Lionel Blair: veteran actor, dancer and entertainer dies aged 92

Lionel Blair, the veteran actor, dancer and entertainer, has died at the age of 92, his agent has said.

Born Henry Lionel Ogus, he grew up in Stamford Hill, north London after his family moved from Canada, worked on television as an actor, tap dancer, presenter and choreographer across a seven-decade career. He died on Thursday morning surrounded by his family, according to his management company.

The entertainer went on to work in the West End but decided to give up acting in 1947 during which he took up his stage name Lionel Blair.

In the 1960s he rose to stardom by being part of variety shows as part of his dance troupe in addition to appearing in films including The Limping Man, A Hard Day’s Night and The Beauty Jungle.

He will perhaps be most remembered as one of the team captains on Give Us a Clue, a gameshow based on charades which aired from the 1970s until the 1990s.

Blair also wrote a musical based on Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which toured around the UK for six months.

In recent years, he made appearances on shows including Celebrity Big Brother in 2004 and The Real Marigold Hotel.

He married Susan Blair in 1967 and the couple have three children.

Blair fed his early passion for performing while sheltering from air raids during the the second world war. When it began, he was evacuated from north London to Oxford with his sister Joyce and mother Deborah.

However, the family’s stint in the countryside did not last long and they returned to London after witnessing a German plane crash leading to his father, Myer, calling them back to the capital.

“If that can happen there, what’s the point of being in the country away from each other?” Blair said his father told him.

His father’s parents were Russian, though Blair described him as “the archetypal north London barber”. Blair was 13 when his father died after going in for surgery on a hernia and duodenal ulcer.

Tributes have been paid by numerous celebrities on social media. Christopher Biggins, TV star and friend of Blair, said they often spoke on the phone. He told BBC News: “He was just the most wonderful, kind, funny, real giver of life. His energy was extraordinary.”

He said Blair had a “great sense of humour” and is a “tribute to his wonderful family”, describing him as the “king of the pantomime” and a man who was “adored” by the public.

The standup comedian Ed Byrne tweeted: “One of the highlights of my short lived Saturday morning radio show on BBC London (which I co hosted with my mother) was when we had Lionel Blair as a guest.

“Smoking fags and knocking back gin and tonics with us at 11am. We even got him to tap dance on a sheet of plywood. Legend,” he said.

The author Emma Kennedy tweeted: “I am very glad I got to meet Lionel Blair.

“He was a Phenomenon. Full of magical, fruity, end with a wink anecdotes. What a career. What a talent. RIPLionel.”

Danny Baker, the broadcaster, wrote on Twitter: “A true chum, an entertainer beyond compare, an archive of a golden era, an immeasurable talent.

“Impossible to think he won’t be in some Green room somewhere, dropping names and living out fantastic tales. A Giant. Really.”

The actor Julian Clary tweeted: “RIP dear Lionel Blair. A showbiz trooper if ever there was.”

In an interview with the Guardian in 2013, the entertainer discussed the secret behind his long marriage to Susan. He said: “The secret of a successful marriage is memories.

“You must have memories together.

“That’s why my dad insisted that we went everywhere together, so we could talk about things.

“I’m so lucky to have a wife who is a nest builder. Her nest is the most important thing in the world to her.”

The actor maintained a coyness over his true age and once famously said: “I am 59 plus VAT.”

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