Michael Aspel

Michael Aspel
Michael Aspel
Born Michael Terence Aspel
12 January 1933 (1933-01-12) (age 78)
Battersea, London, England, U.K.
Occupation TV presenter
Spouse Dian Sessions (1957-61)[1]
Ann Reed (1962-67[1])
Elizabeth Power(1977-1994)[1]
Irene Clarke (1994-)[1] (partnered)

Michael Terence Aspel,[2] OBE (born 12 January 1933) is an English television presenter, known for his reserved demeanour and rich speaking voice. He has been a high-profile TV personality in the United Kingdom since the 1960s, presenting programmes such as Crackerjack, Aspel and Company, This is Your Life, Strange But True? and Antiques Roadshow. Aspel is married to but separated from the actress Elizabeth Power, best known for her role in EastEnders. His current partner is Irene Clarke. In April 2008 he was made a Freeman of the Borough of Elmbridge, Surrey.[3]


Early life

Aspel was born in Battersea, in the London Borough of Wandsworth. During the Second World War he was evacuated and spent nearly five years in Chard, Somerset. He had been packed on a train, aged just seven, with a label tied to his clothes - 'like a parcel' and like so many of his generation (3.5 million British children were evacuated to the countryside, away from the threat of Nazi German bombs), the young Michael spent the formative years of his life with strangers, many miles from his home.[4]

He then attended Emanuel School after passing his eleven-plus in 1944. He served as a National Service conscript in the ranks of the King's Royal Rifle Corps from 1951-53.[5]

Early career

He worked as a drainpipe-layer and gardener, and sold advertising space for Western Mail newspaper in Cardiff. He also took up jobs at publishing houses, before his National Service. In his words:

"National Service was the catalyst that got me to Wales. Before that I was a teaboy in William Collins publishers, in London, serving tea to all these famous authors like Peter Cheyney."

He then took up a job at the David Morgan department store in Cardiff, which was shortlived as he spent most of his time pursuing a job as a radio actor for a children's play on BBC Wales, before working as newsreader for the BBC in Cardiff in 1957:

"I only got into news broadcasting because Richard Baker had a cold one day and I was asked to pop up for that weekend and ended up staying for eight years, until 1968. But that was because it was such bloody good fun with such a wonderful team which made me so thoroughly happy."

By the early sixties, he had become one of four regular newseaders on BBC national television, along with Richard Baker, Corbet Woodall and Robert Dougall.

At the BBC he began presenting a number of other programmes such as the series Come Dancing, Crackerjack, Ask Aspel, and Miss World, a beauty contest, which he covered 14 times. He narrated the now cult BREMA cartoon documentary, The Colour Television Receiver (aka Degaussing), a film to "familiarise engineers of some differences between a mono receiver and a colour receiver, from the point of view of adjustment and installation..", which was shown regularly on BBC2 between August 1967 and January 1971. He also provided narration for the BBC nuclear war documentary The War Game, which was judged too horrifying and politically charged to be shown on BBC TV. It won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar in 1966, but it was not shown on British television until 1985.

In 1969 and 1976 he hosted the BBC's A Song for Europe contest and provided the UK commentary twice at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1969 and 1976, also presenting the contest previews. He also had a regular joke slot on the Kenny Everett radio show on Capital Radio, and guest-starred twice on The Goodies, appearing as himself, notably in the episode "Kitten Kong", which won the Silver Rose at the Montreux Light Entertainment Festival.

In 1977 Aspel appeared with a number of other newsreaders and presenters in a song-and-dance routine ("There ain't Nothing Like a Dame") on The Morecambe and Wise Show. The sketch, in which the presenters were dressed as traditional sailors, is often cited as one of the classic moments of British TV comedy. In another episode, Morecambe refers to him as "Michael Aspirin". Aspel also presented a mid-morning music and phone-in programme on Capital Radio in London, In the 1970s and 1980s he appeared in popular ITV programmes such as Give Us a Clue, Child's Play and The 6 O'Clock Show, a live current affairs and entertainment programme shown only in the London Weekend Television region.

During the early 1990s, Aspel presented two documentaries on BBC Radio 2 written by Terence Pettigrew, on subjects with which they shared a personal knowledge. Caught In The Draft was a nostalgic look back at compulsory National Service. Both had served, at different times, in West Germany, Aspel in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and Pettigrew in the REME. Also taking part in the programme were comedian/compere Bob Monkhouse, Leslie Thomas, author of The Virgin Soldiers, and BBC Radio 2 drivetime host John Dunn.

This was followed by Nobody Cried When The Trains Pulled Out, a documentary about the evacuation of children from major British cities during World War 2. Again, the writer and presenter compared evacuation experiences. Aspel had been sent with his younger brother and sister to Chard in Somerset, whilst Pettigrew was shipped along with his older brother to maternal grandparents in Co Waterford, Ireland. Aspel admitted later that the experience had left deep scars on the family. Also taking part in the programme were champion boxer Henry Cooper, actor Derek Nimmo and author Ben Wicks. Both documentaries were produced by Harry Thompson.

Aspel and Company

One of his best-known roles was as host of his own chat show, Aspel and Company, which ran for several series in the 1980s and 1990s on ITV. Aspel and Company was successful in attracting high-profile guests, including then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher giving a rare non-political interview, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr together in a unique post-Beatles Q&A.

In 1993, Aspel and Company was censured by the Independent Television Commission over a deal with the restaurant chain Planet Hollywood and Matthew Freud's PR company to secure an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone. The trio effectively hijacked the programme, and at one point Aspel started reading from the menu, asking the guests if hamburgers and fries were really the way to "body beautiful".

For a time, Aspel and Company performed well for ITV in the highly competitive Saturday night ratings. After the Planet Hollywood controversy, Aspel vowed never to host a chat show again.[6]

Later career

Aspel was featured on the show This is Your Life in 1980, and when host Eamonn Andrews died in 1987 he became presenter of the programme until its run ended in 2003. Although he had guested on The Goodies (see above), Bill Oddie did not return the favour - when Aspel approached him, big red book in hand, and uttered the famous line: “Bill Oddie, this is your life”, Oddie replied: "No it f****** isn’t."[7]

In 1993, Aspel began presenting the ITV supernatural programme Strange But True?, a series exploring supernatural phenomena and unexplained mysteries. The programme ran between 1993 and 1997. He presented a new version of the ITV gameshow Blockbusters for the BBC in 1997; 60 programmes were made.

He presented BBC's Antiques Roadshow from 2000 until 2008, his last programme (recorded at Kentwell Hall, Suffolk) was shown on 30 March 2008 being a tribute to himself.[8]

In 2003, Aspel starred in a BBC Three spoof documentary which claimed he had affairs with Pamela Anderson, Valerie Singleton and Angie Best, among others. Several well known celebrities were claimed to be love children from these and other conquests, including Daniella Westbrook (with Pamela), Shane Lynch (with Valerie), Mel B (with a West German Eurovision Song Contest entrant), Melinda Messenger, Gail Porter, Michelle Heaton and Ben Shephard.[9]

He has guest hosted the topical quiz show Have I Got News for You on two occasions (October 2005 and November 2007).

In 2006, he played the role of the narrator in the UK tour of Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show.[10]

He was at one point favourite to be the new host of Countdown, though on 16 October 2006 the Daily Express reported that he had told an audience at a book launch he had already turned the job down.[7]

During July and August 2008, Michael Aspel filmed Evacuees Reunited,[11] a five-part documentary series made by Leopard Films for ITV1, which aired from 15–19 December 2008.[4] Along with fifteen other wartime evacuees, he returned to the locations of his own youth, including his wartime home in Chard, Somerset. He was reunited with his childhood gang of evacuees at Forde Abbey, just outside the town. Later he caught up with his 96 year-old former school teacher, Audrey Guppy.[12]

Personal life

He has been married three times, first to Dian Sessions[1] a "stunning domestic science student" in 1957. "She was particularly fecund," he says, "and we had two children [Greg and Richard][7] in barely the time it takes to have two [sic]." They divorced in 1961 and, on a whim - "I suggested a holiday become a honeymoon" - he married Anne Reed,[1] a TV scriptwriter, in 1962. They had twins, Tom and Jane,[7] but divorced in 1967.

His third marriage was to actress Lizzie Power[1] and lasted 17 years. Lizzie gave birth to a stillborn daughter, then a baby boy who lived only three days. Finally son Patrick was born 11 weeks premature and had cerebral palsy and Lizzie then suffered a miscarriage before giving birth to a second son, Daniel.

Since 1994, when their affair made headlines and ended his marriage to Lizzie, an affair which he revealed to Lizzie by telephone when she was hundreds of miles away on tour, he has lived with Irene Clark, a production assistant on This Is Your Life.[4] Aspel also has family in Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire.

In 2004, Aspel announced that he had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma[13][13][14]

His sanguine attitude toward his health is borne of family tragedy. One of his brothers was killed in a motorbike accident; his son James died at three days old; another son, Patrick, suffers from cerebral palsy. Most poignantly he watched his son Greg fight a long battle against cancer of the sinuses through the second half of his 20s, succumbing to the disease just weeks after turning 30 in 1989. He said:.[13]

"It has made everything else seem no more than a vague toothache. In remission, Greg was reinstated as the handsome, healthy person he had been before, but then it came back to get him. He went through dreadful operations and fought so hard, but he was a ruin when he died. If I'd gone a week later myself, I'd have not cared. It has put my own illnesses into perspective."


In 1993, Aspel became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) "for services to broadcasting", and has been voted TV Times and Variety Club Television Personality of the Year. He was also voted into the Royal Television Society Hall of Fame for outstanding services to television.[15]

He is a supporter of the charity Cancer Research UK and on 9 April 2008 Elmbridge Borough Council, Surrey, appointed him an Honorary Freeman of the Borough:

"...in recognition of the eminent service to the community and local charities, which he has given consistently for more than 30 years. In addition to being very involved with cancer charities, he has continued to support local events, whether to celebrate a resident’s 100th birthday or give his time freely to help raise the profile of local charities."[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Michael Aspel's revenge on the autocuties; Daily Mail report by Moira Petty - has pictures with most of Aspel's wives". London. 17 August 2007. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-475878/Michael-Aspels-revenge-autocuties.html. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  2. ^ "Picture of Aspel at TV announcers website". http://tvannouncers.thetvroomplus.com/images.php?id=458. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  3. ^ a b "Appointment of Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Elmbridge". http://www.elmbridge.gov.uk/Elmbridge%20Borough%20Council/Committees/HonoraryFreemanReportCO090408.pdf. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  4. ^ a b c Johnston, Jenny (2 December 2008). "Daddy, I hated you! TV's smoothest star Michael Aspel reveals his loathing for his own father - includes picture of young Michael and another with son Daniel and former wife Lizzie Power in 1985". Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1088390/Daddy-I-hated-TVs-smoothest-star-Michael-Aspel-reveals-loathing-father.html. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  5. ^ Liverpool Daily Post features
  6. ^ "and my next guest is...". The Independent (London). 2006-03-04. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/and-my-next-guest-istony-blair--stars-on-the-couch-468523.html. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Mr Smooth's Half Century - includes pictures - Anna Pukas". 9 August 2007. https://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/15953/Mr-Smooth's-half-century/. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  8. ^ "Bruce to host Antiques Roadshow". BBC News. (2007-06-22). http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6229968.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-22. 
  9. ^ "Pam's fling with antique Aspel". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2003-11-13. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/13/1068674289668.html?from=storyrhs. 
  10. ^ "Game shows website". http://www.ukgameshows.com/ukgs/Michael_Aspel. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  11. ^ http://www.itv.com/Lifestyle/EvacueesReunited/default.html
  12. ^ Collins, Robert (2008-12-10). "Evacuees Reunited: Michael Aspel". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/3703787/Evacuees-Reunited-Michael-Aspel.html. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  13. ^ a b c Petty, Moira (29 January 2007). "Michael Aspel on saying no to cancer treatment". Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-432379/Michael-Aspel-saying-cancer-treatment.html. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  14. ^ "TV star Michael Aspel has cancer". BBC News. 4 January 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/3366437.stm. 
  15. ^ "Michael Aspel at the UK TV History Channel Website". http://uktv.co.uk/history/item/aid/530414. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 

External links

Preceded by
Tom Sloan
Eurovision Song Contest UK Commentator
Succeeded by
David Gell
Preceded by
Pete Murray
Eurovision Song Contest UK Commentator
Succeeded by
Pete Murray
Preceded by
Hugh Scully
Host of Antiques Roadshow
Succeeded by
Fiona Bruce

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