Broadcaster and journalist Sir Michael Parkinson, more informally known as “Parky,” has been a familiar face on our screens for as long as most of us can remember.
The Barnsley-born television veteran celebrated his 86th birthday earlier this year in March, having hosted more than 650 shows throughout his career, including the show that bears his name, Parkinson.
On the show, he interviewed anyone from Hollywood stars to politicians; over 2,000 of the most famous faces of their time have appeared on his show, including Muhammad Ali, Sir David Attenborough and Madonna.
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Perhaps most memorable was his icy interview with actor Meg Ryan in 2003, for which he recently apologized for getting unnecessarily angry and “coming back somehow pompous.”
During the interview, Parkinson grew increasingly frustrated with the star of When Harry Met Sally, the actor finally told him to “wrap up” after accusing her of not being famous. Ouch…
Parkinson has been married to his wife Mary, also from North Doncaster, since 1959, when the couple met in Yorkshire.
Mary Parkinson was one of the hosts on Thames TV’s Good Afternoon daytime show, and actually briefly introduced Parkinson’s in the 1970s.
After 60 years of marriage, the couple have three children, Andrew, Nicholas and Michael Jr, born in 1960, 1964 and August 1967, and they now also have eight grandchildren.
However, it has not always been easy; last year Parkinson open to the Express about a “deeply unhappy” period in his longtime marriage that came after he became increasingly dependent on alcohol in the early days of his Fleet Street career.
“I was not far from being a chronic alcoholic,” he told the Express, describing how the drinking culture in journalism at the time was all-consuming and many of his friends were “heavy drinkers,” but managed to “retire at the right time.”
It was Mary who finally helped him get through this, revealed the reporter, who said: “I may remember that as the thing that stopped me, it was Mary my wife.”
Parkinson’s may also unintentionally have become the greatest family planning icon of the 20th century.
He was interviewed about his vasectomy in the very first UK issue of Cosmo, February 1972, under the cover: “Michael Parkinson talks about his vasectomy – the most beautiful thing a man can do for a woman”.
The magazine cost 20 pence and also included a photo of Burt Reynolds naked and Jilly Cooper noting famous men in bed including David Niven, Dudley Moore and Robert Maxwell – no wonder it sold out in a day.
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Decades later, in 2010, surgeon and great expert in family planning John Guillebaud told the Times: “There is no doubt that Michael Parkinson saying what he did caused a huge boost.”
Parkinson told The Times he only did the interview after the story of his vasectomy “was passed on to a reporter without my knowledge.”
He added: “I don’t know where or how the leak happened.
“But it does and I did an interview for Cosmo.
“At that time, there was no talk of the operation and the ignorance of the men in particular was remarkable.
“Maybe my ‘confession’ helped reject the prevalent idea at that time that a vasectomy was tantamount to sex reassignment or, at the very least, emasculation.
He added: “These were interesting times.”
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