West News Wire: Michael Parkinson, a well-known British broadcaster who conducted interviews with some of the most well-known figures in history, including Muhammad Ali and Miss Piggy, has passed away. He was 88.
Parkinson passed away “peacefully at home last night” following a brief illness, according to a statement from his family provided to the news reporters on Thursday.
Parkinson received his big break in television in 1971 when the BBC offered him his own namesake talk show. Parkinson had previously trained and worked as a journalist.
By putting his guests at ease and eliciting insights that others could not, he became known as Britain’s talk show king while hosting “Parkinson” for three stretches up until 2007. He would spar with his guests rather than looking for anecdotes, but those were amusing and serious at the same time.
Over four animated interviews with the great heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, Parkinson knew he had met his match.
During one animated discussion, Parky told him, “I’m not going to argue with you.”
You’re not as stupid as you appear, Ali said.
Parkinson, who was born in the northern English coal mining community of Cudworth, close to the town of Barnsley, might have easily followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a miner. He wanted to play for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, among other things. He dropped out of school at age 16 to start working for a local newspaper after his dream was destroyed, later joining the Manchester Guardian and then the Daily Express.
That journalistic pedigree stood him in good stead when he moved to television, first at regional channels Granada and Thames Television, and then at the BBC, where the first stint of his talk show ran from 1971 until 1982. In 1998, the show was revived on the BBC and proved an instant hit, switching to commercial rival ITV in 2004 until it ended three years later.
“Michael was the king of the chat show and he defined the format for all the presenters and shows that followed,” BBC director general Tim Davie said. “He interviewed the biggest stars of the 20th century and did so in a way that enthralled the public.”
He had three sons with his wife Mary, whom he married in 1959.