Keith Chegwin: ‘True telly legend’ dies aged 60

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Media caption“Cheggers” was a fixture on 1970s and 80s children’s TV

Veteran TV presenter Keith Chegwin has died aged 60 after a long illness, his family has said.

They said he had endured a “long-term battle with a progressive lung condition” which “rapidly worsened towards the end of this year”.

He died at home on Monday with his family by his side, who said they were “heartbroken”.

Tributes have been paid from the world of entertainment for the “true telly legend”.

His career spanned five decades.

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Media captionNoel Edmonds pays a tearful tribute to his “first telly chum” Keith Chegwin

‘Life and soul’

Chegwin was perhaps best known for hosting programmes including children’s game show Cheggers Plays Pop, Swap Shop and Saturday Superstore.

The Liverpool-born star began his career as a child actor, starring in films such as Roman Polanski’s Macbeth and TV shows including The Liver Birds, The Adventures of Black Beauty and Z-Cars.

He went on to appear in reality TV shows including Celebrity Big Brother.

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Media captionKeith Chegwin “never without a smile” – John Craven

The larger-than-life character, described by his family as “a loving husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend”, leaves his wife Maria and two children.

Chegwin had been cared for at a hospice in recent weeks.

His last tweet was posted on 28 September.

‘Childhood memories’

Chegwin was previously married to fellow TV presenter Maggie Philbin, whom he had met on Swap Shop.

Philbin paid tribute to her former husband, saying: “It is incredibly sad. Keith was a one-off. Full of life, generous and with a focus on things that mattered – his family.

“I saw him two months ago at his sister Janice’s wedding, where he was still attempting to be life and soul of the party despite being on portable oxygen and made sure he knew how much he meant to us all.

“Our daughter Rose flew home from San Francisco to be with him over the last few weeks and I know he was surrounded by so much love from his second wife Maria, their son Ted, his sister Janice, his twin brother Jeff and his father Colin.”

Image caption Chegwin was a familiar face on children’s television

Fellow Swap Shop presenter Noel Edmonds said in a statement: “I’ve lost my first real telly chum and I’m certain I’m not alone in shedding tears for a true telly legend.

“The greatest achievement for any TV performer is for the viewers to regard you as a friend and today millions will be grateful for Keith’s contribution to their childhood memories and like me they will mourn the passing of a friend.”

Ricky Gervais, who created the series Extras which Chegwin starred in, described him as a “national treasure”.

‘Great character’

Gaby Roslin, who worked with Chegwin on The Big Breakfast, described him as “so generous and kind” and a “happy and joyous man”.

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Image caption Chegwin had two children, including a daughter with his first wife Maggie Philbin

John Craven, who worked with Chegwin on Swap Shop told BBC News that his colleague “never lost his cool. I never saw Keith when he wasn’t happy. He was a great, great character.”

He added: “We were great friends for many years, but we lost touch a bit and [his death] came as a huge shock for me.”

Presenter Chris Evans, who worked with Chegwin on the Big Breakfast, tweeted: “Very sad and shocked to hear of the passing of Keith Chegwin. The king of outside broadcast.”

Bobby Davro said Chegwin was “one of the nicest guys” in showbiz.

And Tony Blackburn said he was “devastated” at the loss of his friend.

Blackburn told BBC News that Chegwin was “exactly the same (off air) as he was on television” and that he never saw him with a script.

“He was the most lovely person I’ve ever met and I’m so sad he’s no longer with us,” he added.

‘Saturday morning hero’

Breakfast presenter Lorraine Kelly said he was “a kind, funny, brave man”.

And Fiona Phillips, who also worked with him on breakfast TV, also paid tribute to her friend.

Phillip Schofield, who presented Saturday morning show Going Live, described Chegwin as “one of my many original Saturday morning heroes”.

Chegwin also had a hit single with I Wanna Be A Winner in 1981. The novelty hit, which was recorded by Chegwin and his Swap Shop co-hosts under the name Brown Sauce, reached number 15 in the charts.

His career fell away in the 80s and 90s and he had a well-documented struggle with alcoholism for many years. But it was revived by a stint on the Big Breakfast.

He went on to make infamous Channel 5 nudist gameshow Naked Jungle, appearing naked except for a hat – which he later described as the “worst career move” of his “entire life”.

Chegwin – known affectionately by the nickname Cheggers – also appeared in Celebrity Big Brother, Bargain Hunt Famous Finds and Dancing on Ice.

He was due to appear in the 2012 Dancing on Ice series but had to pull out after breaking his ribs during the first day of rehearsal. He returned as a contestant the following year.

He also took part in Pointless Celebrities and Masterchef.

The disease Chegwin had is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which causes scarring of the lungs.

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