Monday, 11 December 2017

RIP Keith Chegwin

Another day, and the announcement of yet another truly shocking and surprising celebrity death - Keith Chegwin, gone at 60. 



Now obviously you don't expect people to live forever, but there's something almost unbelievable about hearing the news that the endlessly upbeat scouser known affectionately as 'Cheggers' has died. Like Richard Herring said about Terry Wogan, it's hard to imagine a world in which such mainstays are no longer a pop-cultural cornerstone, flickering away on the box in the corner of the room. But the awful truth is that Cheggers has died, at the age of 60 from a long battle with the progressively degenerative lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. In a way, a part of childhood has died with him too.



Because, with shows like Swap Shop, Saturday Superstore and Cheggers Plays Pop, Keith Chegwin was your childhood. And perhaps more than any other entertainer, Cheggers adapted with the times and reflected your life as you grew older. He had of course started out as a child actor, appearing in productions from the Children's Film Foundation, as Fleance in Roman Polanski's acclaimed Macbeth, opposite Peter Sellers in The Optimist of Nine Elms and in TV series such as Open All Hours, Village Hall, The Liver Birds, Z Cars and The Whackers. But it was the move into presenting around the mid 1970s, that Cheggers made his name. He was there for you every Saturday morning when you were a kid both in the gaudy glow of the 1970s and in the sparkle and shine of the 1980s, performing outside broadcasts up and down the land, helping children to swap their toys and games. And then, as you found yourself headed into your teen years and your twenties in the '90s, he rode the wave of the ironic tide and successfully reinvented himself without even moving away from his self appointed kingdom of morning TV. As you roused yourself from slumber for lessons and lectures, there he was surprising one and all in The Big Breakfast's 'Down Your Doorstep' segment, and later even presenting the show alongside Gaby Roslin and Zoe Ball, a surprise promotion when '90s zeitgeist wunderkid Chris Evans resigned.





When time was called on The Big Breakfast and the show ended, he simply took the format and moved seamlessly across to ITV to do it all over again for GMTV, his perpetually chirpy demeanour whisking you off to work. What's surprising about this ever-reliable, ever-reimagining fixture of our lives is that Chegwin achieved it all after overcoming alcoholism in the late '80s and early '90s.

In later years, Chegwin fully embraced the role of cheesy celebrity and the boost social media like Twitter afforded him. Having hosted Channel 5's revival of It's a Knockout and even appearing naked for the channel's nudist gameshow The Naked Jungle, he began to take part in several reality TV competitions such as Celebrity Big Brother (finishing fourth) Dancing on Ice and Celebrity Masterchef, as well as quizzes like The Chase and Pointless Celebrities. His ability to poke fun at himself and embrace the irony led to him starring as himself in a series of productions from the comedy slasher film Kill Keith to Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant series Extras and Life's Too Short, the latter of which he formed an unusual comedic trio with Les Dennis and Shaun Williamson. 



A true entertainer, he'll be much missed. 

RIP

2 comments:

  1. And, by all accounts, well liked in the business.

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  2. The obits just keep on coming don't they which is inevitable but sad to hear that Cheggers is no longer with us, and at such a young age. I used to buy all the teen mags in the early '70s and he popped up in those long before Swap Shop and what followed. RIP Keith.

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