“After a brief illness Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home last night in the company of his family. The family request that they are given privacy and time to grieve.”
Parkinson began his long media career as a newspaper journalist in the 1950s before making the leap to television in the early 1960s. He was best known for his chat show Parkinson, in which he interviewed practically every person of note under the sun between 1982 and 2007. By his own count, he estimated he’d interviewed 2,000 celebrities over his long career.
Notable interviewees included a 1974 interview with Muhammed Ali (named as the most remarkable man he ever interviewed) that touched on racial equality and in which Ali spoke at length about faith, materialism, and hypocrisy, a wide-ranging interview with cinema icon Orson Welles in which Parkinson was told to put away his interview cards and told “let’s chat”, and of course his encounter with Rod Hull and his misbehaving puppet Emu.
Aside from this, Parkinson also played a major role in the seminal British horror GhostWatch. Billed as a factual exploration of a haunting, the show spiraled into terrifying supernatural chaos that fooled many viewers into thinking it was real and ended with Parkinson being apparently possessed by the ghost itself.
Expect condolences to pour in from across the media over the course of the day. Parkinson was an excellent interviewer who often got to the core of what made his subjects tick and there are few like him working today.
RIP Michael Parkinson 1935-2023.