Jewish showbiz veteran Lionel Blair dies, aged 92

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Jewish showbiz veteran Lionel Blair dies, aged 92

Performer, who grew up in Stamford Hill and starred in the TV quiz show Give Us A Clue among many others, passed away on Thursday.

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

Across a seven-decade career, the Jewish performer worked on television as an actor, tap dancer, presenter and choreographer.

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

In recent years, he made appearances on shows including Celebrity Big Brother and The Real Marigold Hotel.

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

Born Henry Lionel Ogus in Montreal, Quebec, his parents were Myer Ogus, who worked as a barber and Debora “Della” Greenbaum.

He grew up in Stamford Hill and was evacuated to Oxford when war broke out, with his mother and sister Joyce.

The family was Jewish but not observant and their habit of eating bacon was frowned upon by the neighbours.

Blair was 13 when his father Myer died after going in for surgery on a hernia and duodenal ulcer. “It changed everything,” Blair said.

“It was the first time I’d ever thought, I’m never going to see him again. It was so awful and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a loss like it.”

Blair said he had to grow up “artificially fast” following the death of his father, and he was already making a name for himself as an actor. However, then came the death of his mother, leaving him an orphan.

Sister Joyce then married her first husband, meaning Blair was on his own. Throughout his showbiz career, he has been a dancer, choreographer, TV presenter, director and actor – covering the entire sphere of the business.

Even in his later years, Blair maintained a healthy tan and his famous bouffant hairstyle.

His cheerful demeanour and enthusiastic manner led to jokes he was gay, and his sexuality was a running gag on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

Blair said he largely ignored the jibes, but once sent a man to hospital after punching him when he called him a “fairy”.

And on claims he could be called camp, Blair said: “Camp? Really? I prefer ‘flamboyant’, or ‘enthusiastic’. I’ve always been a bit over-the-top.”

One of Lionel’s final TV appearances, paying tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth


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