Parkinson’s northern accent was ‘very refreshing’, says Attenborough
Some of the celebrities whom the Yorkshire-born presenter interviewed have paid tribute after his family announced he died “peacefully at home” at the age of 88 on Wednesday.
In a pre-recorded interview for BBC Radio 4’s The World At One, Sir David said he thought when he was controller of BBC Two that Sir Michael was the “best freelance interviewer in the business”.
The naturalist added: “He was always knowledgeable, he was absolutely classless.
“That’s not quite true, you knew he was not a southerner, you knew he was a northerner and that was a very refreshing voice in those days and you knew that he would do his homework and that he would ask questions that didn’t occur to you.
“(Michael was) extremely professional, you knew that he would know all the background and you didn’t have to fill in anything.
“He was extremely generous, he wanted you to shine and would always laugh at your jokes and give you an opportunity to make them sound funnier than in fact they were.”
The 97-year-old also said that being interviewed by him “was like meeting a friend” and “you knew he was on your side”.
On the same BBC radio show, Sir Michael Palin said that the “publicists lit the fireworks” if you got on Sir Michael Parkinson’s show which he described as the “gold standard”.
The presenter and comedian said: “He wanted to get people on his show who entertained him and, therefore, who he thought would entertain the audience.
“It didn’t always work. In some cases, people (interviewees) suspected what they saw as the difficult questions he might ask in among all the fun and the enjoyment.
“He was a very good journalist, and a very proud journalist, and it was very important for him not to give people an easy ride. But he did basically choose people he liked, because he liked to be entertained himself.”
Former footballer David Beckham said losing Sir Michael was saying “goodbye to the best”, as he recalled his wife, Victoria, revealing she calls him “Golden Balls” during a Parkinson interview.
On Instagram, Beckham wrote: “I was so lucky to not just be interviewed by Michael but to be able to spend precious time talking about football and family our 2 passions plus the GoldenBalls moment.”
Jamie Cullum, who performed on Sir Michael’s show in 2003, one of his first big TV appearances as a young musician, remembered him on Instagram.
The musician wrote: “He was an extremely generous person who spent a huge amount of his time listening to people speak about their passions and expertise, to the benefit of all of us. I was lucky enough to be a beneficiary of his curiosity.
“What struck me was how he always had an interest in the mechanics of how you did things. How difficult passages of music might become muscle memory, what kind of dedication and obsession that might take.
“You knew when he was asking a question, that he genuinely wanted to know the answer, on camera or off.
“I played at a charity event for him very recently, where, surrounded by friends from the world of sport and the arts, he was celebrated for his warmth, dedication, attentiveness to life, loyalty and his wicked sense of humour.
“I got the chance to give him a big hug and say thank you to him.”
Sir Elton John said that he “loved” Sir Michael’s company as he paid tribute to him on Instagram.
The 76-year-old Rocketman singer wrote: “Michael Parkinson was a TV legend who was one of the greats. I loved his company and his incredible knowledge of cricket and Barnsley Football Club.
“A real icon who brought out the very best in his guests.”
Former Downing Street press secretary Alastair Campbell said Sir Michael was a “real source of support and encouragement when things got a bit tough at times”.
Writing on Twitter, now known as X, the podcaster also said: “So sad to hear that Michael Parkinson has died. A great journalist, a wonderful interviewer and a real source of warmth, energy and zest for life.”
In a statement to the PA news agency following Sir Michael Parkinson’s death, fellow chat show host Graham Norton said: “Such sad news. As a chat show host he was the gold standard that will never be matched.”
Broadcasters Gary Lineker and Dan Walker described Sir Michael as “truly brilliant” and “a TV titan”.
Former footballer Lineker tweeted: “Saddened to hear that Michael Parkinson has died. A truly brilliant broadcaster and wonderful interviewer.
“He was very much part of Saturday nights growing up: Parkinson then Match Of The Day. RIP Parky.”
TV presenter Walker posted: “Michael Parkinson was a TV titan. It was always a pleasure to talk to him, on & off camera, about cricket, football, politics & TV.
“He was full of advice, picked up over his remarkable career, & always brought the best out in others.
“A proper gent who will be missed be many.”
Presenter Nick Knowles said Sir Michael was “always very kind to me with advice” and described him as a “lovely man”.
Tweeting a photo of him, he wrote: “Loved his cricket & raised huge amounts for charities with matches. This was taken in Bray chatting with Robert Powell. Parky wasn’t well but came along ‘cos he wouldn’t let the charity down. RIP Sir.”
Politicians including Conservatives, former prime minister Theresa May, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, and Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP for Barnsley Central and former mayor of South Yorkshire, also paid tribute.
Mr Jarvis tweeted: “Sad to hear that Sir Michael Parkinson has passed away – Barnsley born and bred and an icon of the small screen for 60 years.
“His show was the place to be for anyone who was anyone, his quick wit & rare ability to make A-lister’s feel at ease made for unmissable TV.”
Ms Frazer also wrote that Sir Michael was a “broadcasting giant who set a gold standard for the television interview”.
She added: “He spent his life entertaining millions of us with his Saturday night talk show & was one of our most treasured TV personalities. My thoughts are with Michael’s family & friends.”