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Chat show host Sir Michael has been praised by his friends and celebrity guests, including Sir Elton John, Sir Rod Stewart, Sir David Attenborough and David Beckham, following his death on Wednesday after a brief illness.
Discussing Sir Michael’s legacy, Hunniford, 83, told the PA news agency: “We’ll be watching Michael for years and years to come because he did over 2,000 top notch interviews and there’s such a wealth of material there.
“Television is very clever these days about knitting together certain things.
Hunniford said he had once offered to help her raise money for cancer charities, after she had set up a foundation for her daughter, Caron Keating, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
She said: “A lot of people will say something like that, but then they never ring you, but Michael rang the next day and of course, at the time, I said I’d love to do that.
“So in the end, in Windsor, he did a wonderful theatre show, packed to the ceiling, of course, with all the clips of Muhammad Ali, and so on and so forth.
“So that was an example of his kindness, which I really, really appreciated, and what I admired about him in terms of his style of interviewing, I think it was the best, because he never wanted to make himself the star.
“He was concentrating purely on the interviewee in the chair, the one who travelled from Hollywood, or wherever, to be with him.”
Actress Dame Maureen Lipman, who recently had lunch with Sir Michael and was one of his first guests during his brief stint on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, told PA he was “interested and interesting” the last time she saw him.
His transfer to light entertainment was a result of his good looks, personable manner and ready wit
Dame Maureen Lipman
She said: “He was one of the northern lads for whom Granada (Television) was an extension of university. His transfer to light entertainment was a result of his good looks, personable manner and ready wit.”
After growing up in a council house in the coal-mining village of Cudworth, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire, Sir Michael left school aged 16.
He went to work at a local paper, later joining the Manchester Guardian and then the Daily Express, before taking his first TV job as a producer at Granada.
Sir Michael later moved to Thames TV, before landing his chat show Parkinson at the BBC.
His intimate celebrity interviews, most notably on the BBC show Parkinson, which first aired on June 19 1971, propelled him into the spotlight.
Sir Michael’s show enjoyed a successful run until 1982, before being revived by the BBC in 1998 and proving again to be an instant hit.
There will never be anyone better than him in your lifetime, my lifetime or anyone else’s lifetime
It switched to ITV1 in 2004 and ran until 2007 – the same year Sir Michael retired from his Sunday morning Radio 2 programme.
Sir Michael made headlines with some difficult encounters, including with actresses Dame Helen Mirren and US star Meg Ryan.
He famously introduced stage and screen star Dame Helen as the “sex queen” of the Royal Shakespeare Company during a 1975 chat show, and asked if her “equipment” hindered her being recognised as a serious actress.
In 2003, a frosty interview with Hollywood actress Ryan, while she was promoting the poorly received erotic thriller In The Cut, saw her stony-faced and delivering one-word answers after allegedly being rude to fellow guests.
Dickie Bird, who opened the batting for Barnsley Cricket Club with Sir Michael in their youth and remained friends with him, spoke to PA about his “dear friend” saying: “There will never be another Parky.
“He was so close to me.
“His friendship meant more to me than anything else. If I wanted any advice I would ring Parky up. He helped me in so many, many ways.
“There will never be anyone better than him in your lifetime, my lifetime or anyone else’s lifetime.”