Showbiz star Lionel Blair dies, aged 92

Veteran performer thrilled fans on the stage and screen during a seven-decade carer

Showbusiness veteran Lionel Blair has died aged 92, his agent has told PA.

In a seven-decade career, he worked on the small screen and stage as an actor, tap dancer, presenter and choreographer.

But he was perhaps best known as a team captain on Give us a Clue, the ITV game show.

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

The performer was born in Canada in 1928 before moving to Britain at the age of 2.

He grew up in Stamford Hill, north London, and was moved to Oxford when war broke out, with his sister Joyce and mother Deborah. His family were Jewish but not orthodox.

Blair said Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Shirley Temple inspired him to pursue a life in showbusiness.

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.

Blair engaged in a dance-off against Sammy Davis Jr at the Royal Variety Performance in 1961, appeared in the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night, and choreographed 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 turned to judging with New Faces in the late 1970s, a talent show forerunner to series such as Pop Idol and X Factor.

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

He reprised the role in a 2011 Comic Relief special and was back on screens for Celebrity Big Brother in 2014.

He spent 15 days in the house, leaving third after boxer Evander Holyfield and model Jasmine Waltz.

In 2017 Blair joined The Real Marigold Hotel and travelled around India with other elderly celebrities.

He married Susan Blair in 1967 and the couple share three children.

Celebrity friends have paid tribute to the entertainer.

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

Actress Bonnie Langford tweeted a picture of herself dancing with Blair, adding: “Dear Lionel. Privileged to have been your dance partner.”

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

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

Updated: November 4th 2021, 9:49 PM
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