The Great British Talkshow Host – Sir Michael Parkinson
With Sir Michael Parkinson due to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Yorkshire Awards in March 2022, it seemed like a good time to blog about one of Yorkshire’s famous characters.
Probably most famous for his chat show Parkinson which ran from 1971-1982 (and then again from 1998 – 2007), Michael Parkinson interviewed some of the most famous people from the world of showbusiness, sport, media and politics leading to the Guardian to describe him as “the great British talk show host”.
Parkinson, a highly regarded author and journalist as well as being a broadcaster, was born in Cudworth near Barnsley in 1935. The son of a miner, he attended Barnsley Grammar School and his passion for cricket saw him opening the batting at Barnsley Cricket Club with the famous umpire Dickie Bird.
After school he became a features writer for the Manchester Guardian, before National Service saw him in active service in Egypt during the Suez crisis working as a British Army Press Liaison Officer.
In the 1960’s, Michael Parkinson moved into television and became a reporter on the BBC’s nightly Twenty Four Hours television programme before working for Granada on a Film review programme from 1969. It was in this role that he did his first major interview with Lawrence Olivier, which led to his commission as a chat show host with his own show Parkinson.
During his time as a chat show host, Parkinson has estimated he interviewed over 2,000 celebrities. Many of these celebrity interviews will go down in TV history as he interviewed some of the greats including Marlon Brando, Fred Astaire, Orson Welles, Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney (who only agreed after Parkinson agreed to feature on the album cover of Wings Band on the Run!).
But perhaps his most memorable interviews were with the boxer Muhammad Ali (who Michael said was the most remarkable man he ever interviewed) and at the time, up and coming comedian Billy Connolly. There was also riotous evening with Rod Hull and Emu, I fondly remember!.
Parkinson’s intelligent questioning was appreciated by his guests, but his laid back style and giving the interviewee time and space to be themselves was seen as his greatest asset.
In an interview himself, he stated that his only regrets were that he never managed to interview Frank Sinatra and his cricket hero Sir Don Bradman.
As a broadcaster and presenter he has many other credits including a three year stint presenting Desert Island Discs and hosting Thames Television’s Give Us a Clue. He even appeared in the Australian Soap Neighbours in 2007!
Parkinson’s writing credits include a wealth of sports columns for The Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and Punch. These led to two books about sport entitled “Football Mad” and “Cricket Daft”.
Michael Parkinson married Mary Heneghan from Doncaster, also a TV presenter. They had 3 children in the 1960’s and now have 8 grand-children. Michael and Mary now live in Berkshire.
In honour of his services to broadcasting, Parkinson received a CBE from Prince Charles in 2000, before being Knighted by the Queen in 2008 in the New Years Honours list. Having been made a Sir he quipped “they give them to anyone these days!”.
After quite a career, it is great that Yorkshireman Sir Michael Parkinson is due to receive his Lifetime Achievement Awards at The Yorkshire Awards hosted by The Yorkshire Society in 2022. If you are wanting to pay your respects and attend the event – visit https://theyorkshiresociety.org/event/32nd-yorkshire-awards-and-gala-dinner-provisional-date/