This week we continue our look at the life of one of Britain’s most popular television presenters, Michael Aspel, who turns 83 next January.
In 1994 Aspel shocked British fans when he left his wife of 17 years, actress Lizzie Power, for Irene Clark, a production assistant he’d met when working as a presenter on This Is Your Life. Aspel and Clark are still together, but have never married as Powers, with whom Aspel remains good friends, is a Catholic, and as such refuses to get a divorce.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Aspel hosted a Saturday night television talk show, Aspel & Company, where his guests included such people as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Taylor, George Harrison and Ringo Star. The show ran for nine years, during which time Aspel also hosted shows on both Capital Radio in London and on BBC Radio 2. In 1987 he also took over the hosting duties for the long-time This Is Your Life show, which he did until it ended in 2003. His appearances on television and radio in that two decade period were too numerous to mention, so it was not surprising that in 1993 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for “services to broadcasting”.
In 2000 Aspel added another show to his weekly television appearances, when he became the presenter of Antiques Roadshow UK, taking over from Hugh Scully. The two presenters were completely different in style and audiences would never guess that Aspel is actually quite shy. In fact, he claimed in an interview with the Express that without a script he “suffers from the sort of shyness that would have him cowering in a corner at parties unable to think of anything to say”. He also confessed to not being “naturally witty” and that “even the ad libs on his shows were rehearsed during sleepless nights (he is an insomniac).”
In the same interview, Aspel made public the fact that in 2002 he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma for which he underwent chemotherapy. The diagnosis did not interrupt the presenter’s work and in 2004 he announced that the cancer was dormant. Aspel cheerfully continued to host Antiques Roadshow UK until March of 2008, when he hosted his last edition; a retrospective of the 200 episodes he’d presented, with updates on some of the objects that had been featured during his time with the series. It was an emotional day, made all the more so when he was presented with a special leaving present; an antique BBC radio microphone.
Aspel’s replacement on Antiques Roadshow UK was another well-known British newsreader, Fiona Bruce, who you can see next Saturday at 8pm on MPT2 when she hosts the show from the Yorkshire seaside resort, Bridlington.
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