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RIP Lionel Blair

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  • RIP Lionel Blair

    Nearly three months after we lost Una Stubbs, the ladies' team captain on Give us a Clue, Stubbs' male counterpart on the show, Lionel Blair has died at the age of 92.

    In addition to his famous gestures that he gave as an indication to whether something was the title of a book, film, play, person, etc, inviting a threesome of C-list actors to guess what Michaels Aspel or Parkinson wanted him to mime within two minutes, he also presented Name that Tune, taking over from another person we have lost this year, Tom O'Connor - he made more appearances on Give us a Clue than anyone else. And of course we recently lost the composer of the first version of its theme Alan Hawkshaw a couple of weeks ago.

    Blair had a huge cultural currency in Great Britain - although he came from Canada, he was a familiar icon on British TV screens for decades. Originally he was a dancer, mostly appearing as part of dancing acts until the charades arrived in 1979 and I think that was what he was most famous for - I thought that back in the 1980s he was only in his 30s or 40s but was a lot older which was surprising. His voice sounded to me a bit like a Donald Duck-type voice - any impressionist who could Donald could also do Blair.

    Unusually and perhaps ironically, Blair himself became part of Cockney Rhyming Slang, and his associations with dancing helped as well - "get your Lionels on" sounded like something one was to wear something made of linoleum, but it was a tribute to 1970s disco where "Lionel Blairs" were flares which even made it onto a greetings card sold in the 1990s. John Travolta would have been proud of him!

    The post Give us a Clue-era of the 1990s was more low key - an honorable mention of Blair was made by Hale and Pace in their Ginger Song skit where in sub-Jeeves and Wooster-style, sung, "if Lionel Blair had dyed his hair, would he be a ginger beer?" Other memories of Lionel Blair from around then included an advertisement for Nestle ice cream he did in around 1994 which was filmed in South Africa - in a local radio interview, he revealed that it had rained on the final day of filming.

    From around a year before that was the more memorable "Lionel Blair Cut" commercial for Harp Lager. Cue Brian Conley playing a hairdresser saying to a client: "you could hive a Lionel Blair-cut [sic] like mine". "Lionel Blair doesn't have his hair cut like yours", the customer proclaimed. "He does if he comes here", Conley added, switching on the clippers. After a "time for a Sharp exit - time fop a cool sharp Harp" sting, we see Blair in a pub, supporting the "Blair-cut" (in reality, a skull cap and wig over his real hair), asking for "a pint of Harp please, Chief".

    Lionel Blair was the subject of a Gotcha for Noel's House Party while performing with Vicki Michelle in the farce Don't Dress for Dinner, inventing the "Lionel Blair stare" for which he was not too pleased to be caught out in one of Edmonds' pranks. - when the play came to the East Midlands, the late Dennis McCarthy interviewed him for Afternoon Special in 1994 in which I was so excited, looking forwards to hearing it on the radio - McCarthy interviewed him about Give us a Clue, while giving Harp Lager product placement and talking about the Noel's Gotcha.

    The most recent thing that I can remember him from a TV perspective was the Reality TV series the Young Ones from around 2010-2011 (not to be confused with Sir Cliff's 1962 hit or even the "alternative" 1982-1984 BBC sitcom), where Blair was placed with veterans such as Derek Jameson in an old people's home setting.

    Yes, another one from our childhood has gone now.




    I've everything I need to keep me satisfied
    There's nothing you can do to make me change my mind
    I'm having so much fun
    My lucky number's one
    Ah! Oh! Ah! Oh!

  • #2
    Reading elsewhere, I was reminded that Lionel Blair (along with Alan Carr) also rescued someone off Blackpool Pier in 2006 when they were appearing there as well. It's amazing that he had been going strong in showbusiness a la Bruce Forsyth since at least 1945 as a search on the Times website tells us - when he was on Give us a Clue he gave me the impression that he was a lot younger for his age when he was in his early 50s even then, at a time when men of that age already looked like pensioners.

    A UK Gold off-air Give us a Clue episode has appeared on YT courtesy of ADC - a series two 1979 episode with the Grange Hill theme tune in tact. In addition to the Blair tribute, we get to see future team captain Liza Goddard on Una Stubbs' team as a guest - perhaps the only time that both Stubbs and Goddard were on the show together? The late Lionel has Ed "Stewpot" Stewart as a guest - ironic considering that Grange Hill which had the same theme tune also had a character called Stewpot Stewart. Colin "Who" Baker was Blair's other celebrity guest - Tom was obviously too busy being the incumbent Doctor.

    And back then, they even had members of the public on the show to take part - I almost forgot about this when I saw it, and I thought at first that Una's MOTP (as Danny Baker would have said) was either Nana Mouskouri or Anna "Olive from On the Buses" Karen as she looked like both of them.
    I've everything I need to keep me satisfied
    There's nothing you can do to make me change my mind
    I'm having so much fun
    My lucky number's one
    Ah! Oh! Ah! Oh!

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    • #3
      Such terribly sad news when i hear about his death.

      A fella who just seemed to go on forever to me.

      R i p lionel.
      FOR THE HONOUR OF GRAYSKULL

      Comment


      • #4
        RIP Lionel,
        a constant source of amusement for I’m sorry I haven’t a clue.
        I often revisit that gotcha
        a true professional in the way he copes

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