Having interviewed, literally, thousands of celebrities over his six decade career, national icon Sir Michael Parkinson, heads to Newcastle in a few weeks as part of a national, dual tour.
Appearing at Newcastle’s iconic Tyne Theatre & Opera House, ‘Parky’ as he is more affectionately known, will talk to fans about his lengthy career, those he has interviewed, those he didn’t like interviewing, and those he wishes he had interviewed.
Starting in the swinging sixties when, as he eloquently puts it “a little band called The Beatles were in the background and a skinny little lad called George Best joined Manchester United,” Parky hit the fast-track to stardom.
Serving an apprenticeship on some the nation’s news desks, including the Sunday Times, Parky quickly found himself at first Granada TV, then, as fate served him, at the BBC as his talk show took off, in stunning fashion.
“I didn’t really know what it was I was doing and I stumbled into that career in the most unlikely way,” began Parky.
It was to be a young Parky’s lightbulb moment on his first ever television interview, when, in 1963, he would interview Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones. An overnight, and the unlikeliest of sensations, was born.
“I suddenly became a household name, I was hot property, although it probably helped being sandwiched between two episodes of Coronation Street,” he continued.
“Then along comes the BBC which, at the start, when I moved there, I was used more as a journalist and war correspondent (although the British Army’s youngest ever captain during his National Service during the fifties, being a war correspondent was far from the top of his list, as his passions lay more in sport and music).
“Parkinson (the chat show) happened by chance, and it was actually only supposed to be a 10-week run.” It ended up being 540 episodes over three spells between 1971 and 2007, the last episodes being broadcast in the December that year.
“We wanted, even needed, a big name to kick-start the show though so we went for Orson Welles and was made to jump through hoops before finally getting him on after that all the big names wanted to come and suddenly it became the show that everybody wanted to watch.”
Since then he has interviewed anyone who is, well anyone, from any genre film, music, science, literature, comedy, they have all pretty much been ‘grilled’ by a gentleman who was knighted ten years ago.
Often publicised as being Parky’s favourite interview, the great Muhammad Ali is joined on that pedestal by Professor Jacob Bronowski (a member of the team that developed the atom bomb and presented the documentary, The Ascent of Man) and Catherine Bramwell-Booth (an officer in the Salvation Army who lived to 104), as being two of the specific encounters Parky looks back on the most fondly.
“I never got close to Ali, he never wanted that,” recalled Parky. “We noticed that, in the book we released last year (Muhammad Ali: A Memoir) about the four interviews I did, not only was he a remarkable man but he was also terribly conflicted. He is probably the greatest fighter that ever lived, and will live though.”
Promoted by Steve Wraith and Danny Mitchell, An Evening with Sir Michael Parkinson takes place at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House on Friday 23 February with tickets priced £28-£50 available from the venue's Box Office 0844 2491 000, or online via tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/ events/an-evening-with-sir-michael-parkinson/ (booking fees will apply on all purchases).