Keith Chegwin has passed away aged 60.
Keith Chegwin in a Celebrity Big Brother promotional shot for Channel 5.
“I’ve lost my first real telly chum and I’m certain I’m not alone in shedding tears for a true telly legend. He was an extraordinary showman capable of entertaining a vast crowd of excited children during the long periods between his live contributions to the show. I never saw Keith flustered or lost for words. In fact now I think about it I never saw him upset or angry. I never heard Cheggers say a bad word about anyone. Like all true professionals he possessed the knack of reinventing himself time and time again.” – Noel Edmonds
Best known for his time on BBC One Saturday morning children’s magazine series Swap Shop, Chegwin had an early career as a child actor appearing in shows such as BBC crime series Z Cars, LWT’s children’s drama The Adventures of Black Beauty and as a teenager in beeb sitcom Open All Hours.
It was however appearing with radio DJ Noel Edmonds on Swap Shop from 1976 through to 1982 which gave him his best remembered role as the ‘OB Host’ appearing across the country at different locations each week where children would come and bring their toys to swap. His popularity with young audiences saw him gifted his own series, Cheggers Plays Pop. He would also continue as a regular feature host on Swap Shop replacement Saturday Superstore.
“He was a very generous performer. Keith was indeed larger than life but he never stole the spotlight. He was an all-round entertainer – a very funny comedian and accomplished musician and singer. He was at his best on location, with a film crew chasing him and a member of the public about to be surprised on their doorstep. 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.” – Noel Edmonds
Swap Shop days: Top: With co-stars John Craven, Maggie Philbin and Noel Edmonds. Bottom: Keith on the set of the show at TV Centre.
“I am sure you will have seen the heartbreaking news about Keith who died earlier today. 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. Keith was loved by everyone who knew and worked with him. I first met him when we did a film about windsurfing when I joined Swap Shop in 1978 and was immediately struck by his fun, energy and kindness. He drove me home to Leicestershire from that freezing lake in Staines, insisting it was on his own way home. (He lived in Twickenham). He leaves us all with very special memories.” – Maggie Philbin
Later work saw him appear several times with Edmonds on his Noel’s House Party series on BBC One prime time as well as a regular role as a roving reporter on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast, a role he later reprised for GMTV. He hosted the 1990s revival of quiz show Sale of the Century before he stripped off for a one-off nude game show on Channel 5 with Naked Jungle. Keith was in recent times seen more as a guest-personality appearing as a contestant on shows such as Celebrity Master Chef, Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing on Ice and Pointless Celebrities.
His personal life saw him marry Swap Shop co-host Maggie Philbin, to which they had a daughter. They later divorced. He came out as an alcoholic live on ITV to This Morning viewers when he admitted his drink problem to Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. He died earlier today after a long spell of ill health with a lung condition.
He also had a successful career as an actor regularly appearing in pantomime as well as several guest parts on television. Keith is the younger brother of BBC Radio presenter, and former Top of the Pops host, Janice Long.
“I never saw Keith without a smile. He was always bubbly, positive, full of fun. He was a master of the off-the-cuff remark and always made his job look so easy, whatever show he was doing, which is the true mark of a star on top of his game. Keith was much loved and will be much missed.” – John Craven
As a child actor in London Weekend Television’s The Adventures of Black Beauty. Pictured with actor Iain Cuthbertson.
Keith reunites with Mike Reid, and Crow, to reminisce about Saturday Superstore in 2006, marking 30 years of Saturday morning children’s magazine shows.
A family statement released this afternoon announced the passing of the beeb personality.
“We are heartbroken to share the news that Keith Chegwin sadly passed away following a long-term battle with a progressive lung condition, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which rapidly worsened towards the end of this year. Keith died peacefully at home shortly after midnight on the 11th of December. His wife Maria, his daughter Rose and his son Ted were by his side. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Severn Hospice for the kindness, support and care they have shown us all over the last few weeks. Keith was a loving husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. We would respectfully ask to be left to mourn his passing in private.”
Keith Chegwin appears on ITV’s Dancing on Ice.