Sir Michael Parkinson was hailed as “cross-regional or cross-class” and “irreplaceable” by close friends and contemporaries including broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, former cricket umpire Dickie Bird and actor Sir Michael Caine.
The celebrated talk show host died peacefully at home on Wednesday evening at the age of 88 “after a short illness” and “with his family”.
Known as Parky, he has interviewed some of Hollywood’s biggest names over the course of his illustrious career, and honors from around the world of sports and entertainment have praised him not only for his interviewing skills but also as someone who was “irreplaceable” and “charming”.
Sir David Attenborough, 97, recalled Sir Michael as a “proud man from Yorkshire”, adding in a statement to the PA news agency that “he was cross-regional or cross-class – he was himself”.
“He was also an ideal interviewer, asking interesting and often important questions because he really wanted to know the answer.”
Sir David added: “He also had a great sense of humor and didn’t take himself too seriously.”
Speaking of his “dear friend”, former international cricket umpire and Yorkshire batsman Bird, 90, said: “There will never be another Parky.”
The pair opened up batting together for Barnsley Cricket Club in their youth and have remained friends, with Bird telling PA: “He was so close to me. We had been friends since childhood, his father and my father worked together in the mines at Barnsley and we have been friends all our lives.
“His friendship meant more to me than anything. If I needed advice I would call Parky. He has helped me in so many, many ways.
“There will never be anyone better than him, in my life, in my life, or in someone else’s life.”
Sir Michael became a familiar face on both the BBC and ITV for his intimate interviews with celebrities, most notably on the BBC show Parkinson which first aired on 19 June 1971.
It ran successfully until 1982 before being revived by the BBC in 1998 and again proving to be an instant hit.
The show switched to ITV1 in 2004 and ran until 2007 – the same year Sir Michael retired from his Sunday morning Radio 2 show.
Famous interviews included boxer Muhammad Ali, footballer David Beckham and comedian Rod Hull – with the puppet Emu.
In 2008, Victoria Beckham – wife of former England captain David – revealed in an interview that she referred to the former midfielder as “Golden Balls”, a nickname that stuck with him throughout his career.
Sir Michael also made headlines with some tougher encounters, including actresses Dame Helen Mirren and US star Meg Ryan.
During a 1975 talk show, he introduced stage and screen star Dame Helen as the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “sex queen” and asked if her “endowments” prevented her from being recognized as a serious actress.
In a chilly one-on-one chat with Hollywood actress Ryan in 2003 while promoting the poorly received erotic thriller In The Cut, she was seen petrified to sit and gave one-word replies after she had allegedly been rude to other guests.
Sir Michael Caine, who guest-starred on the final episode of “Parkinson” in 2007, wrote on Twitter: “Michael Parkinson was irreplaceable, he was charming, always wanted a good laugh.” He brought the best of everyone he met.
“I always looked forward to being interviewed by him.”
BBC director-general Tim Davie said Sir Michael was “the king of the chat show” and “defined the format for all the presenters and shows that followed”.
He was raised as an only child in a council house in the coal mining village of Cudworth, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire, where his miner father took him to the mine as a teenager to discourage him from working there.
When his dream of playing cricket for Yorkshire was shattered, he left school at 16 and went to work for a local newspaper. He later moved to the Manchester Guardian and then the Daily Express.
He got his first TV job as a producer at Granada, later moving to Thames TV before getting his talk show ‘Parkinson’ on the BBC.
He had a brief tenure on TV-am as part of the original cast of hosts alongside Angela Rippon and David Frost, appearing on the shows Give Us A Clue, the one-off drama Ghostwatch and Going For A Song.
Rippon said, “He was a friend, a colleague, and the preeminent interviewer of his generation. He listened to what his guests said. Engaged in conversation with them instead of mechanically going through a list of questions or scolding them.
“In doing so, he left a treasure trove of conversations with some of the biggest names of the 20th century.”
He was also a respected radio station, hosting Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 and his own sports programs on 5 Live, and an award-winning sportswriter.
Yorkshire County Cricket Club observed a minute’s silence before the game in York on Thursday morning.
Knighted by the late Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2008, Sir Michael spoke openly in 2013 about being diagnosed with prostate cancer after a routine health check.
He had three sons with his wife Mary, whom he married in 1959.