The day presenter Terry Wogan almost slapped Bowie

BBC presenter Terry Wogan and his wife Helen in a 2014 picture taken in London.
BBC presenter Terry Wogan and his wife Helen in a 2014 picture taken in London.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • BBC presenter Terry Wogan, one of British television's most familiar faces and the long- running anchor of its Eurovision coverage, died of cancer on Sunday, aged 77, his family announced.

"Sir Terry Wogan died today after a short, but brave, battle with cancer. He passed away surrounded by his family," said a family statement.

Irish-born Wogan had a successful television career, most notably anchoring Britain's flagship chat show during the 1980s and hosting a hugely popular radio show for 27 years, retiring in 2009.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain had lost a huge talent. "I grew up listening to him on the radio and watching him on TV," he wrote on Twitter.

"His charm and wit always made me smile. Britain has lost a huge talent - someone millions came to feel was their own special friend."

Wogan started his career as a banker in Ireland, but left after five years to become a radio newsreader, beginning a remarkable broadcast career that was recognised with first, an OBE (Order of the British Empire), and then a knighthood in 2005.

He began presenting the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show in 1972, helping it become Europe's most listened-to radio broadcast with a combination of smooth Irish charm and a subversive sense of fun.

He also hosted BBC TV chat show Wogan from 1982 to 1992, presiding over many memorable moments watched by millions of viewers. They included football legend George Best turning up drunk, former sports presenter David Icke proclaiming himself as "a son of the Godhead", American actor Chevy Chase remaining silent throughout the interview and music icon David Bowie refusing to cooperate.

"David Bowie, well, he probably wasn't at his best when I interviewed him," Wogan later said. "I thought a solid slap would have helped the situation. I didn't hit him, of course, but it came close."

BBC director-general Tony Hall called Wogan "a national treasure".

Wogan offered commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest from 1980 to 2008, garnering a huge following with his light-hearted cynicism of the kitsch annual music competition.

In an address to Eurovision delegates after handing over the British commentary to fellow Irishman Graham Norton, Wogan criticised countries who voted together along political lines in the singing contest. He told them to stop taking the event so seriously because "everybody knows it is rubbish".

Despite occasionally irritating organisers with his remarks, for instance, when he named the 2001 hosts "Dr Death and the Tooth Fairy", Eurovision on Sunday tweeted that it was "deeply saddened" by his death. It added: "He was without doubt the most remarkable Eurovision commentator in history."

Wogan, born in Limerick in 1938, also hosted popular quiz show Blankety Blank and annual fundraising event Children In Need for more than 30 years.

He also entered the pop charts in 1978 with his version of popular English folk song The Floral Dance.

He is survived by three children, another one dying shortly after birth, and wife Helen Joyce.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'The day presenter Terry Wogan almost slapped Bowie'. Print Edition | Subscribe