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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 28 December 1943Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, UK
Date of Death 26 June 2005Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, UK  (complications from heart surgery following pneumonia)
Birth NameJohn Richard Whiteley
Nickname "Twice-Nightly" Whiteley

Mini Bio (1)

John Richard Whiteley, a staunchly proud Yorkshireman, was a much-loved television presenter and journalist, born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1943. He was best known for being the presenter of the long running UK Channel 4 television show Countdown (1982).

However, prior to this he was primarily a journalist, working as a reporter for Yorkshire Television, one of whose claims to fame being that he had interviewed every British Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan. He was also the first journalist to interview the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher after the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party conference week in 1984.

Countdown was originally scheduled to run for only five weeks when it began in 1982 as an inception show for the then brand new UK television channel Channel 4, but the show went on to run for 23 years under his presentation, averaging four million viewers per week.

Whiteley will also be remembered for his taste in clothing, every single episode wearing a different garishly coloured tie along with an equally loud, sometimes striped, jacket. Never one to appear superior to his guests he was always self-effacing and "bumbling" - a word often used to describe him by his closest friends.

In 2004 he was invested as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, an award of which he was said to have been very proud.

In May 2005, he was rushed into intensive care suffering from pneumonia, and although he appeared to be making a slow but steady recovery, doctors found that he had an infection in one of his heart valves. He was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary and underwent an operation to correct this. The operation went well but unfortunately two days later he suffered a heart attack and did not regain consciousness.

He will be deeply and sadly missed by his family, his closest friends and his fans, an all-round truly decent man.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Phil Caldwell

Spouse (1)

Candy Watson (6 June 1973 - 1975) (divorced)

Trade Mark (1)

Loud ties and stripey blazers, usually clashing

Trivia (14)

Partner of Kathryn Apanowicz.
He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2004 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to Broadcasting.
He was taught English at Giggleswick School by Russell Harty who later became famous as a chat-show host in the 1980s.
When he used to present Calendar (1968), Yorkshire Television's local news programme, he was once required to interview a man who had brought his pet ferrets to the studio as part of the interview. When the interviewee passed him a ferret, saying "Go on, it's harmless, it won't bite you", the ferret did just that - it bit him hard and wouldn't let go! With the ferret hanging from his hand, Richard struggled manfully on with the interview despite being in excruciating pain. Being told "She's only playing with you, if she really meant business she'd bite right down to the bone" was scant comfort!
He was the first journalist to interview Margaret Thatcher after the Brighton Bombing in 1984.
Hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia in May 2005.
Discounting a programme montage, he was the first person ever to appear on screen on Channel 4, presenting the inaugural edition of Countdown - and once said that he wanted to be remembered for this feat.
Best known for his roles presenting television game shows and local news programs, he was also an accomplished political interviewer, having interviewed every British prime minister from Harold Macmillan to Tony Blair.
Educated at Giggleswick School, North Yorkshire and Christ's College Cambridge.
Was the first face to appear on the UK's Channel 4 in 1982 (discounting a programme montage) when he presented Countdown for the first time. It was intended to run for 5 weeks but it just kept going. In fact, he presented every episode until May 2005 when he got pneumonia. He was taking longer to recover than expected so, for the first time ever, a selection of guest presenters were due to take his slot until he had fully recovered; however, he died shortly afterward, and the guest-presented series were never filmed.
Son, James, born 1987, with fashion journalist and TV presenter Lesley Ebbetts.
A memorial service was held for him on 10 November 2005 at York Minster.
He reported on the imminent collapse of the Holbeck Hall hotel in Scarborough due to a landslip on 7 June 1993. As he was doing his piece to camera, the hotel collapsed into the sea behind him, right on cue.
He once unwittingly caused a scandal, resulting in newspaper headlines such as "Whiteley in Swearing Shocker". On Countdown (1982) he often wore ties that viewers had made for him. On a Christmas special episode of the programme he wore one with the word 'COUNTDOWN' in large letters. After transmission it was noticed that (as related by Carol Vorderman): "The 'DOWN' had disappeared as he sat behind the desk, and his microphone had gone over the 'O'".

Personal Quotes (7)

I had an exercise bike for seven years, but I gave it away. I had only done eighteen miles.
I'd like to be remembered for being the first face on Channel 4; that's what I'm really most proud of.
So, nine in a line, 30 seconds is the time!
The best bits are at the front.
Did I see a group called "The Happy Mondays" on a program called "All our Yesterdays"?
Our guests tonight are masters of satire, which is why I've put a cushion on my chair to make sure I'm "satire" than the rest of 'em.
There's nine in the frame; let's get on with the game!

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