Sir Michael Parkinson’s cause of death has been disclosed

Veteran chat show host died ‘peacefully’ last month

Jacob Stolworthy
Friday 01 September 2023 13:44 BST
Michael Parkinson's infamous 2003 interview with Meg Ryan

Sir Michael Parkinson’s cause of death has been revealed.

The veteran chat show host’s family announced that he had died aged 88 on 17 August. His death followed an impressive career that saw him interview stars including Orson Welles, John Wayne, Sir Michael Caine, Madonna, John Lennon and Muhammed Ali.

A spokesperson said at the time that Parkinson “passed away peacefully at home in the company of his family” after a “brief illness”.

The cause of death on the death certificate, which has now been obtained by The Mirror, is listed as “frailty of old age”.

Parkinson’s son, Mike, recently said that his late father suffered from “imposter syndrome” and “carried with him a sense of working-class guilt” throughout his career.

He claimed the chat show host was “constantly questioning himself” after joining the mainstream media and “didn’t have as much self-confidence” despite his success.

Mike said that if you compared the Parkinson of the 1970s to the person he was when he came back in 1998, “there’s a different man there”.

“He’s a much more confident man, much more, but then that’s because he’d earned his stripes,” he said. But in the Seventies, it was a constant battle to fight against, you know, people that wouldn’t really be bothered if you failed.”

Parkinson, the presenter’s flagship talk show, ran for 11 years on the BBC starting in 1971. It was later revived in 1998, ending in 2007.

After retiring from presenting that year, Parkinson returned to the airwaves in 2012 for the Sky Arts series Parkinson: Masterclass.

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He also hosted the BBC’s famous radio series Desert Island Discs between 1986 and 1988, following the death of creator Roy Plomley.

Parkinson’s career started in local journalism, where he had a job collating sports results. A two-year stint in the military beginning in 1955, around the time of the Suez crisis, saw him become the then-youngest captain in the British army.

Michael Parkinson photographed in 2011

This was followed by jobs at The Manchester Guardian and The Daily Express before he pivoted to TV, with roles at Granada and the BBC.

Across his career, Parkinson conducted a raft of memorable interviews. When boxer Ali appeared on Parkinson in 1971, he shared a powerful message about racism that still resonated with audiences decades later.

Some of his interviews became notorious for more unfortunate reasons, such as his infamous sit-down with Meg Ryan in 2003.

When Ryan went on the show to promote her divisive erotic thriller In the Cut, Parkinson appeared to criticise Ryan’s involvement in the film. The Hollywood actor then asked the host to “wrap it up” and cut the interview short.

Parkinson apologised to the When Harry Met Sally star in 2021, admitting: “I wish I hadn’t lost my temper with Meg Ryan. I wish I’d dealt with it in a more courteous manner. I was quite obviously angry with her and it’s not my business to be angry towards the guests. I came across as kind of pompous and I could have done better.”

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