a musical, became well-known and stayed in musicals.

    "But really I want to be in EastEnders.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Saving 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

    'We had no money, so I had to work'

    Lionel Blair said that following the death of his father when he was 13, it forced him, he said, to grow young. 

    "We had no money, so I had to work," he said. 

    "I’d started work as a boy actor and my dad had been thrilled about that, but I became too old for little-boy parts and too young for grown-up parts.

    "I could dance so I got into musicals and started performing with [sister] Joyce."

  • 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

    His family was the 'real success' of his life

    Susan and Lionel had three children and for all his showbiz triumphs, Lionel always said his family was the real success of his life. 

    "For me, everything comes back to family. We’ve got three grandchildren, and it’s heaven. I love them to distraction," he said. 

    At first, his children found it difficult to have a famous father. Lione's outgoing persona led to his children being teased at school, and eventually Lionel and Susan decided to send all three to a theatre school. 

    And that changed everything, with Blair once saying: "There were kids there who were almost jealous because they [my kids] had a famous father".

  • Milica Cosic

    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 one of the team captains on ITV game show Give Us A Clue, opposite Una Stubbs.

  • Milica Cosic

    Lionel's designer wardrobe

    His great indulgence was for designer clothes.

    Apparently, his wife Susan did not allow him to have a cheque book or a credit card, he claimed, because he would spend all their money on his wardrobe. 

  • Milica Cosic

    Who are Lionel Blair’s children?

    SHOWBIZ star Lionel Blair had a long and happy marriage with his wife Susan and the couple had three children.

    Lionel Blair and Susan Davis were married in 1967 and had three children together.

    The couple wed 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.

    Read more here.

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